"Tense-stacking" and degrees of remoteness.

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eldin raigmore
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"Tense-stacking" and degrees of remoteness.

Post by eldin raigmore » Mon 24 Apr 2017, 01:48

Sumelic wrote:
eldin raigmore wrote: According to Bernard Comrie's book "Tense", some languages have not only past/present/future, but also past-within-past, future-within-past, past-within-future, and future-within-future.
Some have these first few even though they also have degrees-of-remoteness (remote past vs near past and/or remote future vs near future).
Others, that don't have degrees-of-remoteness, have tenses "going up to four deep"; for instance, the following eight "three-deep" tenses;
  • past within past within past
  • future within past within past
  • past within future within past
  • future within future within past
  • past within past within future
  • future within past within future
  • past within future within future
  • future within future within future
Sounds interesting. I should look to see what the examples are, but I haven't read that book yet. Are there any morphologically simple tenses, or are they mostly compound tenses/tenses inflected for multiple categories at once? E.g. are there any languages with a specialized morpheme (or at least fusional affix) meaning "past within past within past", or is it a case of stacking multiple different types of past-tense marker? Depending on how you analyze its tense system, English can be said to have past-within-past ("I had done"), future-within-past ("I would do"), past-within-future ("I will have done").
According to Comrie;
Many languages have "absolute" tense (e.g. past, present, and future), to tell whether the event being spoken of took place before the speech act, or will take place after the speech act, or overlaps in time with the speech act.
And, some languages have only "absolute" tense.
And many languages have "relative" tense (e.g. anterior, simultaneous, and posterior), to tell whether the event being spoken of took place before, or after, or overlapping in time, with some other, more-topical event, also (or previously) spoken of.
And, some languages have only "relative" tense.

But some languages have both "absolute" tense and "relative" tense.
e.g.
anterior past (before some other, more topical, past event)
posterior past (after some other, more topical, past event)
anterior future (before some other, more topical, future event)
posterior future (after some other, more topical, future event).

I am not clear in my mind whether or not, in some languages, a posterior-past event could be actually present or future (since the speaker is only saying it happens after some past event) and/or an anterior-future event could be actually present or past (since the speaker is only saying that it happens before some future event).
For all I know, in some languages that's possible, and in other languages it isn't.
Or maybe it's simple and obvious to everyone but me.

(He didn't seem to cover simultaneous past nor simultaneous future, nor anterior present nor posterior present.
(I'd figure "simultaneous past" was just simple "past" and "simultaneous future" was just simple "future";
(and/or "anterior present" was simply "anterior" and "posterior present" was simply "posterior".
(As a conlanger I didn't find much use for distinguishing those combinations of absolute-tense-with-relative-tense in which either the absolute tense was "present" or the relative tense was "simultaneous",
(but maybe my imagination is just limited.)
Depending on how you analyze its tense system, English can be said to have past-within-past ("I had done"), future-within-past ("I would do"), past-within-future ("I will have done").
IMO English's retrospective (aka "perfect") tenses amount to anterior tenses;
present perfect = anterior,
past perfect = anterior past,
future perfect = anterior future.

Or, at least, that's pretty close, according to me and several other people.
I think English's "retrospective" might be, in part, a mood; since it implies not only that the event was anterior, but also that its results were/are/will-be still relevant at the time of the more-topical event also spoken of.

Sumelic wrote:Are there any morphologically simple tenses, or are they mostly compound tenses/tenses inflected for multiple categories at once? E.g. are there any languages with a specialized morpheme (or at least fusional affix) meaning "past within past within past", or is it a case of stacking multiple different types of past-tense marker?
Maybe, or maybe not.

Among the languages that have tenses-within-tenses up to four deep, I remember only one example that he illustrated in detail.
In that language, the tense-stacking appeared, to me, to have been accomplished via auxiliaries which also doubled as light verbs; for instance, IIANM, one meant "sit" and another meant "stand".

I don't remember the three-deep tense-within-tense-within-tense examples in those languages which can go that far and no further. FAIK he did give some examples of inflectional morphology, rather than auxiliary-words or other lexical means, to indicate past-within-future-within-past or some such thing. Or, FAIK, he did not. I'd have to get my public library to get the book from some university to find out.

Languages with degrees-of-remoteness, OTOH, may have had, for example, (NOTE this one example does not exhaust the possibilities!)
a single morpheme meaning "pre-hesternal past" (i.e. before yesterday)
vs.
a single morpheme meaning "hesternal past" (i.e. yesterday)
vs.
a single morpheme meaning "hodiernal past" (i.e. earlier today)
vs.
no morpheme (i.e. a "zero" morpheme) meaning "now, as we speak"
vs.
a single morpheme meaning "hodiernal/crastinal future" (i.e. later today, or tomorrow)
vs.
a single morpheme meaning "post-crastinal future" (i.e. after tomorrow).

I don't remember him illustrating tense-within-tense using degrees of remoteness.

It might have meant something like:
Jack lost-last-year the diamond he had-bought-just-the-day-before to give-the-next-day to Jill for their 10th anniversary.
"Lost" would be in a "last-year past" tense;
"bought" would be in a "hesternal-past-within-last-year-past" tense;
"give" would be in a "crastinal-future-within-last-year-past" tense.

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If we're going to talk about tenses, can we do it on this new thread?
I don't want my irrealis-within-irrealis thread to topic-drift already with the first response!
But thanks for responding!
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