Representing Time in Natural Language
Alice G. B. ter Meulen, 1995

General Comments
ter Meulen presents a theoretical structure for the grammatical encoding of the time structure of events. The theory considers a method of encoding three elements of temporal structure, tense, aspect and perspective.

An example from Chapter 1 provides an excellent summary of some of the issues that can be encoded in the English language.

(scan it?)

No, it's not correct to call tense, aspect and perspective "elements of temporal structure". And what does she call the three pieces, holes, filters and plugs? Are they not grammatical elements?

My name for them (at this stage) is unspecified, limited and instantaneous. That will probably change as I learn more about them.

What is meant by the "temporal structure of events"? Consider the example,

Mary walked along the road. (1)

Two events occurred. "Mary walked" and "We (I) decided to talk about it". Mary's walking certainly started before I decided to comment on it. It also seems likely, though not entirely clear, that she had also finished her walk at the time I decided to report. Now let me add a particular perspective.

It was 2 p.m. Mary was singing. (2)

We do not know when Mary started singing, nor when she stopped (if indeed she has yet stopped), but we do know the at the stroke of 2, she was in fact singing. I can then change the perspective in the following way, still reported in the form of a story you are reading (not as a phone call).

It is 2 p.m. Mary is singing. (3)

What is different? First, rather than take you to the event, I have brought the event to you (to a "pseudo present" time). You do not really believe the event is actually taking place even as you read the sentence, but you are able to transport yourself into the time of the event in a different way than in the previous example. Here, it is quite clear that we do not know whether Mary even stopped singing, because we are now "at" the transported time and there is no representation for the time that we know actually passed between the event and our actual present.

Examples (2) and (3) illustrate two different ways that the perspective can be specified by the grammatical encoding.

Seven Categories
Jackendoff proposes seven
perceptual categories , three of which appear to be related to Plugs, Filters, and Holes.

Jackendoff describes the &ALFsum#secion32"interpretation of a sentence";
in which a verb that normally describes a single action receives a modified temporal aspect by the addition of a delimitor word or phrase.


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