Jacqueline GUÉRON, Université Paris 3-Sorbonne Nouvelle
Bridget COPLEY, Structures Formelles du Langage (CNRS/Université Paris 8)
The relationship between syntax and semantics has become a rich and fruitful topic of study over the last several decades. It is easy to see why : an adherence to principles in both of these domains at the same time constrains theories more than adherence to principles in only one domain. In this way, both syntactic and semantic theories benefit from work that is conducted at their interface.
This is nowhere more true than in the study of aspect. Syntactic theory on aspect certainly benefits from an understanding of aspectual semantics ; one can hardly study the syntax of aspect without doing enough semantics to characterize the aspectual distinctions that one seeks to explain. Thus the meanings presented in Reichenbach's (1947) theory of tense (including the English perfect) are relevant for syntactic hypotheses. Reichenbach proposed that three times are referred to in every sentence : the Speech Time (ST), a Reference Time (RT) and an Event Time (ET). In his notation, a comma indicates simultaneity between two times, while a horizontal line indicates precedence. Present Tense is thus represented as ST, RT, ET, while Past Tense corresponds to ET, RT_ST, and Past Perfect to ET_RT, ST. Syntactic theories have tried to faithfully represent these semantic relations in terms of syntactic structure by proposing, for instance, to place the relation between ST and RT and that between RT and ET on two distinct syntactic levels (Zagona, 1990 ; Stowell, 1996 ; Demirdache & Uribe-Etxebarria, 1997). The syntactic hypothesis is relevant for the semantic ontology : concepts such as reference time and the possibility of relations between certain pairs of times, but not others, are not represented by special semantic diacritics on times, but may be structurally determined.
A difference between events and times also has a structural representation. Chomsky (1995, 2001) proposes that the syntactic structure of a sentence consists of two phases, a vP phase which describes an eventuality (event or state) and a higher TP/CP phase which places that eventuality at a time (present, past, or future) and in a world (the discourse world or some other world). The relations between the entities introduced at different structural locations are then constructed according to strictly local principles, whether by syntactic chains (Guéron & Hoekstra, 1988, e.g.) or by semantic composition (Pancheva 2003, e.g.).
Extensions of Reichenbach's insight to other kinds of aspect by researchers such as Homstein (1990), Klein (1994) and Smith (1997) allow us to ask questions conceming the manner in which the lexical content of the verb phrase interacts with the functional elements which make up the syntactic skeleton of the sentence. In particular, how does Aktionsart, or the shape of the eventuality in terms of semantic features like dynamic/stative, punctual/ durative, or telic/atelic, interact with grammatical aspect morphemes which merge with the Tense node ?
Jacqueline Guéron, Bridget Copley
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Marie Laurence Knittel
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Monika E. Schulz
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the grammatical subject of get and the context-sensitivity of P Have
Preverbs in Russian : situation or viewpoint aspect ?
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