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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Relative pronominal tense : evidence from Gitksan, Japanese, and English Aonuki, Yurika


This thesis investigates properties of tenses in English, Japanese, and Gitksan (Tsimshianic) with regards to the two major dimensions along which tense denotations can differ: 1) pronominal (Partee 1973; Enç 1987; Heim 1994) vs. existential (Ogihara 1989; von Stechow 2009) and 2) relative (Smith 1991; Ogihara 1989; Kusumoto 1999) vs. absolute (Comrie 1976; Dowty 1982). The past tense in English, the past and non-past tenses in Japanese, and the covert non-future tense in Gitksan will all receive relative pronominal denotations. An alternative analysis of Gitksan without a tense operator is also developed but eventually discarded in light of novel data before/after clauses. Taking this investigation of the three languages as a case study, this thesis also tackles a larger theoretical question: what is the empirical evidence for pronominal vs. existential and relative vs. absolute tenses? Teasing apart these two dimensions from each other as well as from the sequence of tense (SOT) issue, this thesis re-examines the existing empirical diagnostics of each tense property; are they sufficient conditions or merely necessary conditions? Are there alternative explanations for the empirical phenomena? To answer these questions, within each language, behaviours of the tenses are investigated across matrix clauses, attitude complements, relative clauses, and before/after clauses. From a cross-linguistic perspective, the three languages present both distinct puzzles and similarities with each other: English and Japanese are both overtly tensed and have been treated as canonical examples of SOT (Comrie 1985; Enç 1987) and non-SOT (Ogihara 1989; Kusumoto 1999) languages, respectively. English and Gitksan both have a dedicated future marker (Jóhannsdóttir and Matthewson 2007), and SOT constructions in English and non-future sentences in Gitksan exhibit similar temporal flexibility. Japanese and Gitksan both have a two-way distinction: Japanese has an overt past-non-past system, and Gitksan has a future-non-future system with a covert non-future tense; both languages rely on the Bennett and Partee (1987) effect to resolve temporal interpretations, as do SOT constructions in English. The results call for similar investigations across syntactic contexts to obtain a comprehensive picture of the temporal system in any given language.

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