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Tense, Reference, and Worldmaking

Tense, Reference, and Worldmaking

Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 392
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Tense, Reference, and Worldmaking
    Book Description:

    Using Reichenbach's (1947) theory of tenses and temporal structures as a point of departure, McGilvray modifies it to produce a theory of his own. Analysing the difficulties Reichenbach's theory has in explaining the relationship of a speaker to a world, he introduces a new model for this relationship based on the three-interval temporal topology that Reichenbachian theory assigns to the sentences of natural languages.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6313-1
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    This is a book on tense and temporal structure. Like anyone who proposes a theory of tense and temporal structure, I have an agenda. Those who are interested in tenses and time in language are interested in these matters because they think that something special is revealed in a close look at the past, present, and future, at the perfect and anticipative, and at temporal adverbs.

    My interest in tense and time relationships is driven by the conviction that the tenses of the sentences of our languages are intimately connected with some very special abilities we have — abilities with which...

  5. 1 The Basic Temporal and Semantic Structure of Sentences
    (pp. 11-60)

    Russell’s complaint about tenses in 1918 was echoed, with considerably less charm, by many philosophers in the first half of this century. Tenses were thought to be a nuisance; usually they were ignored, although some took them seriously enough to try to eliminate them from a “proper” language. Russell himself ignored tenses until about 1940, when he produced a “token-reflexive” account of tenses, an interesting effort that, along with the development of tense logic and Reichenbach’s temporal topology, put the discussion of tenses on the philosophical agenda. Yet in a way Russell was concerned with tenses from the start. In...

  6. 2 Complex Situations
    (pp. 61-144)

    In the last chapter I restricted my discussion to “simple” constructions - those that do not involve any obvious forms of embedding (though it turned out that some constructions were only apparently simple). These simple constructions picture or designate simple situations. In this chapter, I turn to complex constructions, which picture complex situations. From the point of view of basic semantic structure, these complex situations are whole and unitary, so with respect to a single whole sentence’s RE relationship, they receive the same treatment as a simple situation does. But complex situations certainly interesting in their own right because of...

  7. 3 Meaning, Meaningfulness, and Reference
    (pp. 145-181)

    The first two chapters outlined a theory of the basic semantic structure of sentences of English. They took temporal structure to be the clue to a rich and highly regular set of relationships between storytellers, companions, “perceiver-describers,” and situations. The most striking characteristic of this structure is that it requires that a person who understands a language be divided into two - that is, the speaker who on an occasion understands a sentence is, first, someone who understands a sentential content and, second, someone who makes recommendation on its inclusion in a story. In this chapter I begin explain and...

  8. 4 Reference
    (pp. 182-221)

    This chapter completes the discussion of picture reference and introduces identifying reference in detail. Remember that both, taken together, specify for a sentence read on an occasion its content.

    The task of a theory of reference is to explain how an expression individuates, picks out, or specifies something; such a theory explains this by outlining what sort of competence people display when they know to what an expression refers — when they exercise that competence. If the SRE view of basic semantic structure is correct, we should expect neither a single form of reference nor a single sort competence. The SRE...

  9. 5 Existence and Tense
    (pp. 222-243)

    Companions to ψ, or cs, are the only candidates for existence. These companions are also necessarily attended to and “perceived.” In this chapter I further explore the connection between existence and perceptual attention. I also speak to the connected questions of existence vis-à-vis mathematical objects and tense in mathematical sentences.

    To say what exists is to make a decision. While clearly p or the speaker storyteller is the one responsible for making the decision, and while no doubt p would include him- or herself among the things exist, these facts do not tell us what kind of decision it is...

  10. 6 Situations and Aspects
    (pp. 244-282)

    I have, so far, ignored aspects proper - the perfective and imperfective - even though they are essential parts of sentential contents. Moreover, I have not tried to classify situations, with the exception the complex descriptions in chapter 2. Aspect and classification situations go together. With them in hand and with RE specification, I can provide a map of possible propositions. I do so in chapter 7.

    There are two aspects in English, the perfective (complete) and imperfective (incomplete). The aspect of a sentence is decided routinely by markers on sentences. If the verb is progressively marked (with an ‘......

  11. 7 Meaning, Meaningfulness, and Constructivism
    (pp. 283-324)

    In this chapter I fulfil my promise made in chapter 3 to elaborate upon both the distinction between meaning and meaningfulness and the constructivist implications of the SRE theory. These issues are connected through the notion that the competent speaker-hearer is simultaneously a member of several groups with varying responsibilities and powers - evidence, storytelling, attention, and picture-referential groups.

    Earlier I defended the view that being a member of the picture-referential group requires being syntactically competent in a rich sense with respect to a particular language. The competent not only know the syntactic forms of sentences, but have a store...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 325-360)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 361-370)
  14. Index
    (pp. 371-376)