Hesternal Past tense describes an event occurred yesterday (in an absolute tense system) or the day preceding the day under consideration (in a relative system) and the crastinal future describes and event which will occur tomorrow (in an absolute system) or the following the day under consideration (in a relative system).

Does a language have to express these particular types of tense by the form of an affix?

Could you say that English has a hesternal past form in sentences like "I went to town yesterday", where yesterday limits the event to the day preceding today.

1 Answer 1


Grammatical categories - tense and remoteness in this case - are expressed morphosyntactically, whereas in your English example the idea of a recent event is expressed by the adverb "yesterday" (i.e. lexically).

On the other hand, one could theoretically argue for a certain tense gram (form) purely based on semantics. In this case, one could talk of the following tense forms:

I went to town yesterday. (hesternal)

I went to town a week ago. (pre-hesternal)

I went to town last year. (remote)

I went to town a hundred years ago. (ancient past)

etc. ad absurdum.

cf. Kibort 2008

In order to be regarded as a (grammaticalised) tense, the expression of location in time has to be integrated into the grammatical system of the language [emphasis mine - Alex B.]. In contrast, a lexicalised expression of the location in time indicates its integration into the lexicon of the language, but does not entail any necessary consequences for the language's grammatical structure. Grammaticalisation, as opposed to lexicalisation, of the location in time, correlates with two parameters: obligatory expression and morphological boundness. The very rough rule is that a tense is grammaticalised if its morphological expression is obligatory even if the information carried by the exponent is redundant.

Kibort, Anna. "Tense." Grammatical Features. 7 January 2008. http://www.grammaticalfeatures.net/features/tense.html.

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