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Is future tense in English really a myth?

Does English really have only two tenses. It depends how you define "tense", but to most linguists, yes. All languages can mark the time when an event occurs, to any degree of specificity you want. ...
Draconis's user avatar
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22 votes
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Do most languages have the same basic verb tenses?

Short answer: Not at all! Some languages only have two: past and non-past (English, Japanese). Others have past, present, and future (Ancient Greek). Still others have separate "recent" and "distant" ...
Draconis's user avatar
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17 votes
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Example of a tenseless sentence

A common saying in linguistics is, languages don't vary in what they can express. They only vary in what they must express. In English, it's morphologically impossible to have a finite verb without ...
Draconis's user avatar
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15 votes
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Is there really a perfect tense?

Tense vs. aspect vs. mood Let's first clarify what the different categories mean in the first place: Tense is a category that locates events on a timeline. Distinctions between different tenses are ...
Natalie Clarius's user avatar
15 votes

Is future tense in English really a myth?

The argument that the English "will + infinitive" construction should not be considered a future tense is fairly complex. It is not an obvious matter, and I think the rejection of this classification ...
brass tacks's user avatar
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15 votes
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Why is tense obligatory in some languages and not in others?

Ultimately we can't answer why one language grammaticalises tense and why another language doesn't. But what we can say is that all languages have at least one major verbal grammatical category. Tense ...
curiousdannii's user avatar
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14 votes
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Does a difference of tense count as a difference of meaning in a minimal pair?

Yes. A minimal pair is meant to differ in one phoneme, to demonstrate that a speaker of the language can distinguish between the two words, and therefore that the contrast is phonemic. Since the ...
b a's user avatar
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12 votes

Are there any known natural languages in which tense is never (or very rarely) expressed through the modification of verbs?

In Wolof, a language spoken in Senegal, Gambia, and Mauritania, the verbs never change their form, it is the pronouns that have the tense. In Wolof there is I-which-is-now, I-that-will-be, I-that-was, ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
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12 votes

Why is tense obligatory in some languages and not in others?

All human languages allow the expression of distinctions in time reference, so there's always a way to describe the situation that one event precedes another. Some languages do this with special ...
user6726's user avatar
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11 votes
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Are there languages where the tense depends on time elapsed between events?

Having one or more remoteness distinctions in the past tense is reasonably common, particularly in Papua, parts of the Amazon and parts of Africa: http://wals.info/feature/66A (note that the map is ...
Gufferdk's user avatar
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7 votes
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Why does French use “be” as the auxiliary for a few verbs?

As usual in language evolution, having two auxiliaries wasn't a goal, things just happened this way (and in fact the long-term evolution is towards a single auxiliary). There is an article in French ...
Gilles 'SO- stop being evil''s user avatar
7 votes
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Why is the Romanian tense system so "simple", compared to other Romance languages?

The short answer: centuries of use of Old Church Slavonic instead of Latin or Romanian as a written language BUT note there is a tendency towards analytic tenses in spoken languages across Europe. ...
Adam Bittlingmayer's user avatar
6 votes

Which languages conflate (imperfective) past and irrealis, and why?

I suspect subjunctive merged with indicative in English simply due to phonetical reasons. Look at Old English: "I ate" (indicative) - Ic æt "I ate" (subjunctive) - Ic æte or "we beat" (...
Constantine Geist's user avatar
6 votes

Suffix -ed indicating current state

"Based" here is either the past/passive participle of the verb base used in the passive construction "BE + past participle", or an adjective derived from the past participle (a departicipial adjective—...
brass tacks's user avatar
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6 votes
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Why is the future tense almost completely regular in Portuguese?

Most of the "tenses" of the modern Romance languages are inherited directly from Latin, and so have had plenty of time to accumulate irregularities (and indeed many existed even within Latin)...
Tristan's user avatar
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5 votes
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How can the perfective aspect apply to the present tense?

In English, at least, the ordinary simple present is imperfective; but there are genres in which a perfective use is common. In sports broadcasts, for instance: "He shoots, he scores!" describes an ...
StoneyB on hiatus's user avatar
5 votes

Is there any language where the past tense is the base form of a verb?

First, it is important to be clear on what "most basic form" as described above covers. One notion is "structurally simplest", that is, "having the fewest added things". The other is "phonologically ...
user6726's user avatar
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5 votes

Example of a tenseless sentence

As Draconis explained quite clearly, English is a tense language, which requires finite verbs (in matrix clauses) to be gramatically tensed to specify its temporal conditions. And I'd like to talk ...
Matthew Su's user avatar
5 votes

Why does Spanish have obsolete tenses?

Because language changes gradually. So for some features (in this case the mentioned Spanish tenses) there is first some alternative to express them, and this alternative becomes more frequent than ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
5 votes
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Present perfect tense vs simple past

What the site is trying to explain is that both German and English have a simple past tense and a perfect tense and that in the not too distant past, they may have been used similarly. In spoken ...
Vegawatcher's user avatar
4 votes

Are there any known natural languages in which tense is never (or very rarely) expressed through the modification of verbs?

Chinese is the one. Like many asian-oceaninc languages, it is a modal rather than tense language. Verbs in chinese do not change according to time of the action.
coobit's user avatar
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4 votes
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Lithuanian possessive perfect

It is basically pretty similar thing to English present perfect, i.e. the auxiliary verb have + some sort of past or passive participle of a content verb to express some sort of past. But in many ...
Eleshar's user avatar
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4 votes

How verb tenses evolve

English and French pluperfect constructions are not descended from a common ancestor The English pluperfect tense (along with all the other composite tenses made with "have") is not what is called "...
brass tacks's user avatar
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4 votes

Is future tense in English really a myth?

There is an argument for distinguishing morphological tenses from periphrastic tenses. The English verb “to be” has five morphological tenses: present: I am past: I was present subjunctive: (if) I ...
fdb's user avatar
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4 votes

The verb to have in relation to the past

The periphrastic 'have'-perfect isn't a feature common to the Indo-European languages, but rather one that's part of the Standard Average European Sprachbund, which developed as the various European ...
Cairnarvon's user avatar
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4 votes

The verb to have in relation to the past

This is a feature of Standard Average European (SAE), a Sprachbund across much of Europe. We know it's not an Indo-European genetic feature, since it's not generally found in Indo-European languages ...
Draconis's user avatar
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4 votes
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How did multiple European languages start using future tense to refer to the present?

Epistemic modality ("He will be in London now") and futurity ("He will see her tomorrow") are generally associated with each other. This seems to be fairly common cross-...
Michaelyus's user avatar
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4 votes
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Argumentation for the existence of Tense phrase

The usual argument is that the present-tense marking only ever appears once in the phrase. If you put another verb before the main one, that one takes the tense marking instead: John spends […] John ...
Draconis's user avatar
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