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The Study of Aspect, Tense and Action

Towards a Theory of the Semantics of Grammatical Categories

Carl Bache and Carl Bache

This book addresses some methodological problems in the study of tense, aspect and action: How should linguists go about describing these categories and with what terminology? How does our work in this area relate to descriptions of language(s) in general? What research strategies should be explored? Bache discusses the interaction between language-specific grammars and universal grammar, including the problems of analytic directionality, semantic minimalism, and the general metalanguage of universal grammar. The book has several sources of inspiration: generative linguistics, structuralist phonology, glossematics, functional grammar, cognitive semantics and prototype theory. Bache argues strongly for the inclusion of a paradigmatic dimension in the study of the semantics of morphosyntactic categories. Rather than adhering to one particular linguistic school, Bache provides a general description of tense, aspect and action in the form of generalizations that should be accommodated in any theory.


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1. Introduction 9 2. Some Methodological Problems 21 2.1. Some Preliminary Reflections on Universal Grammar 21 2.2. The Problem of Analytic Directionality 26 2.3. The Problem of Constructing a Universal Grammar 32 2.4. A Typological Study of Tense, Mood and Aspect 36 2.5. The Role of Meaning Reconsidered 41 3. A Possible Framework for a New Approach 49 3.1. The Conceptual Reality of Grammatical Categories 49 3.2. Object-Language, Metalanguage and Source-Language 56 3.3. Source-Language: Primary and Secondary data 66 4. Source-Language versus General Metalanguage 71 4.1. Linguistic Etiquette: Presentation and Evaluation Criteria 72 4.2. Terminological Identity 77 4.3. Organizational Isomorphism 79 4.4. Universal Grammar as an Ideal Construct 82 4.5. Form in the General Metalanguage 89 4.6. The Type-Token Distinction: a Useful Analogy 95 4.7. Principles of Extraction: an Overview 99 5. On the Nature of Choice in Language 103 5.1. Delimiting the Notion of Choice 103 5.2. Choice, Distribution and the Substitution Test 108 5.3. A Typology of Sentences 119 8 Contents 6. Categories and Form-Meaning Relationships 133 6.1. Formal and Semantic Complexity 133 6.2. The Structure of a Metacategory 136 6.3. The Structure of Language-Specific Categories 141 6.4. Defining Category Concepts and Members 149 6.4.1. How to Establish Formal Pairs or Systems 151 6.4.2. How to Use Test Results for Definitions 156 6.4.3. The Potentially Non-Monadic Nature of Forms 159 6.4.4. Categorial Interplay and Minimal Semantic Pairs 166 6.4.5. The Definition and Function Levels of Description 173 6.4.6. Descriptive Representations 182 6.5. Summary 196 7. The Metacategories of...

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