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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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4. Source-Language versus General Metalanguage 71


4. Source-language versus General Metalanguage In the preceding chapters we have examined in detail the bidirectional relationship between the two levels of description: the specific and the universal. We have proposed to reflect this bidirec- tional relation in our terminology by distinguishing at the specific level between source-language and object-language, and between source-language grammar and object-language grammar. As this latter distinction indicates, we have furthermore recognized the importance, indeed the inevitability, of operating with secondary data. In this chapter, we shall turn our attention to the nature of the relationship between source-languages (or specific, source-language grammars) and universal grammar with its general metalanguage and to the problem of defining the exact interaction between these two levels. The question that we must attempt to answer is, specifically, how we are to extract and transfer properties from source-languages and specific grammars to the general metalanguage and universal grammar. I shall first look at the issues of 'linguistic etiquette', i.e. the set of general descriptive standards, objectives and guide-lines that linguists seem to follow in their work. These (implicit or explicit) 'rules of conduct', as it were, will be discussed in section 4.1, with special attention paid to considerations of presentation and evaluation criteria, i.e. the questions of how to present linguistic insights in an appropriate form and how to evaluate the results of one's investigation. Then, in sections 4.2 to 4.5, I shall attempt to identify the actual principles and processes of extraction and transference from the specific level to the general...

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