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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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5. On the Nature of Choice in Language 103


5. On the Nature of Choice in Language In the introduction in chapter 1, I argued that one of the things that a theory of tense, aspect and action must specify is the substitu- tional relationships involved. In this chapter, we shall examine the concept of 'choice' associated with these relationships and attempt to determine the general principles governing the choice of one verb form rather than another. 5 .1. Delimiting the Notion of Choice Let us begin our discussion of the nature of choice in language by looking at a couple of examples from a pretheoretical point of view: (1) "You're crying." "No, not really." "I know why you're crying. You're crying because of your wife." "No, I don't think that's true." "I'm sure it's true." "It's not, really." "Then it's because you can't fly." "No." "Then what is it?" "It's nothing, I wasn't crying." (Carey, The Fat Man in History) (2) He sits, once more, on the vinyl bench, next to the weeping woman who continues to drop fat tears onto an old copy of Time. He can see the rabbit-eyed clerk saying something to a nurse about him. The nurse has a big arse and a small nose. She wrinkles her nose and Eddie sends her his most sinister sexual look. He is a master of this particular look and the nurse averts her eyes and whispers some cowardly message to the clerk who waits a few seconds before looking up again. (Carey, The Fat Man in...

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