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Difficulties of Tense in Difference Language Annotated Bibliography

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Updated: Aug 30th, 2021

Introduction

Tense and the various elements of tense have been the topic for several researches and studies, and the research findings and results in these aspects of syntax have been numerous. However, the specific studies and analyses on the specific topic of morphosyntactic development of tense marking in children or second language learners or native speakers in various languages, such as Chinese, Spanish English, Russian , Dutch and some other languages that lack tense syntactic morphology and have tense ones have been found limited. Any research on these aspects of tense and syntax needs to get prominent significance as it will commence more detailed studies on the topic. Therefore, a research investigation covering these pertinent areas of tense and syntax has been the interest of this paper. Also, it is important that such an analysis covers discussions on tenses in various languages and compares those differences among them and arguments covering the relationship between tense and agreement or tense and clause structure.

In this paper, an effort to look into various aspects of tense and morphosyntactic development of tense marking in children or second language learners or native speakers in various languages is initiated. The scope for the paper is very vast and the investigation into tense marking and time reference through tense in different languages proves the validity of an investigation in the area. This annotated bibliography paper covers a detailed summary of some of the most relevant sources for the development of the paper. It is followed by a critical summary of two major articles that are crucial to the paper.

Annotated Bibliography

Shahbaz Arif, Cognitive Neuroscience in Second Language Acquisition. Web.

A remarkable contribution to morphosyntactic development the study of tense markers has been the article by Arif which conducts an extensive investigation of the morphosyntactic development of the English verb. The significance of this study is that it “examines whether or not the cognitive neuroscience has any role in the acquisition of the inflectional category by L2 learners from the beginning, that is, if the functional category I exists in L2 grammars from the earliest stages which is guided by some pre-programmed sequence guided by mental cognition.” (Arif) The area of investigation related to tense marker in the background of second language children becomes very much important to the analysis on the topic, proving the validity of the article for the purpose of the paper.

, by Díaz, Lourdes et al. Web.

Among the various materials available on the morphosyntactic development of tense marking, the research paper by Lourdes Díaz et al remains one of high recognition. The paper remarkably presents a preliminary analysis of experimental written data from 56 subjects at two different levels and the data ‘show how learners with typologically different L1s, such as German, English, Japanese, Chinese, French, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Polish and Slovakian, acquire Spanish Imperfecto and Indefinido through morphological features.’ (Díaz, et al) The morphosyntactic realization in different language groups is analyzed, and the results in relation to tense marking become very relevant to a study in the area. These varied features of different languages are hypothesized as causing “visible differences in the acquisitional patterns of Spanish aspectual tenses.” These issues are addressed in the study, and the result has significant validity in an analysis of morphosyntactic development of tense marker in children.

Pier Marco Bertinetto, On describing tense and aspect systems: A review-article. Web.

Bertinetto’s article is a review of Uche E. Aaron’s Tense and Aspect in Obolo. Grammar and Discourse, John C. Eisele’s Arabic Verbs in Time: Tense and Aspect in Cairene Arabic, and Abel Yamwaka Mreta’s An Analysis of Tense and Aspect in Chasu. Their Form and Meaning in the Affirmative Constructions which also addresses the problem of how a grammatical description of tense and aspect structures should be conceived in order to make it inter-linguistically useful. The tense and aspect system of three important African languages, i.e., Chasu, Obolo, and Cairene Arabic are analyzed profoundly in the article, which is very much useful for the purpose of research.

Serato Tanasić, Verbal Forms in Pushkin’s Verses: Expression of Tenses in the Originals and in Translations. Web.

One of the very relevant articles in a study of the expression of verb is Tanasić’s Verbal Forms in Pushkin’s Verses: Expression of Tenses in the Originals and in Translations which discusses the expression of tenses in poetic texts given in Russian and Serbian languages. The translation of two Pushkin’s poems has been used to show the relation of a Serbian translator towards the original in the domain of expressing tenses through various verbal forms. Based on the literary works and its language, the article claims that there have been several differences between the Russian and the Serbian languages with regard to the forms of verbs, and the discussion proves to be very significant for research.

Michaela Wenzlaff and Harald Clahsen, Tense and Agreement in German Agrammatism. Web.

The article ‘Tense and Agreement in German Agrammatism’ presents with detailed analysis of sentence completion and grammaticality judgment tasks with 7 German-speaking agrammatic aphasics and 7 age-matched control subjects examining tense and subject-verb agreement marking. The paper presents with important discussion on the basis of the study conducted on agrammatic aphasics, and the result is crucial in a research on tense in relation to agreement. The result suggests that subject-verb agreement is largely intact, while tense is severely impaired in German agrammatism and this proves the meaning of the article in a study on tense and agreement.

Legendre, Géraldine. . Web.

This research article provides a new theoretical model of multiple stages in the acquisition of tense and agreement in Child French and the paper presents detailed information on the question of tense agreement relation. This is done first by proving that tense and agreement inflection follow independent courses of acquisition. The findings such as those relating to tense production and agreement as well as the profile which suggests a competition between tense and agreement at the second stage which is naturally expressed in terms of constraint violability and constraint re-ranking seem very important to a research study on tense and agreement. Most significantly, the research analysis lucratively visualizes, over three stages, the frequency with which children use tensed, agreeing, and nonfinite verbs.

Yan-kit Ingrid Leung, . Web.

This research paper which forms part of a larger project and is a significant contribution to the understanding of tense and agreement in different languages. The paper studies the relation of the tenses of three languages and analyzes the second and thirds language acquisition of tense and agreement on the background of French, Vietnamese Monolinguals, and Cantonese-English. The paper significantly contributes to the study as it examines “the acquisition of the formal features associated with the functional category of T(ense), namely, finiteness ([±finite]), agreement and [±past] in French as L3 vs. L2 by Cantonese-English bilinguals (i.e. native speakers of Hong Kong Cantonese who are proficient but non-native English speakers) and Vietnamese monolinguals (i.e. native speakers of Vietnamese who do not speak any English).” (Yan-kit Ingrid Leung)

Sybesma, Rint. “Whether We Tense-Agree Overtly or Not” Universiteit Leiden.

The material article used in the in this squib is another remarkable material for the purpose of research in the area of tense. Most importantly, the article deals with morphosyntactic development of tense marking, which is analyzed in the background of Chinese language. The author, on the basis of research evidences, questions the relevance of the common notion that “Sinitic languages have no syntactic Tense node (T).” And the result of the research concludes that “if Mandarin is as similar to Dutch as has been shown here and if it is true that it generally lacks overt agreement, then the fact that we do not see any overt formal evidence for a T node cannot be taken as an argument for the claim that Chinese languages have no tense… On the basis of the argument developed in section 1[of the article], we can say that Chinese languages do have a T node.” (Sybesma, Rint. “Whether We Tense-Agree Overtly or Not” Universiteit Leiden.) Therefore, this article is of central relevance to the paper as its findings clearly contribute to the discussions of tense on the morphosyntactic development of tense marking in a variety of languages, such as Chinese, Spanish, English, Russian, Dutch.

Sybesma, Rint. “Exploring Cantonese Tense” in Linguistics in the Netherlands 2004 21 (2004), 169–180.

Another most useful and expounding article which incorporates serious discussions of tense on the morphosyntactic development of tense marking the different is “Exploring Cantonese Tense” by Rint Sybesma. The relevance of the article in the larger sphere of grammar is that it deals with, just as the earlier article, the basic characteristic feature of the Chinese languages, which are often claimed to be without tense. Sybesma presets the two sub-claims of this and they are “Sinitic languages have no morphological/semi-lexical or grammatical(ized) means of marking events as past events” and that “in these languages, the plotting of events on the time axis is administered by means of temporal adverbs or is determined by the context.” (Sybesma, Rint) The author makes use of the Cantonese sentences which illustrates these claims. The article also explores the Cantonese tense in the background of popular theories of tense and finiteness.

Ambar, Manuela. et al, ‘Tense, Quantification and Clause Structure in EP and BP: Evidence From a Comparative Study On Sempre’. Web.

It has been often remarked that there are central structural differences between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese concerning several aspects of their syntax and this is an important contribution to the paper as “the main goal of this paper is to derive the distribution of the adverb sempre (‘always’, ‘really/indeed’), two crucial different interpretations associated with it and the variation between EP and BP from core structural properties of the clause in the two languages.” (Ambar, Manuela. et al) The research is carried out on the basis of tense quantification and clause structure, and this proves contributing to a research paper on the topic.

Critical Summary 1

Sybesma, Rint. “Whether We Tense-Agree Overtly or Not” Universiteit Leiden.

The material article used in the in this squib was presented at the panel ‘‘Tense in Chinese’’ at the 4th Conference of the European Association for Chinese Linguistics, held in Budapest, January 2006. The article was contributed by several reviewers and participants who were instrumental in the final draft of the paper. Thus, participants such as Wolfgang Klein, Jo-wang Lin, and Wei-Tien Dylan Tsai and the reviewers including Lisa Cheng, Norbert Corver, Hamida Demirdache, and the LI made very insightful and most constructive comments. The context for the research reported in the article is also worth considering and it was, remarkably, conducted as part of the author’s ‘‘Vernieuwingsimpuls’’ project on syntactic variation in southern China, co-funded by the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research NWO, Universiteit Leiden (main sponsors), and the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS). Finally, the author also acknowledges the financial support made by the panel ‘‘Tense in Chinese’’ towards the project which resulted in the article. However, the significant concern for this critical analysis of the article is the main arguments of the article itself.

One of the most pertinent elements of the article is that it deals with the significant factor of morphosyntactic development of tense marking in the case of the Chinese language. Based on the analysis of Mandarin and Dutch which are strikingly similar in their use of tenses, the author, after introducing the common notion that “Sinitic languages have no syntactic Tense node (T)” goes on to investigate the matter in great detail and ultimately to establish, in the conclusion, that “if Mandarin is as similar to Dutch as has been shown here and if it is true that it generally lacks overt agreement, then the fact that we do not see any overt formal evidence for a T node cannot be taken as an argument for the claim that Chinese languages have no tense…” and that “on the basis of the argument developed in section 1[of the article] we can say that Chinese languages do have a T node.” (Sybesma, Rint. “Whether We Tense-Agree Overtly or Not” Universiteit Leiden.) Therefore, the most central relevance of this article to our paper has been its findings clearly contribute to our discussions of tense on the morphosyntactic development of tense marking in a variety of languages, such as Chinese, Spanish, English, Russian, Dutch and some other languages that lack tense syntactic morphology and have tense ones.

To summarize the most essential findings of the paper as they contribute to our paper, it is important to note that the organization of the article has been in three main sections. The first section, ‘A Tense Node for Chinese’ introduces the author’s essential positions and remarks about the central matter of investigation in the article, the common claim about Sinitic languages which are considered as having no syntactic Tense node (T) and the author investigates the claim which remained a ‘doubt’ in his reasoning and he proposes his notion about the syntactic Tense node (T) in Sinitic languages which he feels, as against the general notion, is in existence in Sinitic languages. In other words, through the first part of the article, the author is very convinced that he has “established that there are good reasons to postulate a T node in Chinese sentences.” (Sybesma, Rint. “Whether We Tense-Agree Overtly or Not” Universiteit Leiden.) In the second section, the author answers to the critical question, which itself turns out to be the title of the section, ‘What Kind of Tense Node Is It?’ on the basis of the important observations of the Dutch and Mandarin.

The final section of the article ‘Concluding Remarks’ very systematically presents the most central conclusions of the paper. The first conclusion remarkably drawn out of the investigative paper “is that, if Mandarin is as similar to Dutch as has been shown here and if it is true that it generally lacks overt agreement, then the fact that we do not see any overt formal evidence for a T node cannot be taken as an argument for the claim that Chinese languages have no tense.” (Sybesma, Rint. “Whether We Tense-Agree Overtly or Not” Universiteit Leiden.) The author also most convincingly presents the next and the most essential finding of the paper. “The second conclusion is that, in fact, on the basis of the argument developed in section 1 we can say that Chinese languages do have a T node. The comparison with Dutch only strengthens this conclusion: Mandarin must have the same agreement that Dutch has; it is just not overt. Both languages display the process of Tense agreement, the difference being that in Dutch the agreement features have to be spelled out in PF whereas in Mandarin they do not.” (Sybesma, Rint. “Whether We Tense-Agree Overtly or Not” Universiteit Leiden.) Therefore, it is obvious that the author is successful in questioning the validity of the common notion regarding Sinitic languages through which claim they were considered languages without any syntactic Tense node (T) and in establishing, through the analysis part and on the basis of or with the support of the central conclusions about the Dutch and Mandarin, that the Chinese languages are not without a Tense node (T).

In the process of arriving at these pertinent conclusions regarding the Tense node (T), the author in the very outset of the article introduces the common notion about the Chinese languages that they do not possess syntactic Tense node (T) as well as the most recurrent arguments supporting this wrong notion. The first of these arguments, as presented by the author, is that the Chinese languages do not have morphological, semi-lexical or grammatical (or grammaticalized) means of marking events as past events. The other argument is that, in the Chinese languages, locating events in time is done by way of temporal adverbs or is determined by the context. The article clearly illustrates these arguments with examples. The present tense interpretation of the argument and the past tense interpretation are illustrated through the sentences “Zha¯ng Sa¯n zhu zai zher” (Zhang San live at here) meaning “Zhang San lives here” and “Zha¯ng Sa¯n 1989 nia´n zhu zai zher” (Zhang San 1989 year live at here) meaning “Zhang San lived here in 1989” respectively.

Having presented the common notion and the main arguments contributing to it are clearly stated, the author goes on to establish very convincingly the two basic reasons to assert the claim that the Chinese language has no T node to be less credible. First, he, based on the general theoretical considerations, presents the current theories of tense which assume the presence of one or more T nodes in sentences which are necessary for their temporal interpretation (e.g., Enc¸ 1987, Giorgi and Pianesi1997, Gue´ron and Hoekstra 1995, Klein 1994). The author assumes that these theories are right and they can be applied to all the natural languages and strongly feels that sentences in the Chinese languages also embrace a T node. According to the author, the fact that the T node in Chinese languages can be very well observed forms the second basis in considering the common clam regarding the Chinese language to be wrong. The author, borrowing the argumentation from Matthewson (2002), establishes this central point about the Chinese languages.

The fundamental conclusion regarding the T node in Chinese languages is augmented through an analysis of the Dutch and Mandarin and the conclusions regarding their use of tenses. Through a process of detailed investigations and scientific observations, the author succeeds in establishing that Mandarin and Dutch are conspicuously similar in their use of tenses. The author also establishes the obvious difference between the two languages as that Dutch has an explicit past tense morpheme which Mandarin does not. Most essentially, the author also establishes that the past tense morpheme in the Dutch is fundamentally an agreement morpheme and that it has no other function or power. Thus, the supporting conclusions claim that if Mandarin is very similar to Dutch as illustrated in the analysis and if it is true that it generally lacks overt agreement, and then “the fact that we do not see any overt formal evidence for a T node cannot be taken as an argument for the claim that Chinese languages have no tense.” (Sybesma, Rint. “Whether We Tense-Agree Overtly or Not” Universiteit Leiden.)This supporting evidence leads the author to the ultimate conclusion, which is established in the first section, that Chinese languages do possess a Tense node (T). This article, therefore, very well establishes these conclusions and serves as one of the reflective discussions about the tense factor in various languages.

Critical Summary 2

Sybesma, Rint. “Exploring Cantonese Tense” in Linguistics in the Netherlands 2004 21 (2004), 169–180.

Another most useful and expounding article which incorporates serious discussions of tense on the morphosyntactic development of tense marking the different is “Exploring Cantonese Tense” by Rint Sybesma. The relevance of the article in the larger sphere of grammar is that it deals with, just as the first article, the basic characteristic feature of the Chinese languages, which are often claimed to be without tense. Sybesma presets the two sub-claims of this and they are “Sinitic languages have no morphological/semi-lexical or grammatical(ized) means of marking events as past events” and that “in these languages, the plotting of events on the time axis is administered by means of temporal adverbs or is determined by the context.” (Sybesma, Rint. “Exploring Cantonese Tense” in Linguistics in the Netherlands 2004 21 (2004), 169–180.) The author makes use of the Cantonese sentences which illustrates these claims. The article also explores the Cantonese tense in the background of popular theories of tense and finiteness. Through the length and breadth of the investigative analysis of the paper, the author seems to prove that the “Cantonese is not a tenseless language. Its verbs may not have finite forms, and in some sentences, it does seem to be the case that the adverbials determine the positioning of TT relative to TU, rather than some semi-lexical particle, but ge3 and lei4 would certainly count as tense elements. They may not be in T1, but they do determine its value directly.” (Sybesma, Rint. “Exploring Cantonese Tense” in Linguistics in the Netherlands 2004 21 (2004), 169–180.)

Based on the ultimate findings of the investigative article, the author proves that the common claim regarding the supposed lack of tense in Chinese languages need to be reformulated or the fact that the claim does not apply to all Chinese languages should be recognized. The first sub-claim that” Sinitic languages have no morphological/semi-lexical or grammatical(ized) means of marking events as past events” will hold only if we construe it to mean T1 is never marked in any overt way. The author goes even further to establish that if his position that ‘ge3 and lei4 determine the value of T1 as [-PST] and [+PST] respectively’ is proved to be correct, the sub-claim does not have any validity if it is taken to mean that Sinitic does not have any grammatical ways of locating TT relative to TU. If the second sub-claim, i.e. in Sinitic languages, the plotting of events on the time axis is administered by means of temporal adverbs or is determined by the context, needs to be valid, the absence of either of the two specific tense operators ge3 or lei4 is very necessary. Therefore, this sub-claim also is proved invalid by the author in the conclusion of the article.

In this process of establishing the core findings of the paper, Sybesma first presents the common notion about the Chinese languages that they are tenseless, followed by the two sub-claims of the main claim. He also presents illustrations for these claims making use of the Cantonese sentences. Therefore, the sentence “ngo5 (kam4-jat6) maai5 jat1-bun2 syu1 ge3-si4-hau6 …” (1s (yesterday buy one-CL book while) meaning “when I was buying a book (yesterday) …” denotes past events and it has no markers attached to the verb which corresponds to the first sub-claim. The next sub-claim is illustrated with the sentences “keoi5 ji5-cin4 hai2 Rotterdam zyu6” (3s before at Rotterdam live) meaning “s/he used to live in Rotterdam” and with “c. keoi5 hai2 Rotterdam zyu6” (3s at Rotterdam live) meaning “s/he lives in Rotterdam.” The author, next, identifies examples for the elements zo2 and lei4 which can be comprehended as morphological or semi-lexical markers by any definition and explains that these result in the marking of certain events as past events providing with examples of such past events. Remarkably, the author presents these morphological or semi-lexical markers of zo2 and lei4 as the main tool for exploring the Cantonese tense from a general theoretical viewpoint and goes on to explicate his investigative analysis.

The exploration of the Cantonese tense, as explained by the author, is done effectively on the background of tense and finiteness. Tense is explained and analyzed on the basis of the Reichenbachian idea regarding the three time spans as well as two T(ense) nodes, which express the relative order of the time spans. These time spans are the utterance time (TU), the “Topic Time” (TT) the time, and the time of the event denoted by the predicate of the sentence (it), and the two T-nodes are T1 and T2, both having two possible settings, [+pst] and [−pst] which help them in communicating the relative order of TU, TT and TSit. The author uses the definition of a finite sentence as one with its own temporal reference, a sentence which is able to temporally anchor onto the context in order to explain the element of finiteness. Thus, all the significant elements in the background of the analysis are very well explicated.

Having set the right background for the analysis of the article, the author goes on to cross examine the Cantonese zo2 and lei4 in great detail, first maintaining the significant differences and similarities of these. The various properties of zo2 and lei4, are discussed in detail, which are investigated further in the paper. Accordingly, the properties of zo2 are evident in the factors that ‘it is immediately follows the verb,’ ‘may alternate with zero form which is sometimes obligatory,’ appear ‘with telic events, with activities, not with states,’ ‘induces T2 effect,’ ‘time adverbials can introduce TT,’ is ‘incompatible with ‘already’, ‘after’’ and that it has ‘no other effects.’ Similarly, the lei4 has the properties that are clear from the factors that it ‘follows the VP,’ ‘may alternate with zero form,’ comes ‘with states, with activities, not with telic events,’ ‘induces T2 effect,’ ‘time adverbials cannot introduce TT,’ is ‘compatible with ‘already’ and ‘after’’ and is an ‘actuality marker.’ (Sybesma, Rint. “Exploring Cantonese Tense” in Linguistics in the Netherlands 2004 21 (2004), 169–180.)

The author, then, goes on to deal with Cantonese T1 which is done in good length and in great detail. The nature and setting of the Cantonese T1 is analyzed in order to investigate the relevance of the first sub-claim which was discussed in Section 1. in the next two important sections of the paper, the author analyzes and explicates, profoundly, the function and structural position of zo2 as well as the function and structural position of lei4 which turn out to be the most significant and crucial sections of the paper. These structural positions and functions of the two morphological or semi-lexical markers turn out to be the critical elements for the author to arrive at his ultimate conclusion.

The author concludes the paper with the investigative result of the analysis, which may be summed up as “Cantonese is not a tenseless language. Its verbs may not have finite forms, and in some sentences, it does seem to be the case that the adverbials determine the positioning of TT relative to TU, rather than some semi-lexical particle, but ge3 and lei4 would certainly count as tense elements…

In view of this analysis, the claims formulated in (1) regarding the alleged senselessness of Chinese languages need to be reformulated, or it must be made explicit that they do not apply to all Chinese languages in the same way. For Cantonese, sub-claim (1a) (Sinitic languages have no grammatical or grammaticalized means of marking events as past events) is correct only if we interpret it as saying that T1 is never marked in any overt way… The second sub-claim, which says that in Sinitic the explicit plotting of the events on the time axis is administered by means of temporal adverbs or context, is only true if we add something like “in the absence of either of the two specific tense operators ge3 and lei4”.” (Sybesma, Rint. “Exploring Cantonese Tense” in Linguistics in the Netherlands 2004 21 (2004), 169–180.) In this way, the author makes his arguments valid and proven. The research result seems to explain the morphosyntactic development of tense marking in some of the Chinese languages and this proves the validity of the paper for our discussion.

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