8. More than “time”

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In the previous chapter, Vanek shows that cross-linguistic differences in organising temporal information can be traced back to different processes of time perspectivation. As space and time are considered to be conceptually intertwined, it seems natural in this respect to ask to what extent the spatial concept of ‘frame of reference’ (Levinson 2003) can serve as a template for comparison of spatial and temporal localisation in language. This question is pursued from a historical perspective by means of the Middle High German tense system. It is shown that the distinction of an ‘anaphoric’ vs ‘deictic’ reference system is a crucial factor for the binary constitution of the Middle High German tense system. Taking into account the underlying frame of reference not only allows an appropriate semantic description but is also capable of explaining register variation that cannot be handled within a pure temporal approach. Against this background, possible correspondences between grammatical and sociocultural developments as the medial shift from orality to literacy are discussed.


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