The puzzle of subjunctive tenses

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Building on previous findings on tense construals and on constraints on modal-temporal configurations, this paper presents a semantic analysis of subjunctive tenses in Spanish which departs from the defective-tense hypothesis. The subjunctive tense system is analysed in a parallel way to the indicative system, and the peculiarities of the imperfect subjunctive are shown to mirror those of the imperfect indicative. Key to the analysis is the notion of &#8216;fake past&#8217;, a tense anchored to an interval <i>Tx</i> distinct from the time of utterance, which can be either temporally or modally bound. The semantic contribution of subjunctive tenses is examined first in root contexts and subsequently in argument clauses. The possibility of temporal disharmony and its limits are interpreted on the basis of Sequence of Tense principles and of temporal restrictions on modal bases.


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