Tense and Aspect: The contextual processing of semantic indeterminacy
  • ISSN 0774-5141
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9676
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Abstract. This paper deals wilh the use of Ihe passé simple and the imparfait of French in frequentative sentences. It is argued that frequency implies sentence-internal quantification, meaning that frequentative sentences report just one (complex) eventuality. This claim is related to the fact that, as far as establishing temporal relationships between eventualities is concerned, sentences containing frequency adverbs behave like sentences that don't imply quantification at all. So they may establish all kinds of temporal relationships between eventualities. Given the claims put forward in this paper about the temporal meaning of the passe* simple and the imparfait (Molendijk 1990), it naturally follows that, as a general rule, frequency adverbs combine with both tenses. But they do not always do so under exactly the same circumstances. In this regard, a distinction can be made between dependent frequency adverbs {tout le temps 'all the time' etc.), which imply reference to a contextually determinable concrete situation, and independent ones (toujours 'always', etc.), which may be used without any reference to such a situation. This distinction helps us to understand, for instance, why dependent frequency adverbs do not easily combine with the 'absolute' (non-narrative) passe simple, whereas they do combine with the imparfait and the 'narrative' passé simple.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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