Modes of Discourse: The Local Structure of Texts

By Carlota S. Smith | Go to book overview

5 Temporal and spatial progression

Time and space are pervasive in human experience and in language; they are essential in understanding the Discourse Modes. Text progression depends on both domains. The temporal modes progress with changes in time and space, while the atemporal modes progress with metaphorical changes of location through the text domain. This chapter discusses text progression in the temporal modes; the atemporal modes are considered in Chapter 6.

The principles for temporal progression are essentially pragmatic, depending on inference about how situations are related to each other and to times. Tense is interpreted in three different patterns. After discussing progression in the modes, I provide the linguistic account that underlies the analysis, and implement it in Discourse Representation Theory. There is a distinct grammatical sub-system for talking about time in English, consisting of tense and time adverbials. The system is a closed one: choice of tense and type of adverbial is limited to a small set of alternatives. In contrast, spatial information is conveyed by lexical means that do not constitute a grammatical sub-system, except for a very few deictic adverbials.

Section 5.1 discusses temporal interpretation in the temporal discourse modes; 5.2 introduces the sub-system of temporal location in English; 5.3 implements the interpretations in Discourse Representation Structures; 5.4 discusses space, and how it differs in linguistic expression from the temporal domain; 5.5 gives the forms and linguistic features of the temporal location sub-system.


5.1 Sentences in context: patterns of tense interpretation

The syntactic domain of tense is the clause: tense appears in some form in every clause of a language with morphological tense. The interpretation of tense requires information from context, however. Tense is interpreted differently according to the Discourse Mode of a passage. There are three patterns of interpretation: Continuity, Anaphora, and Deixis. Recognizing the

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Modes of Discourse: The Local Structure of Texts
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • I Discourse Structure 5
  • 1: The Study of Discourse 7
  • 2: Introduction to the Discourse Modes 22
  • 3: Text Representation and Understanding 49
  • II: Linguistic Analysis of the Discourse Modes 65
  • 4: Aspectual Information 67
  • 5: Temporal and Spatial Progression 92
  • 6: Referring Expressions in Discourse 123
  • III: Surface Presentational Factors 153
  • 7: Subjectivity in Texts 155
  • 8: The Contribution of Surface Presentation 185
  • 9: Non-Canonical Structures and Presentation 213
  • IV: Discourse Modes and Their Context 241
  • 10: Information in Text Passages 243
  • 11: Discourse Structure and Discourse Modes 258
  • Appendix A - The Texts 267
  • Appendix B - Glossary 286
  • References 294
  • General Index 314
  • Index of Names 318
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