Little Words: Their History, Phonology, Syntax, Semantics, Pragmatics, and Acquisition

By Ronald P. Leow; Héctor Campos et al. | Go to book overview

12
Aspect Selectors, Scales, and
Contextual Operators: An Analysis of
by Temporal Adjuncts

MICHAEL F. THOMAS AND LAURA A. MICHAELIS

University of Colorado at Boulder

MANY TEMPORAL ADJUNCTS select for specific aspectual classes; these adjuncts include measure adverbials such as for an hour and interval adverbials such as in an hour. While such adjuncts have traditionally served as diagnostics of telicity, it is only relatively recently that aspectual theorists have elucidated the relationship between the scalarsemantic meanings of these adjuncts and the internal structure of the event representations to which they apply (see Dowty 1979; Herweg 1991; Krifka 1998, among others). Krifka (1998) proposes that both measure adverbials and interval adverbials operate on representations that involve motion along a path. It seems entirely plausible that these adverbials should have path-based meanings, as they concern the “run times” of processes. It is less clear whether path schemas can be applied to the semantics of aspectually sensitive temporal adverbs in general, and particularly those that denote time points. One such adverbial is the by time adverbial (BTA), which will be the focus of our attention in this chapter. An example of the BTA is given in (1):

(1)But at least Burger King has signed on, and says that by year end it won't be using any shell eggs. (Wall Street Journal)

In (1), the year's end represents a point at which a state (absence of shell eggs) is subject to verification. In the semantic analysis that we propose here, the BTA resembles another aspectually sensitive temporal adverb, still (Michaelis 1993). Both adverbial types have apparently paradoxical behavior: They denote time points but have interval-based semantics. The paradox disappears when we assume that the BTA, like adverbial still, denotes a point and presupposes an interval, specifically, a path schema. In the case of the BTA in particular, we will argue, these path schemas represent conventional sequences of development, for example, schedules. We will use corpus data to survey the variety of discourse contexts in which such sequences are invoked. In this way we further substantiate Krifka's claim that aspectual meaning involves path structures that represent both movement through space and qualitative changes in entities over time.

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