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Thread: who is online

  1. #21
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    Default Re: who is online

    Roro: I have a vague feeling that I'm merely bringing on a confusion

    Discussion is the only way to end confusion, Roro.

    Roro: Let me add another one. I'm not so sure as to 'would' as a marker of reported speech. Because:

    [1] He said yesterday, 'I'm happy.' => He said yesterday he was happy.

    Without a greater context we can't be completely sure but even here, the 'was' is not necessarily a past tense. It's a past tense FORM used to show that the speaker is using reported/indirect speech. A "past tense FORM" is a different animal than a "past tense".

    For situations like this, where the condition of "whatever-ness" extends to now, native speakers will not necessarily use a past tense FORM but they will often retain the present form, as in,


    [1A] He said yesterday, 'I'm happy.' => He said yesterday that he is happy.


    There is of course, a possibility that this 'happiness' was specific in reference to a short period of time yesterday, but more often than not, reported speech points ahead to a not as yet finished event or a condition that continues.



    [2] He said yesterday, 'I'll be happy.' => He said yesterday he would be happy.

    Both are reporting some speech ... no? (Maybe I missed your point, DBP, I'll reread this thread again.)
    Cannot we take this 'would' as a result of changing 'will' into past tense?


    That's right, both are reporting some speech but the important thing to keep in mind is that the verbs used after the reporting verb, eg. 'said/told/etc' are not past tense, they are past tense FORMS used not to illustrate finished actions. The past tense FORMS are only used to mark the utterances as reported/indirect speech.

    "would be happy" can only have a future meaning, never a past meaning, in the mind of a native speaker, so it is not possible to "take this 'would' as a result of changing 'will' into past tense".


    =========================

    Roro wrote: Cannot we take this 'would' as a result of changing 'will' into past tense?

    Roro, we don't use 'cannot' at the front of a sentence as you did.

    "Can we not take this 'would' ... "
    Last edited by DBP; 29-Sep-2005 at 06:53. Reason: addition at the end

  2. #22
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: who is online

    Quote Originally Posted by DBP
    We can dispense with teacher three as he/she's an idiot.

    OK, it's not a view I've ever favoured, but there are those who argue this stance. However, I'm more than willing to bin the view.

    Quote Originally Posted by DBP
    What happens when students are told that modals have past and present tense? They produce all sorts of ungrammatical sentences. They fail to grasp what, arguably, is the most important crucial system of English meaning.


    OK, here we're going to end up going round in circles a bit, because I do feel that they have tense, which I see as temporal location alone.


    Quote Originally Posted by DBP

    The same way as I handle the modals. I tell them the truth, back it up by pointing to how language is really used and let them see the light.

    That's fine with a highly-informed teacher like you, but will that work industry-wide? Also, I see them differently from you, and the traditionalists have a further opinion. I have no time for 'will' as the future tense, but I do see it as a present tense/first form/ proximate form, and you see it as tenseless. Three views. Between us there is consensus that one is wrong, but then we disagree.

    Quote Originally Posted by DBP
    That's the way of the world. Those who have a great deal invested in old falsehoods often cling to those falsehoods with a tenacity that is truly amazing.


    Yep- you still some amazing stuff being recommeded. The split infinitive crew are still alive and kicking, though dwindling in numbers. However, in the absence of an Academy Francaise, we only have views, and it's difficult to supplant majority views when you have no control over them. Take the present continuous/progressive term- over the last twenty years there has, probably, been a slight shift towards using progressive, and the new kid on the block, the durative, seems to be making no headway. If that tiny shift, by no means universal, has taken a couple of decades, then a change in the view of modality shouldn't take more than a few centuries, well, probably longer as the first hurdle of the future tense has rarely been touched upon.


    [color=black]
    Quote Originally Posted by DBP[/color
    ]
    Yes, I have, right down there in the trenches, for a good number of years now.
    I hope you didn't think I was trying to be snide here- it's clear that you're a teacher. What I was wondering was where you have taught, not whether. The reason for asking is that I often see different approaches from teachers with experience in different areas. On one forum, I have seen rows erupt over approaches and one reason seems to be that the teachers dealing with Asian students, especially lower levels, often take a more conservative view of things and try to reduce things to simpler forms, which teachers in Europe often find questionable.
    Last edited by Tdol; 29-Sep-2005 at 07:52.

  3. #23
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    Default Re: who is online

    In order to deal with these long-standing questions, somehow or other, we could start with distinguishing conceptual remoteness from temporal remoteness, couldn't we...? Theoretically, at least !

    In logical grammar we can introduce modal operators and tense operators, providing them with distinct interpretations.

    (Off course it's not so clear yet to what extent such a logical grammar is efficient in analysis of natural language, I know... So please don't take my word as my strong argument against others' view. In addition I have little to do with 'English' grammar/linguistics. I'm simply interested in formal semantics. In its possibility as a useful tool, if I can say so.... )

    .................................................. .........................................

    Hello DBP, thank you for your correction. As to the reported speech let me think it over. It's a bit hard for me to understand the following your comment:
    ... but more often than not, reported speech points ahead to a not as yet finished event or a condition that continues.
    ... so let me think. (I have a feeling that if this statement couldn't be a rigid one, it would be better to treat the reported speech as an exceptional case.)

    Thank you again,
    Last edited by Roro; 29-Sep-2005 at 09:54.

  4. #24
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    Default Re: who is online

    It's a tasty topic.

    Quote Originally Posted by DBP
    Sam: Is Pat going to help you?
    Max: She said she would help, but she's not here yet.
    Let's subject this example to a bit of scrutiny. Clearly, as Pat's not even here, the 'would' does not reflect a past in any way, shape or form.
    True, if language learners interpret 'would' as the tail-end of a temporal ordering of predicates, which they do initially, and would have cause to continue to do -according to your stance - given the 'traditional' (as well as modern) definition, would, past tense of will.

    But why limit the sematic scope of of the term 'tense'? That's what I don't understand. Surely there's another way to interpret 'tense'. What about, 'would', pst tense of 'will', 'tense' in the sense of a temporal ordering of utterances?

    'would' is defined as a past tense form, that's a given, but the term past tense, especially when it applies to auxiliary 'would', doesn't refer to the temporal ordering of predicates, which is where we agree. Evaluating reported speech, which is where we find modal-auxiliary 'would' is based on "polarity", as I am sure you would also agree. Given root/epistemic modal evaluations, modal-auxiliary evaluation time (ET) is understood as coinciding with the actual utterance time (UT). In other words, Max reports her root-modal evaluation 'would' on the basis of the actual utterance time; i.e., when Max said the words:

    Max: "She said she would help." (UT= now; ET = then, hence 'would')

    In short, the term "tense" refers to time: event time ('said'), and utterance time ('would'), so use the term 'past tense' to describe modal-auxiliary 'would', even 'could', 'might', and so on.

    If you're interested, here's a wee bit of related background for you:
    When modals [can/could] are used to convey the root-modal senses of ability and permission, they participate in a semantically viable present/past tense alternation, just like normal verbs.
    (9)
    a. Carl can't move his arm (ability at UT)
    b. Carl couldn't move his arm (ability at a past time).


    At the utterance time (UT), it is not possible for Carl to (habitually) move his arm. In (9b), could functions as a past-tense form of can in (9a); at some time prior to the utterance time, it was not possible for Carl to move his arm.


    When could is used epistemically in simple sentences, it cannot have a past-tense interpretation:

    (10)
    a. Jack's wife couldn't be very rich.
    It is not possible that Jack's wife is very rich.
    *It was not possible that Jack's wife was very rich.


    The speaker reports his or her epistemic modal evaluation holding at the actual utterance time. To force a past-tense reading of (10b) it is necessary to construe could as a root modal involving ability or permission.

    When the modal is understood to have root-modal force, it is interpreted as though it falls under the semantic scope of the past tense, but when it is understood to have epistemic modal force, the past tense is interpreted as though it were a (non-finite) perfect occurring in the complement of a present-tense epistemic modal; that is, the modal evaluation time must be understood to coincide with the actual utterance time.

    In Stowell (1995), I suggested that the so-called present and past morphemes in English are not actually present and past tenses per se (where tenses are understood as temporal ordering predicates) but rather polarity markers on time-denoting heads designating a particular scope relation with a higher (true) past tense.

    Tense and Modals, Tim Stowell

  5. #25
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    Umm... It's really great. Cannot thank you enough, Casiopea. This is exactly what I was not so sure about and really wanted to know; I needed especially the following general statement:
    When modals [can/could] are used to convey the root-modal senses of ability and permission, they participate in a semantically viable present/past tense alternation, just like normal verbs. (...)
    When [could] is used epistemically in simple sentences, it cannot have a past-tense interpretation.
    .................................................. .......................................
    When the modal is understood to have root-modal force, it is interpreted as though it falls under the semantic scope of the past tense, but when it is understood to have epistemic modal force (...), the modal evaluation time must be understood to coincide with the actual utterance time.
    Stowell says also (emphasis is added):
    .. can and could constitute the only true modal pair that exhibits a present/past alternation on a root-modal construal (...). Nevertheless the necessity semimodal have-to seems to work in a similar, though not identical way. On its root-modal construal, have-to exhibits a semantically viable present/past alternation, where the past tense locates the modal evaluation at a past time preceding the utterance time.
    Interesting paper.
    Thank you so much for your invaluable information, for your reference.
    I repeat: cannot thank you enough.

    With my warmest regards,
    Last edited by Roro; 30-Sep-2005 at 01:48.

  6. #26
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: who is online

    Perhaps it's a little too late to comment now. But I'm interested in the classification of this use of "would" under "expressing a mood":

    1. She would wait every evening for the bus.

    To my perhaps defective ears, it seems more akin to an imperfect tense than a modal usage, and carries a real sense of past-ness. (You might use it to translate Flaubert's imperfect tenses, for instance.)

    It's a pleasure to hear so many familiar voices on this thread, by the way.

    MrP

  7. #27
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    Default Re: who is online

    Hello MrPedantic, long time no see !
    Would you give me some more context? (Because I've only heard of such a usage, I've never used this kind of 'would' by myself. It's hard for me to imagine appropreate situations.)

  8. #28
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: who is online

    Hello, Roro, very nice to see you here! :)

    It's a peculiar usage, and I'm not entirely sure I understand it; but I'll do my best.

    1. She waited at the bus stop every evening.

    Here, we have only a fact: "she did this, then".

    2. She used to wait at the bus stop every evening.

    Here, we have a fact and a little colouring: "she did this, then, and I'd like to draw attention to the habitual nature of the action".

    3. She would wait at the bus stop every evening.

    Here, we have a fact, a little colouring, and a sense that something more is to follow: "she did this, then; I'd like to draw attention to the habitual nature of the action; moreover, there is a certain significance to the habitual action, as follows..."

    #3 is therefore characteristic of narrative:

    "She would stand at the bus stop every evening, scrutinising the faces of the passengers on every bus that stopped there, refusing to mount the platform unless she could see the lithe young grammarian with the remarkably blue eyes sitting in his accustomed place behind the driver..."

    "He would wait at the bus stop every evening, noting the registration number of every bus that passed in a small blue notebook. When the notebook was full of registration numbers, he would carefully transcribe them into a larger notebook, which he kept locked away in the cupboard by his bed. Sometimes, after a particularly distressing day, he would take out the larger notebook, and read aloud from the neat pages of registration numbers. It was always a strangely cathartic experience..."


    It is I think unusual, among the uses of "would", in that it always relates to the past.

    See you,
    MrP

  9. #29
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    Default Re: who is online

    Hello MrPedantic,
    I see...! It seems clear, for me at least, that such 'would' carries no modal meaning.
    (You might use it to translate Flaubert's imperfect tenses, for instance.)
    (My French is terrible, but I'll check some parallel text. Then I'll understand more context. Thanks!

    See you,

  10. #30
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Hello again Roro

    The opening of Un Coeur Simple is a case in point –

    http://perso.wanadoo.fr/jb.guinot/pages/coeur.html

    – for instance, in the paragraph that begins "Elle se levait dès l'aube, pour ne pas manquer la messe, et travaillait jusqu'au soir sans interruption..." ("She would rise at dawn, so as not to miss Mass, and work until evening without stopping...")

    (I don't mean that all instances of the imperfect in Flaubert should be translated with "would", of course.)

    MrP

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