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ProtoSociology

Volume 34, 2017

Meaning and Publicity

Wenyan Zhang
Pages 197-216

Formal Semantics of English Sentences with Tense and Aspect

As common expressions in natural language, sentences with tense and aspect play a very important role. There are many ways to encode their contributions to meaning, but I believe their function is best understood as exhibiting relations among related eventualities (events and states). Accordingly, contra other efforts to explain tense and aspect by appeal to temporal logics or interval logics, I believe the most basic and correct way to explain tense and aspect is to articulate these relations between eventualities. Building on these ideas, I will characterize a formal semantics – Event-State Semantics (ESS) – which differs from all formal semantics based on temporal logics; in particular, one with which sentences with tense and aspect can be adequately explained, including molecular sentences and those with adverbial clauses.

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