Tense and Aspect




My research in the area of tense and aspect mostly focuses on the perfect (e.g., I have seen the movie). I study various aspects of the meaning of the perfect – cross-linguistic variation, interaction with viewpoint aspect and tense, and with temporal adverbials and negation – as well as the distribution of the semantic primitives in the syntactic structures underlying the perfect.


§  The present perfect puzzle. In joint work [6], my co-author and I proposed a solution to the so-called present perfect puzzle – the fact that some adverbials are prohibited in the present perfect in some languages. For instance, in English John has arrived yesterday is not acceptable, but its German counterpart is. Our solution to this long-standing puzzle has three components: a weak semantics for the perfect, a cross-linguistic variation in the semantics of the present, and a mechanism of grammatical competition and strengthening of meaning. In our proposal, the semantic contribution of the perfect, in both English and German, is to introduce an interval no part of which may be after the local evaluation time. When the perfect combines with the present tense, the strictly compositional meaning of the present perfect is compatible with intervals that are before the speech time. This meaning is, however, further restricted in English, because of competition with a semantic formative with a more specified meaning, the past. The particular semantics of the present in English, in contrast to German, is the reason the past is a stronger scalar alternative to the present perfect in that language. The result of the competition between present perfect and past in English is that the present perfect is strengthened to non-past, requiring inclusion of the speech time. Failure of modification by adverbials such as yesterday then follows, as intervals including the speech time may not be modified by such adverbials. Since inclusion of the speech time is not required by the German present perfect, as its meaning is not strengthened, adverbials such as yesterday are predictably acceptable.


§   Reference time modification in the perfect. Developing further the ides in [6], I have identified additional restrictions imposed by the perfect on temporal adverbials. I have established a new generalization concerning the interaction of the perfect with referential adverbials such as yesterday vs. the anaphoric the same day [5]. The generalization states that no part of the reference time may be included in the interval denoted by a referential adverbial modifying a perfect (e.g., We saw John last night. He had arrived ?? yesterday / Ö the same day vs. We saw John this morning. He had arrived yesterday). The generalization is naturally explained only with the new semantics for the perfect developed for the present perfect puzzle [6], providing independent confirmation for that proposal. In work in progress, I study related restrictions on reference time modification in the perfect in Bangla [1], [2].


§  Interaction between perfect and viewpoint aspect. The weak semantics for the perfect is also crucial for providing a unified account [7], [8], of the different interpretations of the perfect such as the universal (I have always lived in Sofia), which carries the implication that I still live in Sofia, the experiential (I have eaten Belgian chocolate ice cream before), and the resultative (I have lost my keys), which has the implication that my keys, lost before the speech time, are still lost at the speech time. My co-authors and I develop an interval-based semantics for the perfect, a version of the Extended Now theory, according to which the perfect simply introduces a time interval in a particular relationship to the evaluation time, and the kind of viewpoint aspect embedded under the perfect is responsible for situating the event time relative to the perfect time, and for the different perfect readings. 


§  The Perfect of Evidentiality. I have a long-term interest in a phenomenon, which I have called the Perfect of Evidentiality [9], [4] – the use of the perfect morphosyntax for conveying that the speaker does not have first-hand evidence for the truth of a proposition (in English, this meaning is closely rendered with the use of apparently). This phenomenon raises the question of cross-categorial parallels, in this case between temporality and modality.



Publications & Talks


[1] Pancheva, R. and P. Biswas (2012). “Temporal Adverbials, Negation, and the Bangla Perfect” Formal Approaches to South Asian Languages 2, MIT, March 17-18, 2012.

[2] Pancheva, R. (2010). “A Perfect Puzzle in Bangla” Workshop on Perfect Puzzles, University of Bochum, Germany, Nov 12, 2010 (invited talk)

[3] Pancheva, R. (2010). “Layers of Aspectual Structure” Formal Description of Slavic Languages 8.5, Brno, Czech Republic (invited talk)

[4] Pancheva, R. (2005). “Tense and Evidentiality” Colloquium on Tense, Mood and Modality, Université de Paris 3 and Sorbonne, December 8-10, 2005; and Workshop on the Linguistics Representation of Tense and Mood, University of Stuttgart, December 3, 2005. (invited talks)

[5] Pancheva, R. (2004). Another Perfect Puzzle. In V. Chand, A. Kelleher, A.J. Rodríguez, and B. Schmeiser (eds.) WCCFL 23. Cascadilla Press. 621-634.

[6] Pancheva, R. and A. von Stechow. (2004). On the Present Perfect Puzzle. In K. Moulton and M. Wolf (eds.) NELS 34.

[7] Pancheva, R. (2003). “The Aspectual Makeup of Perfect Participles and the Interpretations of the Perfect. in A. Alexiadou, M. Rathert, and A. von Stechow(eds.) Perfect Explorations. Mouton de Gruyter. 277-306.

[8] Iatridou, S., E. Anagnostopoulou, and R. Izvorski. (2001). Observations about the Form and Meaning of the Perfect. In M. Kenstowicz (ed.) Ken Hale: A Life in Language. MIT Press. 189-238.

[9] Izvorski, R. (1997). The Present Perfect as an Epistemic Modal. In A. Lawson and E. Cho (eds.), SALT VII Proceedings, CLC Publications. Cornell University.



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