Sentence semantics
Classifying meaning at sentence
• Tense
• Aspect
• Situation type
Situation types
• Static situations
– Adjectives
– Stative verbs
– Can you distinguish these two in Chinese?
• Dynamic situations
– Other verbs, mostly
Dynamic verbs
• Durative or punctual?
– John lived a long time ago
– John died a long time ago
• Telic or atelic?
– John baked a cake
– John looked hungrily at the cake
• Look at Matrix 5.47
– What situation type are the above 4 sentences?
• Saeed’s article is vague about what applies to
verbs, and what applies to situations
• Vendler and Smith are talking about situations
• Be and love are stative verbs
• Build and gaze are telic and atelic respectively,
but in
– I’m building a house
– My son is being naughty
• …progressive aspect makes the situations
atelic and dynamic
Tense and aspect
• The tense used in a sentence tells us
when the event takes place
- Johnny ate goulash.
- Johnny eats goulash.
- Johnny will eat goulash.
• Aspect gives extra time information
- Johnny has eaten goulash.
- Johnny is eating goulash.
Tense and aspect
• Tense is marked by morphology in English
(except cut, put…)
– (and then some people say there are zero morphs)
• Aspect is not always
I’m looking for a burger
I see it now
I’m eating it
I’m lovin’ it
(Oh no I think I’m going to be sick!)
• All those are “happening right now”
Tense: a deictic system
• Deixis mean pointing (in Greek)
• This and that are deictic pronouns (or
determiners); his and her are not.
• So, question: what does deictic mean in
– Think about who is pointing, and in which
Aspect is not deictic
• It refers to an event’s “temporal distribution
or contour”
– 5.63: thank you, Hockett (remember him?)
– So aspect can describe
• Long/short duration
• Completeness/ incompleteness
• Repeated/ continuous
• Tense is just the overall location in time of
the event or activity
Aspect in English and other
• Task: How is aspect shown in
- English?
- Russian?
- Chinese?
(Look at pages 130-133, and write a couple of
sentences about each language. Give a couple of
examples from each language)
Modality tasks
• Page 135 is pretty straightforward: read it again
– What is in between You are crazy and You are not
– probably, maybe, might be, must be…
• So, an epistemic modal verb
– You must be crazy ( I order you to be crazy!)
• A deontic modal verb
– You must not eat any more Big Macs
• How about
– I can reach down and touch my toes
– Can I have a Big Mac please?
Rank them!

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