Doug wrote: (01)
> -----Original Message-----
> From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-
> bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of doug foxvog
> Sent: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 3:22 PM
> To: [ontolog-forum]
> Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis
> On Tue, February 26, 2013 14:49, Barkmeyer, Edward J wrote:
> > Doug Foxvog wrote:
> >> On Sun, February 24, 2013 10:08, Phil Murray wrote:
> >> > ...
> >> > John S. begins with an excerpt from Chen's paper, including:
> >> > "English requires speakers to encode a distinction between present
> >> > and future events ...[snip]"
> >> > No, it doesn't, strictly speaking. You can say, "It rains tomorrow."
> >> > and be understood perfectly by almost every English speaker, even
> >> > if the sentence occurs in isolation. But you will probably be
> >> > thought of as someone who has limited familiarity with "standard"
> >> This is understandable, but understood to be "wrong".
> > John meant "English grammar requires..." Phil meant "violating the
> > grammatical requirement does not necessarily interfere with
> > communication".
> Sure. IMHO, it slows down the understanding of the sentence as processing
> abnormal grammar takes longer.
> > Moreover, an expression like "if it rains tomorrow" seems to be
> > acceptable in modern speech,
> Ed, here you changed the tense. The example was present tense being used
> for future tense ("It rains tomorrow."). You have replaced that with the
> conditional tense -- which nowadays is accepted for conditional future. (02)
The point was that "if it rains tomorrow" is properly a change in "mood" (not
properly "tense", I think), but it is a reference to a future event, which is
what John said. I only observe that in the "conditional tense", there is no
distinction between present and future events, exactly as Doug says. This is
not two nominally distinct verb forms with the same spelling (like the present
and past tenses of "set"). (03)
In most cases, I think, the sense of a conditional is either future or
recurrent ("when(ever) it rains"), which may be why. Doug concurs:
> One wouldn't use the conditional tense for the conditional present:
> * If it rains, my car is currently wet.
> If you really want to express conditional present, you would use conditional
> progressive ("if it is raining") either without a temporal modifier or with
> indicating the present.
> > even though "if it should rain tomorrow" is grammatically proper.
> But not common. (04)
Which is only to say that the language has already changed from that which a
19th century grammarian might have demanded. (05)
> > So this thesis is a bit overstated, I think.
> Do you consider any of these full sentences better or worse than another:
> - It rains tomorrow.
> - It rain tomorrow.
> - It rain today.
> - It rain yesterday.
> - It rains yesterday.
> ? (06)
I think properly the first and last may be "grammatically" correct. Is it
grammatically incorrect to say "The meeting is in Simon's office tomorrow"?
Grammatically, it must be the same as "it rains tomorrow", but this usage
pattern is not unexpected. Many uses of "is" are not to be interpreted as
"current". How about: "The project starts next week."? Present tense, future
time. But the pattern is common. It is just that "it rains tomorrow" is not
common. And OBTW, it is not uncommon in other European languages to use the
present tense with a future adverbial phrase, even in those that have a future
tense. The languages-as-used have simplified. (07)
The problem with the first and the last is not syntactic. It is rather the
intrinsic conflict between the temporal interpretation of the grammatical tense
and the temporal interpretation of the adverb. And in other usages, we have no
problem interpreting such statements -- we key on the adverb and ignore the
cues from the tense. (08)
Part of the reason is that the present tense is overworked. "It rains every
day, including yesterday, today and almost certainly tomorrow." is not
incorrect, but here the temporal interpretation of the "present tense" is
"recurrent". Similarly, "the Rhine flows into the North Sea" is not about a
present event, but rather about a persistent event. It will flow into the
North Sea tomorrow as well. This is why the issue is not about the "present
tense", and also why it is not exactly about distinguishing "present events"
from "future events". It is just about usage patterns. (09)
In a possibly related example, if I now write, "I expect Romney to be elected
in 2012", you may wonder where I have been for three months, and what I really
mean, because pragmatically it makes no sense for me to currently have
expectations for last year. Yet grammatically, there is nothing wrong with
that sentence. (010)
All I am saying is that English (or English grammar) does not "require us to
make a distinction between present and future events". It provides us with the
means of making that distinction. We use that means to clarify our intent when
needed, and that gives rise to expected usage patterns. (011)
While usage patterns condone the use of the present tense for some future
events, I don't think there is a usage pattern that uses the present tense for
strictly past events. So the last example may be strictly syntactically
acceptable, but matches no English usage pattern. (012)
The other three examples have a different problem -- a grammatical mismatch
between the "number" of the subject and the "number" of the verb. That is a
clear grammar/syntax error; it has nothing to do with interpretation. It is
the same problem as "He don't know." (013)
Ron Ross comments in one of his books that a rule written with the simple
present tense is often subject to misinterpretation, simply because we use the
present tense for persistent, repeated and current temporary events. He
suggests using the progressive to talk about current events: It is raining.
And upon reflection, "it rains" is not a common usage pattern in English,
> -- doug f
> > -Ed
> >> -- doug foxvog
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