Tense and temporal interpretation in Washo

Posted on November 7, 2015 by

This week’s LEL research seminar will be delivered by postdoctoral researcher M. Ryan Bochnak, on Tense and temporal interpretation in Washo, an endangered Native American language isolate. Here’s the abstract:

Descriptively, Washo is a language where past tense is optional, in the sense that a past tense morpheme is not obligatory in finite clauses with past temporal reference. I argue that while the past marker in Washo can be given an analysis as a past tense, morphologically tenseless clauses are also semantically tenseless, without even a covert tense morpheme. As I show, however, reaching this conclusion is not as trivial as it might seem based on superficial morphological considerations alone. This analysis raises issues regarding the nature of optional tense marking in languages that instantiate the phenomenon, as well as tenselessness and the asymmetry between past and future reference.

The talk will be in Samuel Alexander A101 at 4.15pm, as usual. See you there!