Research team

Grammar and Pragmatics

Expertise

I am a cognitive linguist with a keen interest in the semantics of grammatical constructions, primarily within the domain of tense, aspect and modality. Why, for instance, do speakers of Dutch prefer to say "Zit niet zo te zeuren" rather than "Zeur niet"? Or how come McDonald's chose "I'm loving it" as a slogan rather than "I love it"? What do these observations reveal about the function of language as a social and communicative toolkit? What is their cross-linguistic relevance? And in what way do our grammatical choices reflect general cognitive principles? In order to address these questions, I study natural-language data from a variety of languages, including (varieties of) English, Dutch, French and Slavic languages, both from a contemporary and a historical perspective. I model my analyses within a cognitive-semantic and cross-linguistically informed theoretical framework.

A semantic typology of present-tense constructions. 01/05/2020 - 30/04/2024

Abstract

The default function of a present-tense construction would appear to be locating situations at the time of speaking. Yet language-specific and contrastive research has demonstrated that, in various languages, the present tense turns out to do anything but evoke the time of speaking when it combines with event verbs. This phenomenon, called the "present perfective paradox", has been analyzed as a consequence of the interaction of the present tense with specific types of aspectual constructions which convey a bounded perspective on a situation. The current project sets out to analyze the manifestation of the present perfective paradox in a typologically adequate sample of languages. On the one hand, the project has descriptive objectives: it will chart the characteristics of present-tense constructions and the way they interact with different types of aspect, on the basis of existing grammars, questionnaires and advanced elicitation techniques. This description will provide a unique perspective on the meaning types that can be expressed by means of so-called present-tense constructions across languages. In addition to these descriptive goals, the project aims to offer theoretical contributions to the study of tense and aspect across languages, as it will provide cognitive-functional explanations for the patterns attested, both cross-linguistically and within specific languages. Ultimately, this typological investigation will allow us to come up with a semantic connectivity map, reflecting theoretically plausible patterns of polysemy and diachronic change for present-tense constructions.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

The interaction between tense and lexical and grammatical aspect. A comparative study of present-time marking in the verbal paradigm. 01/10/2012 - 30/09/2014

Abstract

This project focuses on the interaction between time reference and classes of lexical aspect (actionality) and of grammatical aspect, from a cross-linguistic perspective. It starts from the observation that the actional features of a verb (e.g. the stativity, telicity, punctuality etc. of the situation designated) and its viewpoint aspect (perfective versus imperfective) often determine the way in which present-time reference is brought about. In many languages, stative and imperfective situations can readily be located in the present through the use of what may be called a present-tense marker. With dynamic and perfective situations, on the other hand, this marker will typically be given a non-present interpretation: past or perfect in some languages, future in other languages and in yet other languages a generic or habitual interpretation arises. This project intends to account for the problem of present-time reference with dynamic/perfectivized verbs, to describe in detail the strategies different languages employ to solve this problem, and to examine what the critical variables are in choosing a particular strategy. At the same time, more fine-grained aspectual and actional distinctions will be introduced than the ones employed in previous studies of this subject.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

The interaction between tense and lexical and grammatical aspect. A comparative study of present-time marking in the verbal paradigm. 01/10/2010 - 30/09/2012

Abstract

This project focuses on the interaction between time reference and classes of lexical aspect (actionality) and of grammatical aspect, from a cross-linguistic perspective. It starts from the observation that the actional features of a verb (e.g. the stativity, telicity, punctuality etc. of the situation designated) and its viewpoint aspect (perfective versus imperfective) often determine the way in which present-time reference is brought about. In many languages, stative and imperfective situations can readily be located in the present through the use of what may be called a present-tense marker. With dynamic and perfective situations, on the other hand, this marker will typically be given a non-present interpretation: past or perfect in some languages, future in other languages and in yet other languages a generic or habitual interpretation arises. This project intends to account for the problem of present-time reference with dynamic/perfectivized verbs, to describe in detail the strategies different languages employ to solve this problem, and to examine what the critical variables are in choosing a particular strategy. At the same time, more fine-grained aspectual and actional distinctions will be introduced than the ones employed in previous studies of this subject.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

The interface between Aktionsart and grammatical tense: A comparative study of the polyfunctionality of present-tense marking in the verbal paradigm. 01/10/2009 - 30/09/2010

Abstract

This project purports an in-depth, cross-linguistic study of the interaction between Aktionsart (lexical aspect) and the present tense. The focus lies on the polyfunctionality of what is conventionally described as a present-tense marker in many languages. Whereas such a marker can naturally combine with stative predicates to yield a present-time reading, dynamic verbs often turn out to be conceptually incompatible with these present-tense markers, which then get another, non-present reading. The main goal of this investigation is to describe and account for this conceptual problem in a number of genetically and geographically unrelated languages.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)