LingLang Lunch (9/18/2019): Stefan Kaufmann (UConn)

Stefan Kaufmann is Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Connecticut. His main research interests lie in the area of semantics, pragmatics, and computational linguistics. For more information, his website is here.

How fake is fake Past?

English subjunctive conditionals have a Past or Past Perfect form on the modal scoping over the consequent (typically ‘would’ or ‘might’), which is echoed in the tense marking on the antecedent. This Past (Perfect) does not seem to have its ordinary temporal interpretation, as it even shows up when the constituents refer to future times. This phenomenon is known as “Fake Past” or “Fake Tense”. Much recent work on Fake Past concerns its relationship with temporal Past. There are two schools of thought on this issue: “Past-as-Past” approaches rely on models of branching time and interpret counterfactuals by “re-running” history from an earlier time at which the antecedent was still a possibility; thus the Past is not (entirely) fake after all. “Past-as-Modal” approaches assume instead that on its fake use, the Past is “redirected” from the temporal dimension in which it normally enables reference to different times, to the perpendicular modal dimension, now enabling reference to different worlds. A question that has not received nearly as much attention is how a theory of either stripe is to be integrated with an overall account of tense and temporal reference in conditionals, including indicatives. This paper argues that such a unified account can be achieved by extending Kaufmann’s (2005b) treatment of tense and temporal reference in indicatives to subjunctives. A significant amount of evidence for this analysis comes from observations on English and Japanese counterfactuals. I argue that despite the many differences between these languages, the basic tenets of the analysis carry over surprisingly well. Part of this talk is based on joint with Teruyuki Mizuno (UConn grad student).