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If we were to recognise "she will eat" as a future tense, then we might just as well recognise "he may eat", "she is eating", "he is going to eat" and other combinations as future tenses. Do you agree?
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Can anyone answer my question to MrP.

<<In thinking that, which are you referring to, real time, objective time, or psychological time? >>

Any ideas which he may be refering to above?
A time older than the time of chronometers; older than time counted by anxious worried ESL teachers lying awake in foreign towns, calculating the future, trying to piece together the past and the future, between midnight and dawn, when the past is all deception, the future futureless, before the first morning post on the first morning forum, when time stops and time is never ending.

MrP
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MrPedanticSome would contrast compound forms such as "she will eat" with forms in other languages (e.g. "elle mangera"), and argue that the latter is an inflected form, and thus a genuine "future tense", whereas the former is modal, and therefore is not.
I don't see this myself, as "elle mangera" is itself a compound form: "elle manger + a", i.e. pronoun + infinitive + 3rd person singular of "avoir".

I think that many would argue that "mangera" is a "simple" tense, saying the "a" had become grammaticalised. A rough and ready test is that you cannot insert anything between "manger" and "a". Compare the passé composé where you can insert a word between the auxiliary and the past partciple: Je n'ai jamais mangé.

Whilst the etymology of a word is no safe guide to its current meaning, the word "tense" derives ultimately from the Latin "tempus" (the basic meaning of which is "time", but also means "tense") via the French "temps" (which also means "time" as well as "tense"). If we define "tense" as " the form of a verb which expresses a temporal relation" it has to be decided whether that includes compound or periphrastic forms as well as simple forms. When I was at school it included both, but now some linguists wish to exclude compound forms. If you do that that leaves English with only two tenses. When linguists speak to each other there is no problem, but outside linguistics confusion will reign!

There is not too much of a problem with Latin, since all finite verb forms express some temporal relation. Further, most verb forms are simple. However, if it is insisted that only simple forms are tenses, we have the oddity that the active perfect, pluperfect and future perfect will be a tenses, but the passive forms are not - amavi etc against amatus sum etc.

In French and other Romance languages there is a simple form of the verb called the "conditional" which is used primarily to express a condition, though it may also express a temporal relation. Since it does not solely express a temporal relation, is it a tense?

Slavic languages have different simple forms of a verb which express aspect rather than temporal relations. Are they tenses?

Once outside Indo-European languages (at least those I know anything about) it becomes trickier. A simple form of a verb may express something quite unconnected with time, for example intensity - "I smash" as opposed to "I break".

The problem is complicated because in some languages the future tense, whether simple or compound, is not always used to express futurity and futurity is not always expressed by using the future tense.
MrPedanticA time older than the time of chronometers; older than time counted by anxious worried ESL teachers lying awake in foreign towns, calculating the future, trying to piece together the past and the future, between midnight and dawn, when the past is all deception, the future futureless, before the first morning post on the first morning forum, when time stops and time is never ending.

MrP

If it's that kind of time, how can it be referred to as old? Does that kind of time age?

Mind, I was talking about what that which we could call psychological time and its relationship to grammatical tense, so I'm not sure how your reference fits in to all this.

The thread question was: If we were to recognise "she will eat" as a future tense, then we might just as well recognise "he may eat", "she is eating", "he is going to eat" and other combinations as future tenses. Do you agree?
< If we define "tense" as " the form of a verb which expresses a temporal relation" it has to be decided whether that includes compound or periphrastic forms as well as simple forms. When I was at school it included both, but now some linguists wish to exclude compound forms. If you do that that leaves English with only two tenses. When linguists speak to each other there is no problem, but outside linguistics confusion will reign!>

Which still leaves us with the question of what should be nominated as THE future tense in English. What would you suggest?
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<When I was at school it included both, but now some linguists wish to exclude compound forms. If you do that that leaves English with only two tenses. When linguists speak to each other there is no problem, but outside linguistics confusion will reign!>

Compare your conclusion with this statment:

A future tense seems to be some kind of mark of pride. Being told that your language doesn't have one often brings out Chauvinistic zeal in everyone from English teachers to students from Japan, Korea, Turkey, Finland, or Arab-speaking countries. "Of course we have a future tense," they say. In fact, the only group of students I've come across who have no problem with the idea seems to be Chinese students, who actually tend to be rather proud that Chinese has no tenses at all.

http://english-jack.blogspot.com/2006/08/no-future-tense-nonsense.html
I am the first to lament that the insights of linguistics do not have a wider circulation. However, when our blogger says that decades of linguistic analysis tell us that English has no future tense, all that it is saying is something like this: linguists have made a narrow definition of "tense" and, according to that definition, English has no future tense. If a linguist leaves the groves of academe and goes around saying English has no future tense he is very liable to be misunderstood; people will think he is saying that English has no way of expressing the future. All languages can talk about the future. Even Chinese can talk about the future - if it could not you would not be able to make an appointment in China. Further, it goes against what (most, if not all) people are taught in school. I still have my Latin grammar and have just looked at it. The conjugations of Latin verbs are set out. The translation given for amabo is I shall love. I equated one with the other. For that reason, if for no other, I would have said that the future tense in English was formed by using shall/will, even if now I would qualify that.

The statement: People tend to conflate tense and time is interesting because it is not a statement that can be made in French, at least in that simple form, because in French the words for "tense" and "time" are the same. You would end up saying (only half translating): People tend to confuse temps and temps.

One of the problems in talking about English grammar generally is that for at least a couple of centuries it was discussed in terms of Latin grammar. This did not do that much harm since English is not too far away from Latin compared to say Chinese. However, since English is far more analytic than Latin, English had to be squeezed into grammatical categories that did not quite fit it. When linguists turned their attention to non-Indo-European languages they realised that it was impossible to discuss them in terms of Latin grammar. In Arabic adjectives behave like nouns, whilst in Japanese they conjugate like verbs, to give just two examples. This lead linguists to reassess English grammar. The job needed doing, but the baby was thrown out with the bath water.

I can remember reading a book which distinguished between "adjectives" ("describing" words which form their comparative by adding -er to the end of the word) and "adjectivals" ("describing" words which form their comparative by placing more before the word). That seems to me a case basing your analysis on form rather than function and leads to the curious result that enormous and large are two different parts of speech.

And it is the same with tenses. The simple fact is that English can express the future perfect by using the form shall have + past participle. It may be the case that, historically, this form is only described as the "future perfect" because it is equivalent to the Latin form amavero, but to deny that English has a future perfect tense does not seem to me to be very helpful.

I think that the way you describe a language has to depend on the purpose of your analysis. When teaching languages such as French or English it is useful to be able to talk about simple and compound tenses. If we go back again to form and function, in French the passé composé (j'ai aimé) and the passé simple (j'aimai) both function in the same way and one can be substituted for the other without a change in meaning; the only difference is that one is used in speech and the other in writing. To tell a pupil that one form is a tense and the other is not can only lead to puzzlement - far better to describe one as a compound tense and the other as a simple tense.

It may be the case that the way a language is described for the purpose of teaching it does not stand up to rigorous analysis, but I do not think that that matters if it helps the pupil. Anyone learning English will soon get to realise that futurity does not have to be expressed by using shall/will and, further down the line, that shall/will can be used other than to express futurity. They still need to learn this even if you tell them that English has no future tense.
AnonymousIf it's that kind of time, how can it be referred to as old? Does that kind of time age?

I can't be entirely sure, Anon; but I suspect the paradox was deliberate.

MrP
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MrPedantic
AnonymousIf it's that kind of time, how can it be referred to as old? Does that kind of time age?

I can't be entirely sure, Anon; but I suspect the paradox was deliberate.

MrP

Great! So, back to the thread question?
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