This book presents an in-depth study of the processing of tense, more specifically the English past tense. Against a detailed theoretical background, it presents a number of psycholinguistic studies examining how and when the language processor assigns an interpretation to tense morphology. In so doing, it looks at several specific topics: temporal anaphora resolution, adverb preposing and discourse relations, and the sequence-of-tense ambiguity. The picture which emerges is one in which the processor is not guided by preceding context in making interpretive decisions regarding tense, as previous work has suggested. Rather, sentence-level linguistic structure appears to cue the processor in deciding which of multiple possible interpretations to assign to a past-tense marker. The book also offers novel theoretical perspectives on issues of both linguistic (temporal adverbs, sentence- and discourse-level temporal interpretation) and psycholinguistic (models of semantic processing) interest.
This work will be of interest to graduate students and researchers in linguistics and psycholinguistics working on semantic processing, temporal interpretation, and discourse processing.