LINGUIST List 29.3746

Fri Sep 28 2018

Calls: Historical Linguistics, Typology/Germany

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Date: 27-Sep-2018
From: Olga Spevak <>
Subject: Towards a Diachronic Typology of Future Tenses
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Full Title: Towards a Diachronic Typology of Future Tenses

Date: 21-Aug-2019 - 24-Aug-2019
Location: Leipzig, Germany
Contact Person: Eugen Hill
Meeting Email: < click here to access email >

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics; Typology

Call Deadline: 15-Nov-2018

Meeting Description:

(Session of 52nd Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea)

Unlike present and past tenses, future tenses exhibit a typologically robust tendency towards encoding modality. Accordingly, in the typological literature the future has been described both in temporal and modal terms. This might be ultimately rooted in the fact that the notion of future time is inherently linked to uncertainty given the fact that the current reality may develop in several ways. In a similar vein, future time reference is known to frequently interact with aspect and with aspectual properties of verbs and constructions. Accordingly, encoding of future may be described future in terms of a hierarchical interplay between two operators, a modal and an aspectual one.

However, these features inherent to future time reference from a most general point of view do not by themselves explain the considerable variation we observe regarding modality and aspectuality in future grams (henceforth “futures”) of different languages. We assume that this variation can be better understood from a data-oriented semasiological perspective, which implies taking into account the diachronic dimension of futures. This amounts to finding answers to the following questions:

- What diachronic factors may be responsible for the observed variation in modal and aspectual values of futures?
- What are the possible correlations between these factors and the different kinds of modal and aspectual meanings in futures?
- Which patterns of interaction between the different factors are actually attested in natural languages?
- What are the possible trajectories of modality and aspectuality in the development of futures?

At present, three different factors potentially relevant to modality and aspectuality in futures may count as established. The first is the different sources of future grams. Numerous languages possess futures known to have only recently evolved out of forms or constructions with non-future semantics. The most prominent sources are (a) tense-aspect forms (cf. the perfective future in North Slavic), (b) deontic modal expressions (cf. the shall- and will-futures in English), (c) constructions with verbs of movement (cf. the aller-future in French), (d) constructions with inchoative copula verbs (cf. the werden-future in German). Differences in the semantics of the source constructions may be relevant in two similar but distinct ways (cf. the notion of “source determination”). First, futures with similar modal sources are likely to exhibit similar inherited modal readings. Second, futures with a similar source may be expected to develop similarly.

The second factor may be the different mechanisms of future tense development. The first is the grammaticalisation of an inherited content word (cf. Bybee, Perkins & Pagliuca 1994, Heine & Kuteva 2002). The second mechanism is the more direct functional shift, i.e. “hypoanalysis” from a non-future to a future (cf. Haspelmath 1998, Reinöhl & Himmelmann 2016). It is known that futures which emerged by hypoanalysis often allow for gnomic and habitual readings, although in purely semantic terms these two meanings are difficult to link to future time reference (cf. Haspelmath 1998). By contrast, gnomic or habitual readings are not attested for many subtypes of grammaticalisation futures.

Finally, the third factor potentially responsible for modal and aspectual readings in futures is the different behaviour of future tenses in the relevant language systems which may accommodate several functionally distinct futures. In such a situation, it is natural to expect complex patterns of interaction between different future tenses which, in theory, might be responsible for different modal and aspectual flavours in futures.
The workshop invites papers addressing the research questions stated above.

Call for Papers:

The workshop invites papers addressing the research questions stated above. Especially welcome would be contributions aimed at:

- identifying new factors potentially relevant to emerging and subsequent development of modality and aspectuality in futures,
- describing patterns of interaction between these factors,
- identifying recurrent patterns of interaction and establishing correlations with different kinds of modality and aspectuality.

Provisional titles and abstracts (up to 300 words) may be sent until November 15 at the following address:

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