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Dissertation Information

Title: The Semantics of Tense and Propositional Attitudes Add Dissertation
Author: Mean-Young Song Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Georgetown University, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 1999
Linguistic Subfield(s): Semantics;
Subject Language(s): English
Director(s): Paul Portner

Abstract: This dissertation is devoted to exploring a proper semantic account of the tenses in propositional attitude constructions in English and Korean. I first discuss the basics of the Korean tense system which is essential in providing a semantic account of the tenses in the propositional attitude construction in Korean. Korean has temporal expressions such as the past tense marker -ess, the present tense marker -nun, and the future tense marker -keyss. In the literature of Korean linguistics, -ess has usually been treated in two different ways: one is to refer to -ess as a past tense marker, and the other is to take -ess to be a perfect marker. I argue against these two treatments of -ess, and propose that there are two -esss: one for the past tense marker and one for the perfect marker. I defend the treatment of -nun as a present tense marker. I argue against the treatment of -keyss as a future tense marker by presenting Korean data in which -keyss occurs with other tenses such as a past tense marker. Instead, I take -keyss to be an epistemic modal marker which expresses necessity relative to the state of the speakers knowledge.

In dealing with the tenses in propositional attitude sentences in Korean, many scholars like Sohn (1995) claim that Korean has no sequence-of-tense rule. I provide evidence that shows this claim is empirically wrong, and argue that Korean is subject to the sequence-of-tense rule like English. I also argue that the sequence-of-tense rules proposed by Ladusaw (1977) and Ogihara (1996) are inappropriate for accounting for sequence-of-tense phenomena in English and Korean. I propose an alternative sequence-of-tense rule which can take account of English and Korean sequence-of-tense phenomena in a unified way, along with the tense co-indexing rule which roughly says the embedded tense is co-indexed with the matrix tense under identity. The sequence-of-tense rule proposed in this dissertation is based on a binding relation between the matrix tense and the embedded tense. The tense co-indexing rule determines whether the sequence-of-tense rule is applicable to a given sentence.

Following Lewis (1979b), I take the object of the propositional attitude to be a self-ascribed property (i.e., de se attitude), rather than a proposition (i.e., a set of possible worlds). On the basis of this, I discuss the semantic interpretation of the combination of a variety of tenses in the propositional attitude constructions by extending Cresswell and von Stechows (1982) analysis to the tenses in the propositional attitudes.