About Time: Lexical, Structural, and Discourse Constraints on the Temporal Interpretation of Nominal Predicates
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About Time: Lexical, Structural, and Discourse Constraints on the Temporal Interpretation of Nominal Predicates


The goal of this dissertation is to clarify and account for the patterns that underlie nominal property times. I argue that nominal property times are directly affected by sentential tense operators. Chapter 1 introduces the problem at hand – namely that nominal property times seem to have an unpredictably large set of possible property times. Chapter 2 illustrates that different nominal predicates exhibit different sets of available property times. I propose that stage nouns naturally separate into two classes based on their lexical aspect: (i) nouns which have property times which always overlap one of the time variables in the utterance and (ii) nouns which have property times that overlap or precede one of the time variables. I call these “inflexible” and “flexible” nouns, respectively. In Chapter 3, I show that local binding determines whether nouns are interpreted relative to the utterance time or to a time introduced by a tense operator. This claim is based on data in which the noun’s location in the LF is independently known (e.g., existential ‘there’ constructions, de dicto readings) – in such cases, the noun is reliably interpreted relative to the nearest scoping lambda abstractor. Given that similar claims have been made in the literature for other predicate types, I broaden my proposal in the latter half of the chapter to claim that the time arguments of all predicates are locally bound. This dissertation therefore offers strong support that tenses are sentential operators, counter to previous claims. Chapter 4 explores the property times of predicates which refer to familiar referents in an extended discourse. The property times of such predicates are shown to inherit their property times from predicates earlier in the discourse. I extend Tonhauser’s (2006) Discourse Representation Theory model of similar data, modifying her account to attribute property time inheritance effects to familiarity at the predicate level, rather than definiteness at the DP level. This modification is based on evidence from definite DPs licensed by uniqueness and definite DPs containing multiple predicates of varying familiarity. As with the claims of Chapter 3, the claims in this chapter hold for all predicate types.

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