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GENGO KENKYU (Journal of the Linguistic Society of Japan)
Vol. 1996 (1996) No. 109 P 24-48



The purpose of this paper is to argue for a temporal-order interpretation system in a complex sentence. A complex sentence has at least two or more temporal denotations. If a complex sentence has two temporal denotations because of its two clauses, the system may show the temporal order of events described in the clauses.
Mihara (1991, 1992) has proposed TENSE PERSPECTIVE, taking up the position that both English and Japanese have only two tenses: past tense and non-past tense. According to the principle, the two events which have an identical temporal denotation in a complex sentence are viewed, on the one hand, from a speaker's viewpoint: the time of utterance. Therefore, the denotations in clauses do not reflect the temporal order of events. The order must be settled pragmatically. On the other hand, in a complex sentence with different temporal denotations, its subclause event is viewed from the viewpoint of a main clause subject: the time of its main clause. (The temporal denotation of its main clause is, of course, fixed from a speaker's viewpoint.)
However, the dichotomy between the same temporal denotation and a different one does not work in some cases. For the settlement of the temporal order of events described in a complex sentence, we need a different principle: the principle of discourse interpretation. Discourse information about a complex sentence is inevitable for us to settle the temporal order of events. This principle covers such information, and it reveals the following points: (a) each clause has its own viewpoint from which its temporal denotation is fixed, (b) the viewpoint must precede the clause so that we may get discourse information, and (c) it need not exist in the same sentence.

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