Mood as verbal definiteness in a "tenseless" language

Mark Baker, Lisa Travis

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26 Scopus citations


This article argues that the mood morphemes found on punctual verbs in Mohawk are to be analyzed semantically as markers of verbal definiteness/ specificity. In particular, the so-called future marker is an indefinite morpheme, indicating that the event argument of the verb undergoes Heim's (1982) rule of Quantifier Indexing. In contrast, the seeming past marker is a marker of definiteness/specificity, indicating that the event argument is immune to Quantifier Indexing. This explains many apparent peculiarities of the Mohawk verbal system, including: the use of "future as a past habitual form, the use of mood prefixes in conditionals, free relatives, and complement clauses, and the incompatibility of "past" with negation. The relationship between indefinite mood and future events, where it exists, is explicated in terms of the branching theory of time proposed by Dowty (1979) and Kamp and Reyle (1993), which is grounded in a fundamental asymmetry in how humans conceive of the future versus the past.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-269
Number of pages57
JournalNatural Language Semantics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language


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