Carina Kauf & Hedde Zeijlstra (Göttingen)

Unifying Pronominal Tense Semantics with Sequence of Tense

It is generally assumed in tense semantics that tense morphology is pronominal in nature and imposes presuppositional restrictions on its referents (Partee 1973, Heim 1994, Kratzer 1998). Even though pronominal analyses of tense morphology are well-established, the phenomenon of sequence of tense (SoT) has always posed a notorious problem for such approaches.
Constructions in which a past tense is embedded under a matrix past can have two readings: a simultaneous reading, and a backward-shifted one. Whereas deriving the simultaneous reading under a pronominal account of tense is fairly straightforward (Heim 1994, Heim 2005, Abusch 1997, von Stechow 2009), the backward-shifted reading cannot be derived as easily, since tense heads are referential under a pronominal approach.
In this paper, we argue that under an underspecification analysis of SoT (cf. Kauf & Zeijlstra 2018) this problem can be resolved. Since our proposed analysis does not rely on distinct LFs for the derivation of the backward and the simultaneous readings of past-embedded past tense, we show that the problems that existing pronominal tense theories face with respect to the meaning of embedded tense, do no longer carry over to our approach. This allows us to unify pronominal tense semantics with SoT.