LL: journalism and the future tense in Urdu

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LL: journalism and the future tense in Urdu

Postby lemma » Tue Aug 31, 2010 10:18 pm UTC

A piece from Language Log.

This popped up in my rss reader and caught my eye because I'm a tense and aspect geek.

Quite apart from the cricket scandal, do the language folks here have any comments based on their knowledge of Urdu? Or perhaps more interestingly, a question posed by one of the commenters: does whether a time (for example, future) is expressed by inflection or with auxiliaries in some way whether we say a lang actually has that tense? Personally I think it depends on the sphere in which the conversation is taking place: my Teach Yourself Tagalog book and cds talk about tenses, but all the 'academic' linguistic literature talks about aspects instead (referring to the same morphoogy).

Normally I just skim Language Log because I don't like the writing style - it comes across to me as somewhat preachy and arrogant. The subject of this piece, however, induced me to click it through to my browser. I'm interested in what others think :)
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Re: LL: journalism and the future tense in Urdu

Postby Iulus Cofield » Tue Aug 31, 2010 10:38 pm UTC

I was taught, and generally go along with, that a language is only considered to have a tense if it's inflected and not indicated through an auxiliary word of some sort.
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Re: LL: journalism and the future tense in Urdu

Postby Lazar » Tue Aug 31, 2010 10:46 pm UTC

I'm fine with treating the English "will" construction as a future tense, because my conception of tenses (gleaned, to be honest, from popular language-learning materials) includes both simple and compound tenses. But a lot of authorities disagree and say that English doesn't have a future tense. In any case, this particular point is irrelevant to the Urdu thing that was referenced in the LL post, because Urdu definitely has a simple inflected future tense.

Normally I just skim Language Log because I don't like the writing style - it comes across to me as somewhat preachy and arrogant.

I read most of the posts on LL, except the really long ones with tons of theory and data. :P
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Re: LL: journalism and the future tense in Urdu

Postby Makri » Sun Oct 10, 2010 1:22 pm UTC

To the extent that future is actually a tense, I see absolutely no reason to say that English doesn't have one. I mean, what else is the will-construction supposed to be? A definition of tense as "tense expressed by a bound morpheme" doesn't look particularly interesting to me.
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Re: LL: journalism and the future tense in Urdu

Postby goofy » Sun Oct 10, 2010 5:14 pm UTC

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Re: LL: journalism and the future tense in Urdu

Postby Makri » Sun Oct 10, 2010 5:43 pm UTC

That's why I said "to the extent that future is actually a tense". This article argues (rather unconvincingly) that it's not a tense at all.
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Re: LL: journalism and the future tense in Urdu

Postby goofy » Sun Oct 10, 2010 5:45 pm UTC

Makri wrote:That's why I said "to the extent that future is actually a tense". This article argues (rather unconvincingly) that it's not a tense at all.


The point is that future is not a tense in English. It is a tense in other languages.
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Re: LL: journalism and the future tense in Urdu

Postby Makri » Sun Oct 10, 2010 5:58 pm UTC

This point is seriously underestablished. :mrgreen:
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Re: LL: journalism and the future tense in Urdu

Postby Iulus Cofield » Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:53 pm UTC

I think a good way to demonstrate English's lack of a true future tense is to compare it to Japanese.
In Japanese (I hear Chinese is similar), the most common way to express a future action is to state the time when the action will happen.
あした、僕は宿題をします。
Literally: Tomorrow, I homework do. (Tomorrow, I do homework/Tomorrow, I will do homework)
I translated that with and without "will" because it is optional in English and only slightly changes the meaning. In either case "do" is inarguably conjugated as present. And in the second case "will" is inarguably a modal verb modifying "do".
This form is uncommon in English, but it exists. Another clearly non-future future is "I'm going to do homework."
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Re: LL: journalism and the future tense in Urdu

Postby Makri » Sun Oct 10, 2010 7:00 pm UTC

I really can't follow this argument. What exactly are the premises and what exactly is the conclusion?
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Re: LL: journalism and the future tense in Urdu

Postby Roĝer » Sun Oct 10, 2010 7:09 pm UTC

Iulus Cofield wrote:In either case "do" is inarguably conjugated as present.


Wrong. In the second case it's an infinitive.
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Re: LL: journalism and the future tense in Urdu

Postby Iulus Cofield » Sun Oct 10, 2010 10:51 pm UTC

Yeah...but it's an infinitive in the sense that "will run" is a future.

Makri, I was trying to illustrate that there are ways to talk about the future using only the present tense and a future-time noun. Maybe I didn't do such a good job.
Last edited by Iulus Cofield on Mon Oct 11, 2010 6:24 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: LL: journalism and the future tense in Urdu

Postby goofy » Mon Oct 11, 2010 4:49 am UTC

Makri wrote:This point is seriously underestablished. :mrgreen:


What point? I'm not sure what I'm discussing anymore.
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Re: LL: journalism and the future tense in Urdu

Postby Makri » Mon Oct 11, 2010 6:43 am UTC

The point that in English, the future is not a tense in a relevant sense, while it is in other languages.
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Re: LL: journalism and the future tense in Urdu

Postby goofy » Mon Oct 11, 2010 3:40 pm UTC

Makri wrote:The point that in English, the future is not a tense in a relevant sense, while it is in other languages.


Then what do you call the verbs forms in French, Urdu, Arabic etc that are used to express future meaning?
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Re: LL: journalism and the future tense in Urdu

Postby Makri » Mon Oct 11, 2010 4:20 pm UTC

I call them future, of course.

My point is that it's by far not been established that there is one meaning that the synthetic futures have which the English will-construction lacks. In order to do this, one has to give some alternative semantics for will that produces this future-like meaning and in addition give an argument why the synthetic forms shouldn't have it. We're talking about a pretty radically different conceptualization of things here...
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Re: LL: journalism and the future tense in Urdu

Postby goofy » Thu Sep 08, 2011 11:30 pm UTC

Makri wrote:My point is that it's by far not been established that there is one meaning that the synthetic futures have which the English will-construction lacks. In order to do this, one has to give some alternative semantics for will that produces this future-like meaning and in addition give an argument why the synthetic forms shouldn't have it.


I don't see why we need to do that in order to not consider will a tense. Would you consider gonna a tense as well?
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Re: LL: journalism and the future tense in Urdu

Postby Makri » Fri Sep 09, 2011 2:42 pm UTC

I'm not sure about that. I don't know enough about the details of its meaning. But it does seem rather more likely than will to have meaning components that you don't find with uncontentious synthetic future forms. (Also, I'm not even sure that future is a tense at all; my claim was only that whatever future is, "will" isn't different from synthetic futures unless you give an argument for it.)
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Re: LL: journalism and the future tense in Urdu

Postby goofy » Fri Sep 09, 2011 3:45 pm UTC

The reason I asked is because gonna is only used when talking about the future, but will can be used when talking about times other than the future. So it seems to me that in your analysis, gonna is more of a future tense than will.
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Re: LL: journalism and the future tense in Urdu

Postby Makri » Sat Sep 10, 2011 7:36 pm UTC

Ah. Well, if you can devise an analysis for "will" that would capture all these uses... I'd just have said it's ambiguous between future and some kind of habitual or whatever that really is.
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