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Costa, Francisco & Branco, António: Backshift and Tense Decomposition

Backshift is a phenomenon affecting verb tense that is visible as a mismatch between some specific embedded contexts and other environments. For instance, the indirect speech equivalent of a sentence like 'Kim likes reading', with a present tense verb, may show the same verb in a past tense form, as in 'Sandy said Kim liked reading'. We present a general analysis of backshift, pooling data from English and Romance languages. Our analysis acknowledges that tense morphology is ambiguous between different temporal meanings, explicitly models the role of the speech time and the event times involved and takes the aspectual constraints of tenses into consideration.

Maintained by Stefan Müller

Created: October 15, 2012
Last modified: January 09, 2019

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