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Tense, Aspect, and Mood in Germanic  

Thilo Weber

Tense, aspect, and mood are grammatical categories concerned with different notional facets of the event or situation conveyed by a given clause. They are prototypically expressed by the verbal system. Tense can be defined as a category that relates points or intervals in time to one another; in a most basic model, those include the time of the event or situation referred to and the speech time. The former may precede the latter (“past”), follow it (“future”), or be simultaneous with it (or at least overlap with it; “present”). Aspect is concerned with the internal temporal constituency of the event or situation, which may be viewed as a single whole (“perfective”) or with particular reference to its internal structure (“imperfective”), including its being ongoing at a certain point in time (“progressive”). Mood, in a narrow, morphological sense, refers to the inflectional realization of modality, with modality encompassing a large and varying set of sub-concepts such as possibility, necessity, probability, obligation, permission, ability, and volition. In the domain of tense, all Germanic languages make a distinction between non-past and past. In most languages, the opposition can be expressed inflectionally, namely, by the present and preterite (indicative). All modern languages also have a periphrastic perfect as well as periphrastic forms that can be used to refer to future events. Aspect is characteristically absent as a morphological category across the entire family, but most, if not all, modern languages have periphrastic forms for the expression of aspectual categories such as progressiveness. Regarding mood, Germanic languages are commonly described as distinguishing up to three such form paradigms, namely, indicative, imperative, and a third one referred to here as subjunctive. Morphologically distinct subjunctive forms are, however, more typical of earlier stages of Germanic than they are of most present-day languages.


Mood in Morphology  

Daria Mordashova and Vladimir Plungian

The category of mood is closely related to modality, though specifically involves grammatical (inflectional) means for expressing core modal meanings (most notably, those of possibility and necessity). In other words, mood is defined as modality that is grammaticalized in the verbal system as an inflectional category. The category of mood is found in nearly all full-fledged inflectional verbal systems, along with the categories of aspect and tense. The typical opposition expected within the system of moods is the division into “indicative” and “non-indicative” moods, dependent on the real vs. irreal (or, more precisely, asserted vs. non-asserted) status of the proposition. There is no “preferable” morphological device for the expression of mood in the world’s languages—all the existing grammatical means are in demand, both synthetic and periphrastic. Among the segmental markers of mood affixal marking prevails, involving both prefixes and suffixes and various combinations thereof (yielding circumfixal marking). Non-segmental and suprasegmental marking of mood is less frequent, but also quite common. Another strategy for mood marking in the languages of the world is suppletion, when inflectional modal meanings require a different stem feeding into the verbal paradigm. Along with dedicated morphological markers of mood, there exists a plethora of cumulative types of marking, when mood is expressed simultaneously with other verbal categories, such as tense, aspect, voice, person, number, and possibly some others. The structure of mood as a grammatical category poses a challenge for universal typological descriptions, as the diversity of all its guises in the world’s languages is notoriously high. Imperative and subjunctive are regarded as the two core non-indicative members of mood domain attested cross-linguistically. A kind of terminological complication may arise with respect to the terms indicative vs. subjunctive and realis vs. irrealis. Still, there exist some points that reveal the differences between subjunctive and irrealis, syntactic distribution being one of the most essential (given that subjunctive is to be considered primarily as a morphological device for expressing syntactic subordination). Of course, the systems of mood in the world’s languages often display a greater diversity within the domain of non-indicative moods, and specifically epistemic and volitive values grammaticalize to separate inflectional forms, comprising various epistemic and optative moods respectively.


Binding in Germanic  

Eric Reuland and Martin Everaert

All languages have expressions, typically pronominals and anaphors, that may or must depend for their interpretation on another expression, their antecedent. When such a dependency is subject to structural conditions, it reflects binding. Although there is considerable variation in binding patterns cross-linguistically, in fact, variation is along a limited set of parameters. The Germanic languages exemplify some of the main factors involved. In Germanic, third-person pronominals generally do not allow binding by a co-argument. However, in Frisian and Afrikaans, they do, being embedded in a richer structure than meets the eye. In Continental West Germanic and Scandinavian, anaphors come in two types: simplex anaphors (SE-anaphors)—deficient for number and gender—and complex anaphors (SELF-anaphors). These typically consist of a pronominal or SE-anaphor combined with an element like Dutch zelf ‘self’ or one of its cognates. In all the Germanic languages SELF-anaphors are bound in their local domain—approximately the domain of their nearest subject—except in a few identifiable positions, where they are interpreted logophorically. That is, they accept a non-local antecedent, provided this element holds the perspective of the sentence. The distribution of SE-anaphors involves three different conditions. First, they can be bound by a co-argument only if the verb belongs to a restricted class, which allows syntactic detransitivization. Second, in general, SE-anaphors allow non-local binding. But the conditions differ among subgroups. In Dutch and German, they can only be bound non-locally when contained in a causative or perception verb complement or a small clause. In Mainland Scandinavian, non-local binding is, in principle, available to all infinitival clauses (subject to some dialectal variation). For instance, in some varieties of Norwegian, referentiality of intervening subjects restricts binding; in other varieties, the restricting factor is not “finiteness” but “being specified for tense.” Third, in Icelandic long-distance antecedents beyond the infinitival domain are licensed by a subjunctive, together with the requirement that the antecedent holds the perspective. Faroese largely patterns like Icelandic, although lacking a subjunctive. However, the class of verbs that allow this pattern coincides with the class of verbs in Icelandic that have a subjunctive complement. Non-local binding of SE-anaphors is sensitive to the requirement that the antecedent be animate, but the languages show differences in the details. Unlike the West Germanic languages, the Scandinavian languages all have a possessive reflexive in third person. In general, their distribution appears to be quite close to that of SE-anaphors, but this is subject to dialectal variation, with various differences in the details.