On double access, cessation and parentheticality

Daniel Gordon Altshuler, Valentine Hacquard, Thomas Roberts, Aaron Steven White


Arguably the biggest challenge in analyzing English tense is to account for the double access interpretation, which arises when a present tensed verb is embedded under a past attitude—e.g. John said that Mary is pregnant. Present-under-past does not always result in a felicitous utterance, however—cf. #John believed that Mary is pregnant. While such oddity has been noted, the contrast has
never been explained. In fact, English grammars and manuals generally prohibit present-under-past. Work on double access, on the other hand, has either disregarded the oddity (e.g. Abusch 1997: 39) or treated it as a reflex of a particular dialect (e.g. Kratzer 1998: 14). The goal of the paper is to argue—based on a corpus study—that a present-under-past sentence is grammatical, but modulated by two, interacting pragmatic phenomena: cessation and parentheticality.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3765/salt.v25i0.3048