Graded (metric) tenses in embedded clauses: The case of South Baffin Inuktitut

Midori Hayashi, David Yoshikazu Oshima


This work discusses how tenses in South Baffin Inuknitut (SBI; the Eskimo-Aleut family), which are associated with remoteness specifications, are interpreted in embedded clauses. In SBI dependent clauses, the reference point for remoteness specifications may be, but is not necessarily, relativized (shifted) to a time other than external “now”. For example, while the hodiernal past (marked by suffix -qqau) designates the day of utterance as its domain of coverage, it may not do so in a subordinate clause. Whether an embedded tense may and must be relativized with regard to remoteness depends on four factors: (i) whether the embedded tense is relativized with regard to temporal direction (the past-present-future opposition), (ii) what the type of the subordinate clause is, (iii) what the tense of the superordinate clause is, and (iv) what the tense of the subordinate clause is. The findings suggest that tense systems across languages may contrast not only with respect to under what circumstances shifting of the directional temporal reference point takes place, but also with respect to under what circumstances shifting of the reference point for temporal remoteness takes place.

Full Text: