[Grammaires créoles] Paula Prescod (U de Picardie Jules Verne)

The future / non-future split in Vincentian Creole: Evidence from the interpretation of bare verbs

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Paula Prescod (U de Picardie Jules Verne)

The future / non-future split in Vincentian Creole: Evidence from the interpretation of bare verbs

(abstract pdf)

The bare form of verbs in Vincentian Creole can be described as ambiguous between past and present or, more accurately, to use Eide’s formula, “inherently underspecified as to whether it denotes present or past” (Eide 2006: 349). I argue that Vincentian Creole makes a future/non- future tense distinction. This is based on the categorisation proposed by de Haan (2010) who states that languages that use the same form for past and present make a future/non-future tense opposition, while those that combine present and future make past/non-past opposition (see also Comrie 1985). Although this typology seems simplistic from the outset, I elect to apply the classification here as a first approach to the study of future tense in Vincentian Creole. In this language, as in other English-based creoles (see Maurer et al. 2013), tense is not marked by means of inflectional morphology on the verb, but rather periphrastically, as summarised below.

Time reference

 Stative predicates




Dynamic predicates
Past  hi bin de ya
‘She was here.’
I gyel bin sik
DEF ART girl PST sick
‘The girl was sick.’
I gyel opnu I windo
DEF ART girl open DEF ART window
‘The girl opened the window.’
Present Dem luhv komes
3PL love gossip
‘They love gossip.’
I gyel sik
DEF ART girl sick
‘The girl is sick.’
I gyel a opnu i windo
DEF ART girl PROG open DEF ART window
‘The girl is opening the window.’
Future Mi go hei baut yu
1 SG FUT hear about 2SG
‘I will hear about you.’
I shiit go drai kwik
DEF ART sheet FUT dry quick
‘The sheet will dry quickly.’
I gyel go opnu i windo
DEF ART girl FUT open DEF ART window
‘The girl will open the window.’

These examples show that in absolute (deictic) tense (Comrie 1985), an unmarked predicate does not obtain a future tense interpretation: only readings in the past (for dynamic predicates) or present (for non-dynamic predicates) are available (see Bickerton 1981, Holm 1988/1989, Winford 2018, among others). I therefore describe the semantic consequences arising from the ability of bare predicates to extract different temporal readings. I will analyse data from other English-based creole to support the claim that the stative / non-stative distinction is irrelevant in the case of a future/non-future tense distinction.

Bickerton, Derek. 1981. Roots of Language. Ann Arbor, MI: Karoma.
Comrie, Bernard. 1985. Tense. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
De Haan, Ferdinand, 2010. Typology of Tense, Aspect, and Modality Systems, In Jae Jung Song (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Typology, 445-464. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Eide, Kristin Melum. 2006. Norwegian Modals. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Mouton.
Holm, John. 1988/1989. Pidgins and Creoles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Maurer, Philippe. & the APiCS Consortium. 2013. Tense-aspect systems, In Susanne M. Michaelis, Philippe Maurer, Martin Haspelmath & Magnus Huber (eds), The Atlas of Pidgin and Creole Language Structures, 192–195. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Winford, Donald. 2018. Creole Tense-Mood-Aspect system. Annual Review of Linguistics 4(1). 193–212.

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