Publication details

Time, tense and viewpoint shift across languages: A Multiple-Parallel-Text approach to “tense shifting” in a tenseless language


LU Wei-lun

Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Cognitive Linguistics
MU Faculty or unit

Language Centre

Keywords linguistic relativity; Mandarin; tense; time; translation
Description The paper discusses the role of tense and time from a cross-linguistic perspective by comparing English (a tensed language) and Mandarin (a language without formal tense marking). Multiple translations of the same literary piece are used to test the correspondence between the tense, the perfective aspect and temporal adverbials. In English, tense marking is found to work with at least two language-specific stylistic means, clause interpolation and inversion, to create a mixed narrative viewpoint. In Mandarin, neither the perfective aspect nor temporal adverbials, i.e., constructions that invoke time, are systematically used across the renditions, which shows the Mandarin system’s overall indifference to time in managing viewpoint in discourse. The Mandarin renditions, in addition to an overall indifference to time, feature consistent and frequent use of reduplication as the system’s distinctive viewpoint strategy. The paper concludes with a discussion of the cognitive consequence of a language using an obligatory marking system to piggyback the function of viewpointing narratives.
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