Philosophy of Language

Peter Ludlow

in The Oxford Handbook of Tense and Aspect

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780195381979
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Philosophy of Language

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  • Linguistics
  • Semantics
  • Pragmatics



This article explores the semantics of tense and some of the puzzles that surround the analysis of tense in the philosophy of language. The first question that will arise is exactly what kinds of things can be tensed. Is tense, as some contend, merely a feature of language (linguistic tense) but not of thought or the world, or are thoughts and facts about the world tensed as well—tensed facts being examples of what we could call “metaphysical tense?” The tensers take tense to be an irreducible and real feature of the world, whereas the detensers think it is a superficial property of language or thought that can be regimented away in terms of other (more scientifically legitimate) primitives. This article does not argue for or against tensism, but simply illustrates why the position is attractive, the kinds of obstacles it faces, and some of the extraordinary consequences that extrude from the view. It also discusses morphemes as well as the phenomena of sequence of tense and dual-aspect readings.

Keywords: tense; tensers; detensers; semantics; philosophy; language; morphemes; sequence of tense; dual-aspect readings; tensism

Article.  7336 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Semantics ; Pragmatics

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