This paper argues against the assumption that Spanish—and more generally Romance—imperfective past (IMP) is an intrinsically anaphoric tense. It is a widely accepted view that IMP requires a temporal discourse antecedent to be licensed. My aim is to show that such requirement is not actually in force when IMP combines with a stative/atelic predicate. In fact, with stative/atelic predicates, IMP (a) is acceptable in isolated sentences with no suitable antecedent available, (b) is able to access implicit assumptions that are not available with telic predicates—but do not behave as real antecedents, and (c) does not trigger certain perspectivisation effects that depend on the existence of a temporal antecedent. As a result, an asymmetry arises between continuous and habitual interpretations of IMP, which do not require retrieving a temporal antecedent, and progressive and narrative interpretations, which do need an accessible antecedent. Thus, the relevance of a discourse antecedent varies according to the lexical aspect of the predicate and the corresponding interpretations, and the alleged anaphoric nature of IMP cannot be a feature of its semantics: it is rather pragmatically derived from imperfectivity.
Journal of Psycholinguistic Research – Springer Journals
Published: Nov 29, 2017
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