Bah, Humbug! Some extemporaneous thoughts on the past, present and future of T(ense) and C in Vietnamese
Nigel Duffield
January 2020

In this lecture, I use Charles Dickens’ novella, A Christmas Carol, as the frame through which to explore the expression of tense, aspect and modality both in Vietnamese, and in formal generative analyses. Perhaps unexpectedly, it will be suggested that traditional claims concerning Vietnamese grammar, viz., that Vietnamese does not express tense grammatically, are probably correct. However, though this conclusion necessitates revisions to many current generative analyses of Vietnamese phrase-structure, it does not undermine the leading idea that Vietnamese grammar is constrained by the same principles of grammatical organization that apply to English or German or Japanese syntax: in every natural language, structural well-formedness depends on the interaction between thematic arguments and the grammatical features contained in at least two functional categories beyond the predicate phrase. Yet the terms T and C are probably misnomers (the title of this conference notwithstanding). Given the Vietnamese facts, I speculate on what the correct labels might be, leaving the empirical work for future research.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/004986
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: From T to C: Grammatical Representations of Tense and Speech Acts. Hanoi 1-2020, Vietnam Institute of Linguistics, Hanoi (Conference Proceedings)
keywords: vietnamese syntax, fractionation of t and c, modals, syntax
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