Meaning of “The Present tense would be syntactically best described as non-past”?

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sinh
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Meaning of “The Present tense would be syntactically best described as non-past”?

Post by sinh » Wed Dec 27, 2017 11:12 am

I'm reading "Meaning and the English Verb" by Geoffrey Leech and in the paragraph §113 on page 71 he states the following:

§113:
First, the ways of referring to the future dealt with in this chapter illustrate the point made in §5: that the Present tense, from the semantic point of view as well as syntactically, would be best described as 'non-past'.
§5:
However, in English the major formal distinction of Present and Past tenses can be associated with two major TIME ZONES, 'past' and 'non-past', so that future time is subsumed under 'non-past'. This helps to explain why English, which does not have a Future tense as such, uses Present tense to express future time.
I know what he means by "from the semantic point of view", but I do not understand what he means by "syntactically" in this context.

So what does it mean when he says that "The Present tense would be syntactically best described as 'non-past'"?

sinh
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Joined: Thu Nov 23, 2017 6:48 pm
Status: English Learner

Re: Meaning of “The Present tense would be syntactically best described as non-past”?

Post by sinh » Wed Dec 27, 2017 12:45 pm

If I haven't given enough information on §113, this is the full version:

§113:
First, the ways of referring to the future dealt with in this chapter illustrate the point made in §5: that the Present Tense, from the semantic point of view as well as syntactically, would be best described as 'non-past'. We have seen that all these future-referring constructions are variations on the Present Tense, with the very minor exception of the future subordinate use of the Past (see §102c) - even including the 'non-past' modal auxiliaries will / shall, to which we turn again in the next chapter. In other words, the Present Tense, in a broad sense, encompasses both present and future domains of time.

sinh
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Joined: Thu Nov 23, 2017 6:48 pm
Status: English Learner

Re: Meaning of “The Present tense would be syntactically best described as non-past”?

Post by sinh » Thu Dec 28, 2017 10:52 am

So does the author mean the following:

Present tense described semantically: present time as well as future time, but not past time.

Present tense described syntactically: Present tense

But it would be better described as:

Present tense described semantically: non-past time

Present tense described syntactically: Non-past tense

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