Present/future tense variation in contemporary Italian
The role of settledness
According to normative descriptions of Italian future-framed adverbial clauses, the future tense is the only
option (Quando verrai [F], ti presterò il libro ‘When you come, I’ll lend you the book’).
However, the present tense may also be used (Quando vieni [P], ti presto il libro). I
demonstrate that choice and acceptance of the present in future-framed adverbials are conditioned by the speaker’s presumption of
settledness; that is, in every future world compatible with the speaker’s beliefs the eventuality necessarily occurs. The data
come from an online questionnaire consisting of a forced-choice and an acceptability judgment task completed by 429 native
speakers of Italian, and were analyzed using mixed-effects regression. Results show that the present is chosen most and rated
highest when the future eventuality is presumed settled ([+certain, +immediate, +temporally specific]). These findings demonstrate
that speakers use the present to express confidence in the realization of future eventualities.
Keywords: Italian, pragmatics, present, future, subordinate clauses, settledness