Edited by Nigel Duffield, Trang Phan and Tue Trinh
[Studies in Language Companion Series 211] 2019
► pp. 115–140
Chapter 6. Temporal reference in Vietnamese
The paper seeks to address gaps in current knowledge regarding cross-linguistic variation on the semantics of tense and aspect by examining how temporal reference is determined in Vietnamese. It is argued that, like St’át’imcets (Matthewson 2006), Vietnamese is a ‘superficially tenseless’ language in the sense that even though the grammar lacks overt tense morphology, every finite clause contains a phonologically empty non-future tense morpheme. I then argue that future tense in Vietnamese realised as a combination both the obligatory null tense morpheme and an overt spell-out of sẽ, which is the Vietnamese counterpart of the English WOLL operator (Abusch 1985). This means that sẽ itself is neither a purely a tense or solely an epistemic modal. Consequently, this study concludes that future time reference is systematically different from present and past time interpretations, which is similar to previous claims made by Abusch (1997), Kratzer (1998), and others.