Tense, Aspect and the Cognitive Representation of Time

Unknown author (1984-12-01)

This paper explores the relationships between a computation theory of temporal representation (as developed by James Allen) and a formal linguistic theory of tense (as developed by Norbert Hornstein) and aspect. It aims to provide explicit answers to four fundamental questions: (1) what is the computational justification for the primitive of a linguistic theory; (2) what is the computational explanation of the formal grammatical constraints; (3) what are the processing constraints imposed on the learnability and markedness of these theoretical constructs; and (4) what are the constraints that a linguistic theory imposes on representations. We show that one can effectively exploit the interface between the language faculty and the cognitive faculties by using linguistic constraints to determine restrictions on the cognitive representation and vice versa. Three main results are obtained: (1) We derive an explanation of an observed grammatical constraint on tense?? Linear Order Constraint??m the information monotonicity property of the constraint propagation algorithm of Allen's temporal system: (2) We formulate a principle of markedness for the basic tense structures based on the computational efficiency of the temporal representations; and (3) We show Allen's interval-based temporal system is not arbitrary, but it can be used to explain independently motivated linguistic constraints on tense and aspect interpretations. We also claim that the methodology of research developed in this study??oss-level" investigation of independently motivated formal grammatical theory and computational models??a powerful paradigm with which to attack representational problems in basic cognitive domains, e.g., space, time, causality, etc.