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Article

The analogues of tense interpretation in Russian embedded clauses: absolute vs. relative modality, absolute vs. relative aspect

Компьютерная лингвистика и интеллектуальные технологии. 2020. Vol. дополнительный том. No. 19 (26). P. 1065-1077.

The paper adresses parallels between tense, aspect and modality marking in Russian embedded clauses. It is widely known that tense forms of embedded verbs can be interpreted relatively or absolutely, and in some cases, the relative and absolute use seem to be in free variation. It turns out that the interpretation of modality and aspect can be described along the same lines and classified into the relative and absolute uses. For instance, subjunctive mood—one of the main instruments of irreality marking—can be interpreted as less real than the main event (relative interpretation) or less real than the moment of speech (and to the same degree as the main event; absolute interpretation). Similarly, aspect forms, depending on their interpretation, can describe the structure of the situation compared to the speech act or to the main event. I show that the parallelism between the three categories is not full: for instance, relative modality is mainly observed in triclausal constructions. Modality interpretation is sensitive to the opposition of clausal adjuncts vs. relative clauses. For the aspect interpretation, the contrast between finite forms and infinitive is relevant: infinitive allows for relative use of perfective aspect use much easier than finite forms. Finally, interpretations of the three categories are related to each other. For example, in complement clauses, the relative interpretation is perfectly acceptable for all the three categories.