Implicit restriction of temporal quantification

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Today's Get Fuzzy:


  1. Neal Goldfarb said,

    December 28, 2008 @ 6:24 pm

    More like, Ambiguity of Perfect Aspect, no?

    [(myl) That too. But some approaches to the semantics of tense and aspect involve quantification over times; and in that context, the ambiguity in question looks a lot like the implicit restriction of the range of quantifiers. ]

  2. Meg89 said,

    December 28, 2008 @ 7:07 pm

    This blog reminds me of all the headaches I got trying to follow along in my Intro to Philosophy class. They were almost as bad as the headaches I got trying to follow along in my Intro to Linguistics class!

  3. John Lawler said,

    December 28, 2008 @ 9:11 pm

    I haven't ever noticed it before, but this seems like a Hot News Perfect. McCawley 1971 laid out these four uses of the Perfect:

    (a) Universal Perfect
    to indicate that a state of affairs prevailed throughout
    some interval stretching from the past into the present
    I've known Max since 1960.

    (b) Existential Perfect
    to indicate the existence of past events
    I have read Principia Mathematica five times.

    (c) Stative/Resultative Perfect
    to indicate that the direct effect of a past event still continues
    I can't come to your party tonight – I've caught the flu.

    (d) Hot News Perfect
    to report hot news (often with 'just', 'recently', etc.)
    Malcolm X has (just) been assassinated.

    McCawley, James D. 1971. Tense and time reference in English. In C. Fillmore and T. Langendoen (eds.), Studies in Linguistic Semantics. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 96-113.

  4. Nathan Myers said,

    December 28, 2008 @ 11:26 pm

    He ask "Have you seen Bucky lately?", and get an answer, "No, I haven't seen Bucky lately", but not "Yes, I have seen Bucky lately". The restriction doesn't seem grammatical in nature.

  5. Nathan Myers said,

    December 28, 2008 @ 11:27 pm

    s/He ask/He can ask/. Sigh.

  6. Skullturf Q. Beavispants said,

    December 29, 2008 @ 12:36 am

    "Yes, I have seen Bucky lately" seems unremarkable to me. Is this a difference in dialects regarding use of "lately"?

  7. Nathan Myers said,

    December 29, 2008 @ 4:33 am

    I think it's semantic: "Lately" is vague, necessarily for the question or for the negative, but it's rude to say just "lately" when in fact you last saw him at a specific time and place, which you could just as well report: "Yes, I saw him yesterday; he looked terrible."

  8. Kisa said,

    December 29, 2008 @ 5:24 am

    SQB, perhaps it is a difference of dialect; I prefer "recently" to "lately" in that sentence.

    NM, I can think of situations where you'd prefer to say, "Yes, I've seen him recently, why do you ask?" rather than quantify exactly when and where you saw him. Your example is a likely response when chatting amiably with a mutual friend who asks, "Have you seen Bucky lately?" My response above is arguably more likely if, say, you're a fifteen-year-old responding to a furrowed-brow-hands-on-hips question from Bucky's mother. For example.

  9. MattF said,

    December 29, 2008 @ 8:37 am

    Is this a trick question?

  10. greg said,

    December 29, 2008 @ 8:59 am

    ^That's what Satchel wants to know. Obviously at some point in the past, he has seen Bucky, but since Rob didn't indicate a limit of time in which Satchel may or may not have seen Bucky, Satchel is unsure of how to answer the question because he is trying to determine whether Rob intended there to be a time restriction on the question or not.

    The descent into skepticism of the reliability of the senses and across about 3 other modes of philosophical thought is a nice touch. I've never declared a favorite Get Fuzzy strip, but this might just get that award.

  11. Mark P said,

    December 29, 2008 @ 5:38 pm

    If this is truly the real Satchel, then this strip indicates hidden intellectual depth.

  12. Nathan Myers said,

    December 29, 2008 @ 10:39 pm

    Hidden intellectual depth shows up in the most unlikely places. We're all born with more or less the same equipment, refined by the same number of generations of culling, so much of the difference between people is more a matter of inclination than capacity. Dogs, perhaps not so much.

  13. Bradley Skaggs said,

    January 6, 2009 @ 8:26 am

    I found a good "Linguistics in the comics" strip for you:

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