9.2. THE MODAL TIME FRAME

PICTURE: AN HOURGLASS

Neither the Modal verb form alone, as COULD or MIGHT, nor Modal syntax alone, as COULD HAVE or MIGHT HAVE, is capable of telling the target grammatical time.

 

However, in all natural languages, we always speak or write in context. This means that our linguistic activity always has a cognitive ground.

 

We may recur to SUB-CHAPTER 6.2. Our example was Madame Règle, coming to lunch between 1.00 and 2.00 p.m., or not showing up at all.
At 1:30, Latimer Sauf might say,

 

7. I haven’t seen her today.
PICTURE: REAL-TIME OPEN FRAME

 

At 2:30, Monsieur Sauf might say,
7a. I didn’t see her today.

PICTURE: REAL-TIME CLOSED FRAME

It was his knowledge of the context to give him the cognitive ground.

 

So far, our verbs have been regular or irregular, but the patterns they made showed the grammatical PRESENT from PAST or FUTURE directly.

 

We have had green extents to symbolize their target grammatical time.
Very often, the target grammatical time in what we say is the same as real time.
We may recur to SUB-CHAPTER 5.1.

 

PICTURE: EXTENT, THREE VALUES FOR THE GRAMMATICAL TIME

 

Modal patterns are not so clear. We might say,
46. We have the time, we COULD go for a walk today;
46a. We are going to have the time, we COULD go for a walk tomorrow;
or
46b. We had the time yesterday and we COULD go for a walk.

 

The pattern alone, “We could go for a walk”, does not tell the target grammatical time and makes no difference for the real-time today, tomorrow, or yesterday.

 

We can grant Modal forms an extent of a different color. Let it be tea rose.

 

SYMBOLICS: TEA ROSE, MODAL RELATIIVTY EXTENT

 

Let us try a different color also for our time frames. To see how the frames could work with Modal verbs, let us think up a possible context.

 

Let us say, Jill lives on the West Coast. Her place has a large lounge with a view to the ocean. When you come to visit, you can sit down and look to the Pacific.

 

PICTURE: ESTATE

 

Madame Règle has visited Jill a few times so far. We may think about her most recent visit.

 

47. “You could sit down in the lounge, Chantelle. I‘ll make us some tea”, says Jill, greeting Madame Règle.
SYMBOLICS: RELATIVE TIME OPEN FRAME

 

(Chantelle is Madame Règle’s first name. We may know she is not a systematic person, also from SUB-CHAPTER 6.2)

*****

 

The USA is not a monolingual country. Millions of people speak Spanish, Chinese, French, German, and other languages, in America. French is widely spoken in Louisiana, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, for example. Could Chantelle Règle be an American?
(Names do not prescribe on personalities or citizenships.)
EMOTICON: SMILE

*****

Our Modal time frame is open, though we are not using the auxiliary HAVE, in the phrase “you COULD sit down”.

 

For our real time, only Perfect tenses have an open frame, and they always use the auxiliary HAVE. We can compare our example above,
7. I haven’t seen her today.
PICTURE: REAL-TIME OPEN FRAME

 

Why have an open frame for the Modal form “COULD”?

We have an open frame for Perfect tenses, as they always make more than one reference to time.

 

If we have written, the activity started some time before our speaking about it. If we will have written, we expect the activity will be taking place some time before a FUTURE moment.

 

Modal verbs also make more than one reference to time. Let us focus on the Modal verb CAN.

 

I CAN see.
(The ability does not belong with the PRESENT, only.)

 

I CAN see an opportunity for this to be actually working.
(The specific instance does belong with the PRESENT, but the ability to see opportunity does not.)

 

The Modal form COULD is capable of all grammatical time, as we have noted above:
We COULD go for a walk today, or tomorrow;
If we were able to find some time yesterday,
We COULD and DID go for a walk.

EMOTICON: SMILE

Let us view the real-time and Modal frames together. The main time is the PRESENT. Our green frame is closed on the PRESENT.

 

SYMBOLICS: YOU COULD SIT DOWN -- SHE SAYS

 

We can think about the open Modal frame for things generally offered, allowed, or possible, also in the PAST.

 

48. When you visited Jill, you always could sit down in the lounge and look to the ocean.

SYMBOLICS: YOU COULD SIT DOWN -- SHE REMEMBERED

 

The Modal form is the same for the PRESENT and the PAST.

 

Let us focus on the auxiliary HAVE and the frame, open or closed.
We can think about a phrasing as,
“You might have learned”.

 

We might view the above as correspondent with the Present Perfect,
Maybe you have learned;
our open time frame.
PICTURE: REAL-TIME OPEN FRAME

 

Our theory would look the same about a phrase as
Maybe you learned,
a Past Simple form,
our closed time frame.

PICTURE: REAL-TIME CLOSED FRAME

 

There is no difference in the Modal form,
“You might have learned”,
whether we view it as corresponding with the phrase,
“maybe you have learned”
(PRESENT Perfect),
or the phrase
“maybe you learned”
(PAST Simple).

 

Modal forms do not tell what actually happened, has happened, happens, or is going to happen. They give theory, guesswork, or hypotheses. Their time is not the real-time. It is the theory time.

 

To compare the Perfect Aspects, the auxiliary HAVE can help map and talk like about real paths and environments.

 

For theory, we do not have to come up with “theoretical paths”. We can think about the hypothesis open or closed time frame. The syntactic HAVE can work as a time anchor, then.

 

49. I thought the handle MIGHT HAVE / COULD HAVE broken off.
(I was not there. It turned out it was still in place.)

SYMBOLICS: ORANGE 'HANDLE'

 

The time frame for the hypothesis is closed.
SYMBOLICS: RELATIVE TIME CLOSED FRAME

 

Our syntactic HAVE will look still more of a device, when we think about knowledge of what happens.

 

50. You COULD HAVE been more careful with the handle.
SYMBOLICS: RELATIVE TIME CLOSED FRAME

 

We could be looking at a broken handle and hear,

 

50a. I was. Someone else MUST HAVE broken it off.

 

To recur to our examples with a walk: if we close a Modal frame, we may suggest that something did not happen.

 

51. We had the time yesterday, and we COULD go for a walk; it was lovely.

 

51a. We COULD HAVE gone for a walk yesterday, we had enough time, but Jim came in, and we stayed to study.

 

However, we cannot have Modal syntax for merely equivalent with the Negative, and there is no universal rule for Modal frames.
We also could say,

 

51b. We had plenty of time yesterday, and we COULD go to the movies, we COULD go for a walk, or we COULD go see Jill.

 

But Jim came in and brought those books we didn’t have, and we stayed in to study. Jill joined in.

*****

Modal verbs do not tell what really happens, has happened, happened, or is going to happen. Their forms may not differ for real-time today, yesterday, or tomorrow.

 

We can say their time is relative to real time, and economize on our real-time cognitive variables.

 

52. Maybe we HAVE learned something good. {TO}

52a. Maybe we learned something good. {ON}

 

A Modal phrase as
52b. We MIGHT HAVE learned something good,
does not tell between the real-time variables {TO} and {ON}.

 

Modal phrases yet will tell our value {IN}.

 

53. Maybe we were learning something good. {IN}
53a. Maybe we HAVE been learning something good. {AT}

 

We can make a hypothesis:
53b. We MIGHT HAVE been learning something good.

 

The Modal phrase retains the variable {IN}.

 

For relative time, we may just balance the variables {ON} and {IN}, and mind if our relative time frame is open or closed: hypothetical time anyway cannot the same as real duration.

 

We can call this our Modal net. We net (nullify as non-essential) the Perfect, our variable {TO}, for Modal forms. Our Modal phrases will become much simpler to make, and we remain correct according to classic grammars (!)

 

This is why we had all the practice with the word “handle”, in SUB-CHAPTER 9.1. We cannot be “fixed” on word forms. We need to learn to net them, sometimes.

 

Part Four has the nodi of time. Jemma says it is vital to have good gimmicks to make those, and the Modal net with relative frames is such a good gizmo.

 

PICTURE: JEMMA SMILES

Please note that our devices are linguistic tools. We do not follow the term of the “language acquisition device”, for human brains. We stay with human language faculties.

 

We keep our auxiliary HAVE always green, whether it brings an open or closed time frame. We retain only the basic distinction between auxiliary and head verbs. Grammar anyway requires thinking, and it would not be a good idea to get dependent on crayons.
EMOTICON: SMILE

Let us get to a few details on Modal structures, before we exercise.
9.3. DETAIL ON MODAL STRUCTURES
BUTTON: 9.3. DETAIL ON MODAL STRUCTURES

*****

LINK: READ THIS IN A SLAVIC LANGUAGE, POLISH

Advertisements