9.2. THE MODAL TIME FRAME

In all natural languages, we speak or write in context. Our language has a cognitive ground and we can tell some time frame for what we say.

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.

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

It would be always his knowledge of the context to give him the cognitive ground.

So far, our verbs have been regular or irregular, but their patterns have showed the grammatical PRESENT, PAST, or FUTURE.

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 shows no difference for the real-time today, tomorrow, or yesterday.

Website under refurbishment.

We had an auxiliary extent for the verb to have in the Perfect Infinitive (■→SUBCHAPTER 9.1). Let us grant an extent to Modal forms as well.

If we can have extra extents, we might try extra time frames. Let us see how some new frames could work with Modal forms, in context.

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.

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.

We can have an open Modal time frame for the phrase “you COULD sit down”.

SYMBOLICS: RELATIVE TIME OPEN FRAME

So far, we have had an open frame for real-time Perfect tenses, as they 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.
If we had written, there is a time in the PAST before which we refer the writing.

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.)

However, the Perfect tenses use the auxiliary HAVE, and the Modal forms to have the open frame do not use the auxiliary. We can base our resolve on the human idea for real time as something we measure with stopwatches as well as big clocks.

Modal forms do not tell what actually happened, has happened, happens, or is going to happen. They tell what may or can happen. Their time is not the real-time. It is a mind time, the time we think, believe, or know for something to happen or not. We keep the Modal frame open or closed according to the time we give to the thought in the mind.

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 could paraphrase it with the Present Perfect,
Maybe you have learned;
our open real-time time frame.

Our thought yet would look the same with a phrase as
Maybe you learned,
a Past Simple form, our closed real-time frame.

The the Modal form,
“You might have learned”,
will show no difference for a phrase as,
“maybe you have learned”, (PRESENT Perfect);
or a phrase as
“maybe you learned”, (PAST Simple).

Our Fields of Time remain valid throughout our grammar journey. As in life, we refer thought to the PAST, PRESENT, or FUTURE, even if we are abstract or humorous.

49. I thought the handle MIGHT HAVE / COULD HAVE broken off.
(It turned out it was still in place.)

We refer to the PAST field for grammatical time, and the theory cannot make an open context. Our Modal frame is closed.

We can stay with the PAST field for a while, and reckon on Expression, the Affirmative and Negative.

50. You COULD HAVE been more careful with the handle.

50a. I was. Someone else MUST HAVE broken it off.
(The “handle” is no longer in place).

We might be suggested that something did not happen, when the Modal frame is closed, and that it did happen, when the frame is open.

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

51a. We COULD HAVE gone for a hike yesterday, we had enough time, but Jim came in, and brought those books we didn’t have, so we stayed to study.
(We didn’t go for a hike).

However, we cannot have Modal frames for equivalent with the Affirmative or Negative. The auxiliary HAVE only closes on a time span. We also could say,

51b. We had plenty of time yesterday, and we COULD go to the movies, we COULD read Jim’s rare books, or we COULD go see Jill; but as we COULD HAVE gone for a hike as well, we did, and Jill joined in.
(We did go for the hike).

If we want to correlate time and definiteness, we can symbolize a hike as not making real time,
a hike,
and the hike as making it,
the hike, in the context here.
Hike alone, as in headlines, could be
| hike.
Part 3 has more on the grammatical article.

Modal frames are relative to real time. With this picture in view, we may want to economize on our real-time cognitive variables: the simpler the idea to manage grammar, the easier the work for good content.

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}.

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

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 a good gizmo.

Please note, 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. Our color code keeps only the basic distinction between auxiliary and head verbs. Grammar anyway requires thinking, and it would not be a good idea to become dependent on crayons.

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