Advanced

Emergence of future tense based on socio-cognitive factors

Toyota, Junichi LU and Hallonsten, Pernilla (2009) Across languages and cultures
Abstract
It can be claimed that the emergence of the future tense is closely related to cognitive and cultural artefacts from our earlier civilisations, such as burial practices and concepts of afterlife. In this paper, we present one such specific case concerning the concept of zero. The zero and nothingness have haunted earlier thinkers, philosophers and theologians alike, since the idea of ex nihil ‘out of nothing’ interfered with basic religious doctrine. <br>

In a number of civilisations, astronomy developed independently, and trained people could forecast seasonal changes such as dry and rainy periods, by having observed changes in the moon, or even the sun, for many years. This ability to forecast is a significant step in the... (More)
It can be claimed that the emergence of the future tense is closely related to cognitive and cultural artefacts from our earlier civilisations, such as burial practices and concepts of afterlife. In this paper, we present one such specific case concerning the concept of zero. The zero and nothingness have haunted earlier thinkers, philosophers and theologians alike, since the idea of ex nihil ‘out of nothing’ interfered with basic religious doctrine. <br>

In a number of civilisations, astronomy developed independently, and trained people could forecast seasonal changes such as dry and rainy periods, by having observed changes in the moon, or even the sun, for many years. This ability to forecast is a significant step in the development of human cognition, but it was not powerful enough to force a specific form referring to the future in grammar to appear. What seems to be a clue, among a few others, is the numerical value of zero as null. Many civilisations had a complex counting system, but they often lacked the concept of zero, except in Babylonia and the Ancient Maya culture. In Babylonia, the zero was used as a place holder in the documentation of counting, and there was no numerical value attached to it, but in Maya, the zero had a full-fledged numerical value. In Old Mayan languages, even in reconstructed Proto-Maya, it is possible to assume the presence of a specific future tense. Grammatically speaking, this was quite an innovation at that time.<br>

Judging from these facts, it is possible to assume a close linkage between the concept of zero and the presence of future tense in a language. They may not appear to be connected, but an important link is the understanding of the irrealis world, i.e. the world that speakers cannot perceive directly. As presented in this paper, it is possible to explain certain linguistic changes based on non-linguistic factors, and the evolution of human cognition seems to play an important role in revealing the history of human language. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to conference
publication status
published
subject
conference name
Across languages and cultures
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
b54a4d6a-c30d-444b-8595-be8a7bbe9df4 (old id 1369320)
date added to LUP
2009-04-08 09:23:36
date last changed
2016-04-16 12:38:05
@misc{b54a4d6a-c30d-444b-8595-be8a7bbe9df4,
  abstract     = {It can be claimed that the emergence of the future tense is closely related to cognitive and cultural artefacts from our earlier civilisations, such as burial practices and concepts of afterlife. In this paper, we present one such specific case concerning the concept of zero. The zero and nothingness have haunted earlier thinkers, philosophers and theologians alike, since the idea of ex nihil ‘out of nothing’ interfered with basic religious doctrine. &lt;br&gt;<br/><br>
 In a number of civilisations, astronomy developed independently, and trained people could forecast seasonal changes such as dry and rainy periods, by having observed changes in the moon, or even the sun, for many years. This ability to forecast is a significant step in the development of human cognition, but it was not powerful enough to force a specific form referring to the future in grammar to appear. What seems to be a clue, among a few others, is the numerical value of zero as null. Many civilisations had a complex counting system, but they often lacked the concept of zero, except in Babylonia and the Ancient Maya culture. In Babylonia, the zero was used as a place holder in the documentation of counting, and there was no numerical value attached to it, but in Maya, the zero had a full-fledged numerical value. In Old Mayan languages, even in reconstructed Proto-Maya, it is possible to assume the presence of a specific future tense. Grammatically speaking, this was quite an innovation at that time.&lt;br&gt;<br/><br>
 Judging from these facts, it is possible to assume a close linkage between the concept of zero and the presence of future tense in a language. They may not appear to be connected, but an important link is the understanding of the irrealis world, i.e. the world that speakers cannot perceive directly. As presented in this paper, it is possible to explain certain linguistic changes based on non-linguistic factors, and the evolution of human cognition seems to play an important role in revealing the history of human language.},
  author       = {Toyota, Junichi and Hallonsten, Pernilla},
  language     = {eng},
  title        = {Emergence of future tense based on socio-cognitive factors},
  year         = {2009},
}