We discuss temporal location in Navajo. Considering whether Navajo has the category of tense, we argue for a multi-feature approach. We propose, among other features, that tense contributes to atemporal meanings in conditionals and counter-factuals. On this basis we show three kinds of temporal forms in Navajo: a Future tense; Past and Future particles with some tense properties; and temporal adverbials. All are optional, so that many sentences have no direct temporal forms.
In such cases aspectual information gives pragmatic cues to the temporal location of a situation. The key factor is boundedness: in the default case, unbounded situations are taken as Present and bounded situations as Past. To go from aspect to temporal location we posit three pragmatic principles. The principles apply to verb words with overt viewpoints and to zero-marked verb words. These principles hold for languages generally, we conjecture.
Smith, Carlota S.; Perkins, Ellavina; and Fernald, Theodore
"Temporal interpretation in Navajo,"
Semantics of Under-Represented Languages in the Americas: Vol. 2
, Article 12.
Available at: https://scholarworks.umass.edu/sula/vol2/iss1/12