Text Type and the Position of a Temporal Adverbial within the Sentence

Author Janet Hitzeman

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Janet Hitzeman

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Janet Hitzeman. Text Type and the Position of a Temporal Adverbial within the Sentence. In Annotating, Extracting and Reasoning about Time and Events. Dagstuhl Seminar Proceedings, Volume 5151, pp. 1-26, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2005)


A sentence with a certain type of temporal adverbial is ambiguous, and one reading is lost when the adverbial appears in sentence-initial position. Sentence (1a), for example, has a reading in which there was some three-hear period in the past during which Mary lived in Amsterdam and a reading in which Mary has lived in Amsterdam for the three years preceding speech time: (1) a. Mary has lived in Amsterdam for three years. b. For three years Mary has lived in Amsterdam. Sentence (1b) has only the reading in which Mary lives in Amsterdam at speech time and has done so for the preceding three years. The reading that remains when the adverbial is in sentence-initial position is more specific about the time at which the event occurs, and therefore one would expect to see more initial-position adverbials in a narrative text, where the order of events is important. In testing this hypothesis on the ECI corpus, it was found that it is not the narrative/non-narrative distinction that results in a significant difference in initial-position adverbial usage; Instead, narratives with a large amount of flashback material have significantly more initial position adverbials, indicating that in order to accurately predict adverbial position a subclassification of the category "narrative" based on the amount of flashback material is needed.
  • Temporal adverbials
  • narrative
  • flashbacks


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