Das deutsche Präsens : Tempus der Nichtvergangenheit

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


The aim of this thesis is to argue for the definition of the German present tense as a non-past tense. Three descriptive levels are distinguished: the semantic, the conceptual and the "level of reality" ( "Wirklichkeitsebene" ). It is assumed that there is no 1:1 correspondence between the semantic and the conceptual level. The former divides time into two temporal spheres: the past and the non-past, while the conceptual levei consists of three parts: past, present and future time. The semantic structure of the present tense ( Nichtvergangenheitsbereich ) depicts two of them, i.e. present and future time.

The Nichtvergangenheitsbereich indicates to which section on the time scale the utterance refers to. This section can be further restricted by i.a. time adverbials (at the semantic level) or by context. In a speech situation, the time of utterance is associated with the conceptual sphere of present time.

The description of the present tense as a non-past tense does not imply that the situation described is fully included into the non-past sphere. The only restriction is that the situation cannot be regarded as entirely belonging to the past.

A specific component of this present tense model is the term Zeitbild (image of time) which represents the speaker's/hearer's knowledge as regards the time at which the situation takes place. This knowledge, which need not be identical with the objective time of the situation described, determines the choice of tense. In particular, the explanation of the present tense combined with a time adverbial, such as heute, dieses Jahr , benefits from the distinction between Zeitbild and objective time. The analysis of this combination is based on a large number of empirical data.

Several uses of the present tense for past situations, e.g. historical present, are regarded as temporally marked. The situation referred to is seen as an object existing in the speaker's here and now ( Bildfunktion ).

Finally, present tense in indirect speech is dealt with. In indirect speech some ungrammatical combinations of present tense and adverbials denoting past time like gestern , constitute additional support for the hypothesis that the German present tense is a non-past tense.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature


  • historical present, image of time, deictic time adverbials, conceptual structure, German present tense, non-past tense, German language and literatur, Tyska (språk och litteratur)
Original languageGerman
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date2006 May 11
Print ISBNs91-22-01706-2
Publication statusPublished - 1996
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2006-05-11 Time: 10:15 Place: Hörsaal 339 des germanistischen Instituts in deutscher Sprache statt. External reviewer(s) Name: [unknown], [unknown] Title: [unknown] Affiliation: [unknown] ---