Now and then: Perspectives on positional variance in temporal demonstratives

  • Pranav Anand
  • Maziar Toosarvandani


Despite its reputation as an archetypal example of indexicality, the temporal adverb now has many non-indexical uses. It is not surprising, then, that recent work has instead focused on an intuition that now evokes some notion of change or contrast in the preceding discourse. We argue that this intuition should not be directly encoded in the semantics of now, but rather should be derived as a product of how its semantics interacts with information structure. Our argument is guided by a previously unnoticed contrast in its interpretation based on its position in the sentence. We propose that, in sentence-initial position, now is a contrastive topic, which contributes to the intuition that it “pushes forward” the narrative. Its true semantic shape is revealed in final position. This is, we propose, indexical, though not to the utterance time, but a more flexible assessment time. We extend our account of now to then, treating them as a proximal-distal pair of temporal demonstratives, identifying some similarities and some differences in how they are interpreted in a narrative.
How to Cite
Anand, P., & Toosarvandani, M. (2019). Now and then: Perspectives on positional variance in temporal demonstratives. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 23(1), 19-36.