Per Klang: Incongruous tense in Swedish: Past and present tense use with deviant time reference

  • Datum: 15 december 2023, kl. 10.15
  • Plats: Geijersalen, Engelska parken, Uppsala
  • Typ: Disputation
  • Respondent: Per Klang
  • Opponent: Therese Lindström Tiedemann
  • Handledare: Ulla Stroh-Wollin, Joakim Nivre
  • Forskningsämne: Nordiska språk
  • DiVA


This thesis deals with incongruous tense in Swedish. Incongruous tense refers to uses of the past tense for events that overlap or succeed the moment of speech, which is normally considered to apply to the present tense, and uses of the present tense for events that precede the moment of speech, which is normally considered to apply to the past tense. Currently, there is no quantitative study devoted to testing how the account of tense in Swedish fares against a large sample of Swedish language data with respect to incongruous tense. This thesis fills this gap with extensive empirical data focusing on incongruous tense use. Three questions have directed the empirical investigation: How common is incongruous tense?; What types of incongruous tense are there?; How does incongruous tense differ from congruous tense? 

By manually and automatically compiling, annotating, and querying a corpus of almost 160 000 sentences in texts from newspapers and web-based discussion fora, the thesis comes to the conclusion that incongruous tense is quite common, and it further identifies some previously unnoticed cases of the incongruous past tense, as well as a number of lexical and grammatical differences between congruous and incongruous tense use. In addition, the resulting corpus is freely available under a Creative Commons license. 

As a complement, the results derived from the corpus are used to discuss the extent to which alternative principles of looking at tense – other than those applied in this thesis – could explain the incongruous cases. Even though the assumption of an indirect relation between the point of speech and the event time, as well as the proposal to replace the point of speech with a point of view, make sense with certain uses of incongruous tense, there seem to be some issues with both, which research has circumvented. The thesis concludes that these issues merit further investigation.