Klein's (1994) theory of tense

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Klein (1994) uses three time spans for the analysis of tense: TU (time of utterance), TSit (the time of situation) and TT (the topic time). The Topic Time "IS THE TIME SPAN TO WHICH THE SPEAKER’S CLAIM ON THIS OCCASION IS CONFINED" (Klein 1994: 4). For example, if a judge asksa witness: "What did you notice when you looked into the room?" and the witness answers: "There was a book on the table. It was in Russian", the Topic Time is the point in time at which the witnessed looked into the room.

Klein furthermore distinguishes three situation types:

In Klein's theory tense expresses a relation between TT and TU; possible relations are INCL(uded in), AFTER, BEFORE. The major tense relations can thus be defined as follows:

Schema Tense Example
1. TU INCL TT present tense There was a book on the table.
2. TU AFTER TT past tense John was in the garden.
3. TU BEFORE TT future tense I will see John tomorrow.


  • Klein, Wolfgang (1994). Time in Language. London: Routledge.