© 2010

Text, Time, and Context

Selected Papers of Carlota S. Smith

  • Richard P.  Meier
  • Helen Aristar-Dry
  • Emilie Destruel
  • Carlota Smith was perhaps the first woman to work in generative linguistics. Thus, her work has a unique position within the history of the field

  • Professor Smith made a fundamental contribution to our understanding of time and temporal interpretation in discourse

  • Articles in Text, Time, and Context are notable for their precision about both form and meaning

  • Collected papers explore English, French, Mandarin Chinese, and Navaho, all with detail and insight


Part of the Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy book series (SLAP, volume 87)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-lxiv
  2. Aspect

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 2-6
    2. Carlota S. Smith
      Pages 7-23
    3. Carlota S. Smith
      Pages 25-59
    4. Carlota S. Smith
      Pages 61-86
  3. Tense

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 88-94
    2. Carlota S. Smith
      Pages 147-160
    3. Carlota S. Smith
      Pages 161-182
    4. Carlota S. Smith
      Pages 183-201
  4. The Acquisition of Tense

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 204-208
  5. Discourse Structure and Discourse Modes

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 240-248
    2. Carlota S. Smith
      Pages 273-283
    3. Carlota S. Smith
      Pages 285-302
    4. Carlota S. Smith, Mary S. Erbaugh
      Pages 303-342
  6. Context and Interpretation

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 344-348
    2. Jeanne T. Whitaker, Carlota S. Smith
      Pages 349-369

About this book


Carlota S. Smith was a key figure in linguistic research and a pioneering woman in generative linguistics. This selection of papers focuses on the research into tense, aspect, and discourse that Smith completed while Professor of Linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin. Smith, who died in 2007, was a trailblazer in her field whose broad interests fed into her scholarly research.

Selected by Carlota Smith herself and by her longtime friends and colleagues, this book contains her 1980 piece on temporal structures in discourse, her 1986 comparison of the English and French aspectual systems, a 1996 paper on the aspect system in Navajo (an increasingly-endangered language which Smith worked to preserve), and her 1980 and 1993 papers on the child’s acquisition of tense and aspect.

The current volume of articles covers much of her most fruitful work on the way in which language is used to express time, and will be essential reading for many working and studying in linguistics generally and in semantics particularly.


Syntax Tempora aspect grammar language language acquisition linguistics semantic semantics subject syntactic

Editors and affiliations

  • Richard P.  Meier
    • 1
  • Helen Aristar-Dry
    • 2
  • Emilie Destruel
    • 3
  1. 1.College of Liberal ArtsUniversity of Texas, AustinAustinU.S.A.
  2. 2.Inst. Language Information & TechnologyEasternMichigan UniversityYpsilantiU.S.A.
  3. 3.College of Liberal ArtsUniversity of Texas, AustinAustinU.S.A.

About the editors

Obituary by Richard Meier

Professor Carlota S. Smith of the Department of Linguistics at The University of Texas at Austin died Thursday, May 24 at the age of 73 after a long battle with cancer. She was the Dallas TACA Centennial Professor in the Humanities and taught at The University of Texas at Austin for 38 years.

Carlota Smith received her bachelor's degree from Radcliffe College in 1955. In the late 1950s, she became a research assistant and then a doctoral student in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. During this time she worked with Zellig Harris, who directed the doctoral dissertation of Noam Chomsky and who would also later direct her own doctoral dissertation. In 1961, Prof. Smith was a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA, where she was one of the very first woman students to work with Chomsky. Prof. Smith's first publication (`A Class of Complex Modifiers in English', 1961) dates from this period. It appeared in the journal Language.

After receiving her M.A. (1964) and Ph.D. (1967) at the University of Pennsylvania, Prof. Smith joined the faculty of The University of Texas at Austin in 1969, where she was a faculty member in the Department of Linguistics until her death. She served as the chair of the department from 1981-1985. In 1991, she was named the Dallas TACA Centennial Professor in the Humanities.

Prof. Smith's early research examined the syntax of English. In 1969, she published, along with Elizabeth Shipley and Lila Gleitman, a very influential paper on how children acquire English as a first language; in ensuing years she would publish several more papers on child language development. Starting in the mid-1970s, she embarked on what was perhaps her most important line of research. In many papers and in a very important book (The Parameter of Aspect, published in 1991 by Kluwer), she analyzed the ways in which languages encode time and how they encode the way events happen over time. Prof. Smith's work on temporal aspect has been notable because of its empirical foundation in her careful analyses of a number of quite different languages, including English, French, Russian, Mandarin, and Navajo. Through her many years of research on Navajo, she became a member of the Navajo Language Academy, a group that seeks to further the study of Navajo, to keep Navajo from becoming endangered, and to provide training in linguistic research to members of the Navajo Nation.

In 2003, Cambridge University Press published Prof. Smith's second book, Modes of Discourse. This book analyzes the grammatical properties that distinguish different genres of discourse (e.g., narratives vs. reports vs. descriptions). In this book and in earlier papers (for example, a 1985 paper on the French author Gustave Flaubert), she sought to bring the analytic tools of linguistics to the humanistic study of literature.

Carlota Smith was an active member of the Department of Linguistics until the very last. This semester she taught a graduate seminar on time in language. She was meeting with students and faculty in her office just three days before her death. Throughout the semester she was thinking about how to ensure the future of the department in which she had taught for virtually her entire career. At The University of Texas at Austin, her absence will be felt for many years to come.

Prof. Smith is survived by her husband, John Robertson, who is a professor in UT's Law School. She is also survived by her children Alison and Joel, and by her grandchildren Sylvia and Ari.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Text, Time, and Context
  • Book Subtitle Selected Papers of Carlota S. Smith
  • Editors Richard P. Meier
    Helen Aristar-Dry
    Emilie Destruel
  • Series Title Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy
  • Series Abbreviated Title Studies in Linguist.,Phil.
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010
  • Publisher Name Springer, Dordrecht
  • eBook Packages Humanities, Social Sciences and Law Social Sciences (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-90-481-2616-3
  • Softcover ISBN 978-94-007-3072-4
  • eBook ISBN 978-90-481-2617-0
  • Series ISSN 0924-4662
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages LXIV, 404
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Semantics
    Linguistics, general
  • Buy this book on publisher's site