International Journal of American Linguistics
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Creek (or Muskogee) is among a small number of languages around the world that distinguish multiple tenses based on degrees of remoteness from the time of speaking. Those working on Creek have rarely agreed on the number of tenses or on their meanings, however, and have rarely examined the seemingly intricate ways that speakers use tenses in texts. This paper argues that Creek has one future tense and five past tenses. It finds, however, that speakers may cast events within a single time frame in several different tenses based on immediacy. That is, just as English speakers will sometimes use present tense in describing past events, Creek speakers will sometimes allow tenses to creep forward from past 5 (remote past) to past 4 or even past 3 as events become more vivid. The Creek data thus provide especially clear support for observations that temporal distance in language may be extended metaphorically to express subjective distance (Dahl 1984, Fleischman 1989, and Hintz 2007).
Martin, Jack B., How to Tell a Creek Story in Five Past Tenses (2010). International Journal of American Linguistics, 76(1), 43-70.