As it happens regarding language and consciousness, time is such a close reality to us that we tend to take it for granted just as well. Also analogously to the cases of language/communication and consciousness, an attempt to understand the tickings of human time in depth requires that one resorts to a number of reference frames provided by different areas of knowledge.
I have been studying human time for approximately 15 years now. Although this might seem like a long time, and although I have learned a great deal during these years, I remain a learner, I remain in the search for greater understanding, the subject fascinating me just as much as--or perhaps more than--it did at the onset of my research work with time.
My quest for time started by chance: I was concerned with helping my foreign language students to employ the tenses correctly. I realized that even the most dedicated and quick-minded students would inevitably end up facing frustration, at the annoying realization that a certain rule they had learned in their grammar books later failed to apply at a given utterance.
If you have learned a foreign language, I am sure you have identified with the experience above described. You are also likely to have found yourself inquiring "why is this usage so? why can't I employ this other structure, instead? why? why?...", only to be met with no answer that would make sense to you and help prevent that you found yourself pray of similar pitfalls once more, afterwards.
This sort of thing troubled me from the day I became a languages instructor, as it had also troubled me as a student, previously. Even if certain aspects of language use are said not to have an explanation, as an instructor I have always tried my best at explaining--my former students who may read this can well attest it.
That's how it all started.
After much research, consideration and deep meditation on the entire issue, I was convinced that, by following traditional means, I would end up with no significant results, i.e., no results that would make the necessary difference for the foreign language learners I was concerned with trying to help. At this turning point, I must mention, I read a most fascinating book, Tempus, written by a German Professor called Harald Weinrich.
To this date, I must also mention, Weinrich's book is the only academic book I have read which gave me that very same experience as when I would read an interesting novel and could not put the book down! If you have any interest in Language(s), Time, or Verb Tenses, I recommend this book highly--the original is in German and, as far as I know, there are translations in Italian, French and Spanish. (You are welcome to drop me a line requesting the complete bibliographical reference for the original or translation in any of these languages--I have all of the books.)
Although Weinrich's underlying argument is for eliminating Time altogether from the language (verb tense) scenario, this book of his was my greatest initial inspiration and motivation, at that difficult turning point which I have referred to above: I knew I had to look at the entire verb tense scenario from a fresh reference point...but which?... Professor Weinrich's book was the catalyzer I needed, despite his position against resorting to Time for an account of Tense.
I agree with him, BTW! This may sound paradoxical...an apparent paradox that might well account for Professor Weinrich's comment, once, that he could not understand how he had been my greatest source of inspiration.
The key to untying this seeming paradox lies in that, yes, time, as resorted to by those accounting for language use, of course could not explain tense. We have anyway tried this road for centuries.
Time, however, studied from the viewpoint of human cognition, becomes a viable companion to Tense, provided that the latter is also focused on from a cognitive reference point. In other words, a cognitive committed approach allows for a common denominator, in which context Time and Tense may be observed in harmonious cooperation.
The road leading to a cognitive approach to time, BTW, was first signaled by Albert Einstein who, albeit concerned with physics, was the first to draw a scientific link between the limits of our perception (the cognitive realm) and objective data collected (the physics realm).
Little did I know, when I first got started out of my willingness to help my students, that the quest for Time I would end up finding myself in was going to reveal itself as some sort of life-time project!
So here you have, in a nutshell, the story of my falling irrecoverably in love with Time and becoming a passionate researcher in this area. On these pages, here, and eventually on a Web Site of its own, I'll be sharing a bit of what I have so far learned from, with and on Time. If the subject can catch your interest (give it a bit of a try, and see:)...), you are welcome to return now and then to check what time has allowed me to add here on Time.
If you are interested in the language and communication aspect of time, then you need to check the LanGServices home page. There is an old article of mine there, BTW, which can be enlightening to non-native speakers of English, (the article deals with the Tense-Time relationship within the reference frame of English usage). You'll also find at LanGServices other pages in which the Time-Language relationship emerges. And, as articles are being added every now and then, there, you are likely to come across new additions within the Time-Language topic, if you drop by LanGServices every once in a while.
Regarding the web site that you are visitng now, there is surely more to come regarding the time context. If, in addition, you'd enjoy having a little fun with certain aspects/facets of Time, then a sure place to go is MieNet - Music & Fun, a sister (rather daughter) page of this one, focusing on music, fun/humor & Formula-1 car racing. This is a space I have reserved for light fun and relaxation, in contrast with the deeper, sober tone underlying the present web site. You might enjoy "playing with time" there:)... As I'm always on the look out for a new "toy," you are sure to find something new to "play with" now and then :).
Last, though certainly not least, check the CogniTime web site, which deals exclusively with human time.
Let's now get to Time, proper!
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In their coverage of what they referred to as "the first day of the new Millennium," the American TV channel CNN had a short program on time. People from all sorts of backgrounds and ages, including children, were interviewed, expressing what they felt regarding time. In addition to the interviews, the moderator of the program made a few remarks. Some of what I heard represented such an accurate perception that I took a few notes and will now share them below:
People run on life time and it's ever out of synch with clock time.
Life time is measured by the feel of the soul; clock time is measured by the tick of a hand.
When we wake up, when we go to work, when we celebrate something, we mark the time we experience.
They are all quite accurate. Despite our large use of and dependence on chronology in modern life, still events are our time markers per excellence, not dates. This is a fundamental notion for an insight on Human Time, as I mention in both my long manuscripts on time. The idea is not new, however; many other authors have found the same before me. I just happen to confirm them.
Another good point in the statements above is the contrast made between what I call human time or cognitive time, versus clock- or calendar-based time or "objective time." This contrast is very nicely referred to above as life time versus clock time. It is not that they must always be out of synch, as expressed above; but, yes, they are often non-congruent.
After all, not only time may be perceived differently on individual levels, but also time may assume different connotations or even be counted differently in different cultures.
When not aided by a clock or a calendar, these constituting human inventions which allow us all a common denominator (albeit artificial, considering Relativity--i.e., considering that we do not all function within the very same referential frame), our sense of time may be (and often is) quite subjective.
It is rather our own cognitive experience of time that sets the "measuring rod."
An anecdotical explanation of Relativity which Einstein is quoted for having once given is quite illustrative of our subjective (cognitive) account of time, as just referred to, above. Duration, one aspect of time, is at stake in Einstein's words, below:
When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute--
and it's longer than any hour. That's relativity.
When communicating with each other, in the daily course of our lives, it is quite extraordinary that we feel equally at home regarding both the more precise calendar/clock based time and the less precise cognitively experienced time. Both are present in communication (whatever the language/culture) as means of giving the events referred to a chronological meaning in the time spectrum.
I'd be very interested in hearing what time means to you, what sorts of observations regarding time you have come to make on your own, what other observations you may have heard and then pondered on, what sort of paradoxes you may have come upon, etc. Although I've been working with time, more especially human time, studying it scientifically since the mid eighties, to this day I remain interested in how each individual human perceives time, what (s)he muses on regarding time, and so forth. And, believe me, I learn from listening to people who have never studied one line on time, as well as people with all sorts of educational backgrounds! Time, after all, is an essential ingredient of Life! :)
Whenever you may feel like dropping me a line on time, independently of which of Time's many aspects you may be wishing to tackle, you can be sure I'll be all ears and read your message with great interest. I should add that any topic related to time, in whatever way it may be, interests me just as well. So, please feel free to write, knowing in advance that I'll be very pleased with mail of this sort. Evidently you'll get an answer from me.
Whether you'd like to send me a couple of lines on time right now, or at whatever other time, below is a special link for e-mailing me on the subject or related subjects. You can conveniently use this link, or e-mail me via whatever other means you choose.
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A special remark: As far as my experience goes, meeting someone who has done whatever research work in the Time area constitutes the exception, not the rule. For your own sake, I am thus assuming I am communicating with someone who has rarely occupied his/her mind with the Time issue, beyond daily concerns such as not be late for the meeting, count 3 minutes for the eggs to boil, remark that a certain boring meeting seemed to have lasted an "eternity," etc.
Now, I certainly do not rule out the possibility that a Time expert may drop in for a visit, a possibility that would surely thrill me!:) Therefore, if by chance you are a researcher on Time, or whatever Time-related area that makes you deal with the Time issue on whatever basis, then please it becomes a must that you contact me!
If your research area involves Tense (whether within the linguistic or the philosophical domain--or both), though not necessarily Time, I'd be equally interested in your making contact!
This being said, I should add that the present modest pages on Time are due to grow. How fast, well, it depends precisely on how much time I may have to use in this virtual world we share. Eventually, this time section will become a site by itself, for the topic is very extensive. Moreover, as it comes to human time (which is the main interest and object of my research work), other areas must also be taken into consideration, the first of which being the cognitive realm.
I hope you enjoy what you find on MieNet's Time pages! If the topic catches your interest, then be sure you are very welcome to drop by now and then, to check what's new. In addition, please remember that anything you may wish to share or contribute within the time area, or related areas, will always be greatly appreciated and enjoyed!
- a link for
more on Time -
Incidentally, these are the languages used on the scrolling page title,
in their respective order of appearance: English, French,
Spanish, Italian & Portuguese, Danish, German, Dutch, Latin.
the word for "time" in your language,
if different from the above,
for I'd love to add it to those on the title!