(He has just been discussing 2nd conditional)
Thank you Rodney. Now let's hear no more about it!It has been proposed that the concept of remoteness is sufficiently general to cover both the primary use of the past tense and the one we are concerned with here. According to this view, the inflection itself would simply indicate remoteness, and it would depend on other features of the sentence or context whether this is interpreted more specifically as remoteness in time or remoteness in factuality. The problem which is facing us here is a type which commonly arises in semantic analysis. As we try to bring more and more uses of a category or item within the scope of our semantic analysis of it, the meaning proposed will become more and more general, with less and less content - and the burden of accounting for the more specific features of the interpretation of sentences containing it will fall elsewhere, on other linguistic elements in the sentence or on pragmatics. The alternative to giving a single very general meaning, which may be fairly empty, is to allow for polysemy, recognising a range of related senses (some of which may be more central than others): different writers may take quite widely varying positions on this issue. As far as the particular case of it that we have raised here is concerned, my own view is that we do need to recognise distinct senses of the past tense, for it is not clear why remoteness as such should select past time as opposed to future time when interpreted temporally (we do not say 'he was here yesterday, is here now and was here tomorrow). Nevertheless the proposal is certainly useful in showing a relation between past time and factual remoteness uses.