historical present


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historical present

n.
The present tense used in the narration of events set in the past.
Our Living Language When telling stories about past events, people often switch into present tense, as in I was walking home from work one day. All of a sudden this man comes up to me and says.... This phenomenon, called the historical present, has a long history in English and is found in numerous other languages, both ancient and modern. Linguists have sometimes suggested that the historical present makes stories more vivid primarily by bringing past actions into the immediate present. However, it has been noted that, no matter how exciting stories are, the speakers never use present tense verbs exclusively—even when relating the most crucial events. In addition, past and present tense alternations tend to occur only between events that are markedly different. In other words, tense alternation usually does not occur when two verbs are viewed as belonging to one larger event. For example, two verbs joined by and that share the same subject tend to share the same tense as well, especially when the subject appears only once, just before the first verb, as in Those two people came in and sat down. It seems, then, that the historical present serves more to separate events within stories than to bring stories to life. One interesting exception to this is the verb say: its tense alternations do not seem regular; in addition, its third person present form says is also used in nonstandard narration with I, as in So I says to the guy, I says....

historical present

n
(Linguistics) the present tense used to narrate past events, usually employed in English for special effect or in informal use, as in a week ago I'm walking down the street and I see this accident

histor′ical pres′ent


n.
the present tense used in narrating a past event.
[1960–65]
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.historical present - the use of the present tense to describe past actions or states
present tense, present - a verb tense that expresses actions or states at the time of speaking
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References in periodicals archive ?
Among their topics are collaborative manuscript production and the case of Reykjab k: paleographical and multi-spectral analysis, Sveinsb k: a reexamination of a fragment of Njal's saga, the historical present tense in the earliest textual transmission of Njal's saga: an example of synchronic linguistic variation in the 14th-century Icelandic Njal's saga manuscripts, the post-medieval production and dissemination of Njal's saga manuscripts, and creating in color: illustrations of Njal's saga in a 19th-century Icelandic paper manuscript.
Many novels these days, in a bid for immediacy, feel pushed up incredibly close against the author's personal reality, as in autofiction, or against the historical present, as in Olivia Laing's zinging debut novel Crudo, written during -- and very much about _ the news events of last summer.
This approach naturally establishes its own necessity in making not just literary claims but rather cultural claims about narrative media as an important resource for taking the affective temperature of the historical present. The sixth chapter, on postapocalyptic narrative, stands out in this regard and features some of the book's best writerly moments.
In Jewish Arbel the particle la in the present progressive tense la-qatil can equally mark prominence and have historical present functions.
Temporal drag constitutes an affective glue that does not tie subjects within a shared historical present together into a contemporaneous community so much as it stakes a certain generative yet 'impossible' longing upon a relationship between a present historical subject and a past historical moment ...
To conclude, both the "historical past" with its practical-as-moral dimension and the "historical present" with its critical attitude, even when they show relationships with living experiences, make experiences the discovering of two different worlds.
One of the great features of Gourley's work is how he effectively utilizes historical present tense to put his readers into the time period.
Rohrbach's argument articulates both historical/intellectual contexts and existential/temporal horizons in a distinctive series of readings that underline the role of aesthetic form in responding to and reshaping Romanticism's historical present along with its attendant ethical and political possibilities.
I have myself experienced the scholarship and friendship of Ianziti, having had many fruitful discussions with him concerning the origins of modern historiographical patterns (on which now see the challenging observations of Walter Kudrycz, in his The Historical Present, Medievalism and Modernity, 2011).
While the ostensible premise of sci-fi rests on some imagined future, its "deepest subject may in fact be our own historical present," displaced by our inability to come to terms with it, as Fredric Jameson has written.
Berlant trains her critical eye on both the historical present and the ordinary.
While such re-negotiations continue to provide counter-hegemonic inspiration, the essays in Living Fanon maintain that we can only refine our understanding by paying much closer attention to the peculiarities of geo-political, economic, ideological, and cultural contexts, both in relation to the period from which the original texts emerge and in terms of the peculiar dynamics of the historical present.

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