2. The time as a linguistic concept
General linguistics, its history, can explain to us the changes of the time categories in various periods. The exactness of time expression, even if we wanted the philosophical one, is based on the linguistic expression. The verb, i. e. the action, tells us in which tense some event has been occurring, or has occurred. This is more than important for the artistic expression, as it establishes the essentials of the analytical critique: it happened now, or in the past; somebody came and stopped the events of the past, of the time which had been running, and this way implicated another time, ect.
It goes without saying that our intention here is not to further analyze the linguistic concepts and the special behavior of time in various linguistic occurrences, as our purpose is to emphasize its touching points with the artistic expression. The “saint” grammatical concept for the artistic expression is the Imperfect Tense. The continuity of events. We don’t know when the event started, but we know that the event continues. For example, if we took the novel of Italo Calvino “Se un viaggiatore una notte d’inverno” (“If a traveler, on a winter’s night”), starts in the following way: “I didn’t know whether to write this book or not, but anyway, I will. It’s a very bad one, if you don’t want to, you don’t have to read it”. Since when did the author know whether to write the book or not? And we would ask ourselves; where is the importance of all of this? We’ll respond now: in the beginning of the continuity of event; an activity which was happening in the past will be described, this event or activity is being developed, the culmination is being reached, ect.
The Imperfect, is a grammatical category, which in the artistic expression determines that the theme is on its course of development. We can take another example to clarify this point: in the opera art for example. We know that in the first act of “Rigoletto”, in the time when the duet between Rigoletto and Gilda continues, which represents the continuity of an event, the narrator, Rigoletto, tells us how devoted is he to his daughter Gilda, and how did her mother die. To this event (which is rather a long one accompanied by repetitions) intervenes a perfect tense the aorist: the serving woman in the house appears who tells to Gilda: “ The Duke of Mantova is upstairs”. How do we semantically resolve this situation? Gilda has fallen in love with the Duke of Mantova, but she doesn’t have the courage to express this in front of her father; and, as consequence of this, she gets informed about the arrival of her lover in a secret way. And finally, to express this we need a definite, a perfect, a closed concept of time. Or if we put it with semiotic terms: the message of the middle-text (the inter-text) passes through the communication channel from a sign to a sign, in our case the Duke and Gilda, however, Rigoletto (the first sign in the semiotic triangle) must not know, i.e. according to the narratology theory of the Italian semiotician, Umberto Eco, the absent structure in this case. It goes without saying that even the musical expression in that instant changes, the rhythm now changes from the one that previously was a melancholic one, a romantic one – prepared for the accompaniment of the duet – now it is more decisive; this as a matter of fact foresees the arrival of a new temporal interval, in comparison with the one that had been described until that point of time.
And, for reasons of comparison, we shall compare all of this with the novel of the famous Italian theoretician Prof. Umberto Eco: “The Name of the Rose”. (“Il nome della rosa”). It is generally known that in this novel no one knew why did the people die throughout the event without any reason. The semiotic systems of the teacher and the pupil are in a permanent communication, in order to reach the aim: to discover what actually has been happening in the biblioteque of that church. On the other hand, on the other side of the communication channel the absent structure is found, which is discovered only at the end: the book in the biblioteque had been poisoned (in the place where everybody could not enter); and as consequence, anybody who tried opening the saint book, died. So, the fact that the absent structure gets discovered in the end, interrupts the course of the imperfect tense by a determined and a closed tense, which tells us: “The book had been poisoned”.
The various combination and interaction of various time categories, can be found in other artistic works as well. Here we shall give one more example. If the scene of the big march in the opera “Aida” of Verdi has a semantic category of a victory from the war aspect, the appearance of Amonastro in the midst of the scene, and his dialogue with his daughter Aida, are described by a perfect tense (a definite one), although the dramatic situations like: “Glory to Egypt”, “Let’s go to fight”, or “Come back victorious”, are situations in their course of occurrence.
If we continue with similar observations, almost in each and every artistic field with an expressional importance (with a narratological one or a telling one, even if we wanted like Berthold Brecht has once said: “Show what you have to show, because it is important to show”), we shall see that the concept of time, above all with its linguistic basis, in a wider sense, has implications on a semantic, philosophical and psychological level.