The deceased signed the will himself/Substantiv und Zeit

At Language Log, David Beaver considers a point that sometimes arises in legal texts:

bq. a noun phrase, say dead rapper, can be interpreted at a completely different time from the main verb.

His example is a headline, Dead rapper fired first shot.

bq. The firing event apparently took place around 4:30AM on Tuesday at the CCC club in Detroit, while dead rapper first described Proof only afterwards, maybe not long before he was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital. While we’re at it, first shot also only became an apt description sometime after the shot was fired.

(The rapper’s name was Proof).

This has struck me in connection with references to the defendant in court, referring to occasions before the proceedings and with deceased testators referring to things they did while they were still alive and before they wrote a will.

Judith Tonhauser, a German who originally studied computational linguistics at Stuttgart. is writing a Ph.D. on this subject at Stanford University.

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