9

I remember seeing in the thread before that there was no difference between ている and た. So then what would be the difference between the usage of them in these sentences below?

  • 最後に立っていたものが勝者だ
  • 最後に立っているものが勝者だ
  • 最後に立ったものが勝者だ

All the above are from using google search with the first two being the most common and the third being the least with only two hits with the words 最後に立ったものが.

4

Well, as with any sentences that don't have a large number of adjuncts or context limiting their meaning, there are many interpretations.


最後に立っていたものが勝者

  1. Matrix time: present
    Subordinate time: past

    ("Who is the winner?")
    "The last person who was standing is the winner."

    That is, the person who was (before time of speech) standing up last (and may or may not be standing at time of speech) is the winner.

  2. Matrix time: future
    Subordinate time: past or relative past

    "The last person who was standing (will be / is) the winner."

    That is, either:

    • "was" = past: the person who was (before the time of speech) standing up last (and may or may not be standing at the time of speech) will be the winner.
    • "was" = relative past: the person who was (before the reference time) standing up last (and may or may not be standing at the reference time) will be the winner.

    (As for the English gloss, this sentence suggests the past interpretation as opposed to the relative past interpretation at first glance, I think. But, with enough context: "In this game, people sit up and down in order, and then a bell randomly rings. When that happens, the person who was standing up last will be the winner.", the relative past interpretation works fine in English as well.)

For both interpretations, in Japanese and the English glosses, whether the person is still standing up or not is not specified, though there is probably a slight suggestion of "no longer standing" (since you would use 「立っている」/"is standing" otherwise, after all).


最後に立っているものが勝者

  1. Matrix time: present
    Subordinate time: present

    ("Who is the winner?")
    "The last person who is standing is the winner."

    That is, the person who is (at time of speech) standing is the winner.

    Honestly, interpreting this sentence as occurring in present time is slightly weird, since you'd probably just say 「立っている人が勝者だ」 "The standing person is the winner.".

  2. Matrix time: future
    Subordinate time: present or relative present

    "The last person who is standing (will be / is) the winner."

    That is, either:

    • "is" = present: the person who is (at time of speech) standing up last is the winner.
    • "is" = relative present: the person who is (at reference time) standing up last is the winner.

    Again, the present is somewhat pragmatically weird, since you would normally not use 「最後に」 "last" -- that means this sentence would probably have the subordinate clause interpreted in the relative present.


最後に立っものが勝者

  1. Matrix time: present
    Subordinate time: past

    ("Who is the winner?")
    "The last person who stood up is the winner."

    That is, the person who (before the time of speech) stood up last (and may or may not be standing at time of speech) is the winner.

  2. Matrix time: future
    Subordinate time: past or relative past

    "The last person who stood up (will be / is) the winner."

    That is, either:

    • "stood up" = past: The person who (before the time of speech) stood up last (and may or may not be standing at the time of speech) will be the winner.
    • "stood up" = relative past: The person who (before the reference time) stood up last (and may or may not be standing at the reference time) will be the winner.

Finally, to address the core of your confusion, 「た」 cannot be interpreted as 「ている」 here (which is hopefully clear due to the different glosses provided).

The reason for this is because (as further explained in the thread I linked in the comments), the actor (namely, the person who stood up) is explicitly mentioned in the sentence, which prevents the stative reading of 「た」. With a different head, like 「立った状態」, 「立った」 can be interpreted as 「立っている」.

3
  • 最後に立っていたものが勝者だ

The last person who was (still) standing is the winner

  • 最後に立っているものが勝者だ

The last person who is (still) standing is the winner

  • 最後に立ったものが勝者だ

The person who stands up last is the winner

The third one is uncommon because there aren't many competition where you try to not stand up.

1

For general explanations, it's better to see the posts you and Darius (in his comment) mentioned. Here I focus on specific issues.

Summary:

  • 最後に立っていたものが勝者だ
    Who was standing at the end {is / will be} the winner.
    or Who {is / will be} standing at the end {becomes / will become} the winner. .........(*1)
  • 最後に立っているものが勝者だ
    The winner {is / will be} who {is / will be} standing at the end.
    or Who {is / will be} standing at the end equals to the winner. .........(*2)
  • 最後に立ったものが勝者だ
    Who stood up last {is / will be} the winner.

Discussions:

There are two factors you should take care of.

First, the verb 立つ means "to stand up", not "to stand". The "standing" (立っている) sense is only possible as its result. That's why your third example is the odd one out. What I imagined was a chicken game sitting on hot chair as long as possible.

Your first and second examples both could translate the English sentence, "The last one standing is the winner." So, what's the difference? It's very subtle, but put shortly, the first one is what you'd typically say when you think: "If someone's standing alone, then he/she wins.", while the second one is typically used when you think: "I'll know who's the winner by seeing someone's standing alone".

The difference eventually comes from that Japanese "past tense particle" -た doesn't exactly means what happened in past, but what was confirmed in past. In the first sentence, you first judge there's only one person standing, and in the next step, you judge that person wins. Thus I chose verb become in my translation (*1). On the other hand, the second one insists that the two judgments are possible in a overlapped time range. Usually the interpretation has no problem, like 立っているものが勝者だ sounds perfectly natural, but in this specific case, 最後に "at the end" inevitably evokes the feeling that the only timing to judge the "standing" is the very moment a match ends, therefore you couldn't shake off some unnatural ring except you're telling a solid, universal fact (*2).

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