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LINGUIST List 21.3478

Tue Aug 31 2010

Confs: Syntax, Pragmatics, Semantics/UK

Editor for this issue: Amy Brunett <brunettlinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Emmanuelle Labeau, Systematic Ambiguity of Modals in Interaction with Tense and Aspect

Message 1: Systematic Ambiguity of Modals in Interaction with Tense and Aspect
Date: 31-Aug-2010
From: Emmanuelle Labeau <E.labeauaston.ac.uk>
Subject: Systematic Ambiguity of Modals in Interaction with Tense and Aspect
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Systematic Ambiguity of Modals in Interaction with Tense and Aspect

Date: 18-Apr-2011 - 20-Apr-2011
Location: Birmingham, United Kingdom
Contact: Alda Mari

Linguistic Field(s): Pragmatics; Semantics; Syntax

Meeting Description:

Panel 3: Systematic Ambiguity of Modals in Interaction with Tense and Aspect
Alda Mari & Fabio Del Prete (IJN, CNRS/ENS/EHESS),

Theme and Purpose of the Panel:

The investigation of the interaction of modal and tenses across languages is
currently a very lively topic in both the formal and descriptive literature. The
main concern in ongoing research is how systematic polysemy of modals relates to
the way they combine with tense and aspect. Systematic ambiguity of modals has
been explained in the classical view (Lewis, 1975; Kratzer, 1981,1991) as
originating from the type of the modal base selected in the context of utterance
(circumstantial or epistemic). Moreover, the classical view has assumed that
modal statements are evaluated w.r.t. a world of evaluation which is the actual
world. Recent work on tense and modals, in particular on modals in the past, has
highlighted other forms of systematic ambiguity between the epistemic,
abilitative and metaphysic interpretations. Grossly, the proposed accounts
divide into three categories:

1. Syntactic views. Different interpretations are claimed to derive from
different scope relations between functional heads (Demirdarche, 2005; Hacquard,
2006, Laca, 2008; Soare, 2009).

2. Lexical views. The interpretations that modals can have depend on the meaning
of the tenses under which they are embedded and which vary across languages
(Boogaar, 2005; Martin, 2009)

3. Pragmatic views. Some of the meanings are part of the semantics of the
modals, others are derived by inferences (Mari, 2010; Mari and Schweitzer, 2010).

These recent views have raised a number of questions of fundamental importance
for the study of modality in general: Firstly, while these views are not
incompatible with the initial claim that different modal bases are needed, the
question arises how these modal bases are selected. Some authors supplement the
syntactic scope differences with claims about events upon which modals attach
and which trigger different modal bases (Hacquard, 2006). Alternatively, other
authors argue that what varies between different readings is not the type of the
modal base, but the world of evaluation. This has lead some to revise the
initial theory, rethinking the notion of proposition itself (whether a
proposition is true in the actual world or just in a world - see Cappellen and
Lepore 2005). Secondly, across these syntactic/semantic and pragmatic
approaches, authors disagree as to whether epistemic modals can be interpreted
in the past (von Fintel and Gillies, 2007; Condoravdi, 2001, Homer, 2009) or are
always interpreted in the present (Stowell, 2004, Hacquard, 2006, Kratzer, 2009)
and how the interpretation correlates with (i) the meaning of tenses (in
particular the perfective / imperfective distinction) and (ii) the eventive /
stative property of the embedded predicate. Thirdly authors have deeply
reconsidered the traditional control raising distinction, which has also been
adopted as an explanation of the systematic ambiguity of modals (e.g. Brennan,
2003; Tasmowski, 1980). However, the question of whether modals scope over a
propositions or properties of events is not yet settled. While the issue has
been investigated for deontic modality, it still deserves attention when it
pertains to abilitative readings (Thomason, 2005).

The aim of the panel discussion is to bring together researchers from syntax
semantics and pragmatics, investigating different strategies for deriving the
systematic ambiguity across languages. It encourages work that brings new facts
into light, systematizes old and new data and proposes new formal analyses in
any type of framework. Comparative studies would be very much appreciated.

Scientific Committee:

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