Bhatt & Homer – Topics in Modality (2 weeks)

We will explore some topics of current interest in the analysis of modality. Our primary focus will be on “Actuality Entailments”. These concern a situation where a modal statement seems to entail its propositional nucleus. In many languages, these are most clearly visible when a root modal combines with perfective aspect. Since actuality entailments were first identified, a number of questions have come up: what kinds of modals display actuality entailments, is the phenomenon restricted to modals, and what is the role of aspect if any? The proposal that different kinds of modals are associated with different structural heights on the clausal spine has played an important role in recent theorizing on modality. Hence we will revisit the facts concerning height effects and their implications for actuality entailments.

In addition to actuality entailments, we will examine two further phenomena: i. a range of sublexical entailments that resemble actuality entailments (e.g. “The key permitted me to open the lock”) — sublexical modality, and ii. modals that take DP complements such as “John needs a car”; does the DP complement stand for a reduced clause, and are there interpretive restrictions on such modals in contrast to the proposition taking variant?

Requirements: An introduction course in semantics would be useful but is not required. Students can contact the instructors for supplementary readings on modals and aspect.

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