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In the mood for mood

ahiers 23 hronos


Collection dirigée par

Carl Vetters (Université du Littoral – Côte d’Opale)

Directeur adjoint:

Patrick Caudal (CNRS – Université Paris 7)

Comité de lecture:

Anne-Marie Berthonneau (Université de Lille 3) Andrée Borillo (Université de Toulouse-Le Mirail) Anne Carlier (Université de Valenciennes) Renaat Declerck (KULAK-Courtrai) Walter De Mulder (Université d’Anvers) Patrick Dendale (Université d’Anvers) Ilse Depraetere (KUB - Bruxelles) Dulcie Engel (University of Swansea) Laurent Gosselin (Université de Rouen) Florica Hrubara (Université Ovidius Constanta) Emmanuelle Labeau (Aston University) Véronique Lagae (Université de Valenciennes) Sylvie Mellet (CNRS - Université de Nice) Jacques Moeschler (Université de Genève) Arie Molendijk (Université de Groningue) Louis de Saussure (Université de Neuchâtel) Catherine Schnedecker (Université de Metz) Marleen Van Peteghem (Université de Lille 3) Genoveva Puskas (Université de Genève) Co Vet (Université de Groningue) Carl Vetters (Université du Littoral - Côte d’Opale) Svetlana Vogeleer (Institut Libre Marie Haps - Bruxelles) Marcel Vuillaume (Université de Nice)

Ce volume est une réalisation de l’équipe de recherche “HLLI” - EA 4030 de l’Université du Littoral - Côte d’Opale, en collaboration avec l’Université d’Anvers et subventionnée par le FWO-Vlaanderen (Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek -Vlaanderen / Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique - Flandre).

In the mood for mood

Edited by

Tanja Mortelmans, Jesse Mortelmans and Walter De Mulder

Amsterdam - New York, NY 2011

Cover design: Pier Post Le papier sur lequel le présent ouvrage est imprimé remplit les prescriptions de “ISO 9706:1994, Information et documentation Papier pour documents - Prescriptions pour la permanence”. The paper on which this book is printed meets the requirements of “ISO 9706:1994, Information and documentation - Paper for documents - Requirements for permanence”. ISBN: 978-90-420-3269-9 E-Book ISBN: 978-90-420-3270-5 ©Editions Rodopi B.V., Amsterdam - New York, NY 2011 Printed in The Netherlands

Contents Tanja Mortelmans


Kristin M. Eide

Modals and the present perfect

An Verhulst Renaat Declerck

Constraints on the meanings of modal auxiliaries in counterfactual clauses

Hamida Demirdache Non-root past modals Myriam Uribe-Etxebarria

i-iv 1-20 21-42 43-60

Andrea Rocci

The Italian modal dovere in the conditional: future reference, evidentiality and argumentation

Gabriele Diewald Elena Smirnova

The German evidential constructions and their origins: a corpus based analysis

Eser E. Taylan Ayhan Aksu-Koç

Adverbs at the interface of tense, aspect and modality: evidence from Turkish


Zuzana Vokurková

Epistemic modalities and evidentiality in Standard Spoken Tibetan


Toshiyuki Sadanobu Andrej Malchukov

Evidential extensions of aspectotemporal forms in Japanese from a typological perspective


Sumiyo Nishiguchi

Fake past and covert emotive modality




Acknowledgments The Editors are grateful to all the colleagues who spent time helping them in the process of the selection of papers. In particular, we would like to thank those colleagues who were involved in the peer-reviewings. We also warmly thank the institutions who supported the organization of the 7th Chronos colloquium in Antwerp: the University of Antwerp and the Flemish Science Foundation (FWO). Finally, we thankfully acknowledge support from the Chronos board, and especially Carl Vetters.

Introduction Tanja MORTELMANS University of Antwerp This volume is a selection of papers presented at the 7th Chronos colloquium in Antwerp (2006), dedicated to the study of aspect, tense, mood and modality, both from theoretical and more data-driven perspectives, in a wide variety of languages. The present volume specifically contains papers dealing with the expression of modality, by modal and semi-modal verbs (in Germanic and Romance languages) and by other markers (in languages like Turkish, Tibetan and Japanese). The Antwerp edition’s special conference topic was the interaction between tense and modality, of which a number of the papers collected in this volume also testify. The papers can roughly be divided in two groups, mainly based on the languages they study, and consequently on the morphological status of the modal markers in these languages. A first group of papers (Eide, Verhulst & Declerck, Rocci, Demirdache & Uribe-Etxebarria, Diewald & Smirnova) deals with the semantics and/or syntax of modal and semi-modal auxiliaries in Germanic and Romance languages. Eide and Verhulst & Declerck focus – from different perspectives – on the alternation between the root and the epistemic use of modal verbs, whereas Rocci zooms in on the epistemic meaning of the Italian conditional modal form dovrebbe. Demirdache & Uribe-Etxebarria give a unified account of the differences in temporal orientation between epistemic past inflected modals in English (might, could) and Spanish (pudo). Diewald & Smirnova focus on German ; they do not deal with the traditional modal verbs, though, but look at the semi-modals drohen, versprechen, werden and scheinen. A second group of papers (Taylan & Aksu-Koç, Vokurkova, Sadanobu & Malchukov and Nishiguchi) discusses modal issues in other languages, notably in Turkish (Taylan & Aksu-Koç), Tibetan (Vokurkova) and in Japanese (Sadanobu & Malchukov and Nishiguchi). Here, the modal markers typically come in the form of morphological endings that are attached to the verb. Kristin M. Eide (‘Modals and the present perfect’) addresses the socalled Mod-Perf ordering, an alleged universal generalization which stipulates that a modal verb followed by a perfect auxiliary (e.g. He must have eaten) always gets an epistemic reading, whereas a perfect auxiliary followed by a modal (e.g. Sie hat zu Hause arbeiten müssen (‘She’s had an obligation to work at home’)) necessarily receives a root interpretation. Eide shows – on the basis of examples from both Germanic and Romance languages – that this generalization does not hold. For one thing, under a future construal of the {modal + perfect aux.} construction, the modal © Cahiers Chronos 23 (2011): i-iv.


Tanja Mortelmans

typically receives a root reading (e.g. He must have finished the paper by tomorrow), a fact that is often acknowledged by proponents of the Mod-Perf ordering, but then typically excluded from further discussion. By the same token, data from languages like Danish, Dutch, German and Spanish indicate that the {perfect aux. + modal} ordering can give rise to epistemic and evidential interpretations of the modal as well. Eide argues that her compositional tense system (which assumes that every verb comes with its own tense package, i.e. is inherently tensed) is able to account for the ModPerf generalization as well as for the exceptions of the first type, i.e. {modal + perfect aux.} ordering giving rise to a root reading of the modal. In order to account for the exceptions of the second type ({perfect aux. + modal} ordering giving rise to an epistemic interpretation), she has to resort to a scope-reversal analysis. An Verhulst and Renaat Declerck (‘Constraints on the meanings of modal auxiliaries in counterfactual clauses’) embark on an in-depth analysis of the mechanisms that give rise to a counterfactual interpretation of clauses with both root and epistemic modals in English. For root modals, five such mechanisms can be distinguished. None of them, however, is found to be relevant for the rise of a counterfactual interpretation of the modality with an epistemic modal. With epistemic modals, a counterfactual interpretation can only be triggered by the context, which typically involves an (implicit or explicit) counterfactual condition. Compatibility with a counterfactual interpretation and the (im)possibility to apply one of the five mechanisms, it is argued, are therefore additional criteria to distinguish between root and epistemic readings of modal verbs in English. Hamida Demirdache and Myriam Uribe-Etxebarria (‘Non-root past modals’) try to provide a uniform account for the fact that although epistemic modals in English and Spanish have the same temporal syntax, i.e. are marked for past tense, the modals crucially differ in their interpretation to the extent that only in Spanish, past tense on an epistemic modal is temporally interpreted, i.e. it serves to locate the situation time of the verbal complement in the past. In English, on the other hand, epistemic past tense forms like might and could neither situate the modal time nor the situation time of the modal complement in the past. The authors assume that past-inflected modals in English are semantically tenseless and that the ordering between modal time and situation time is achieved via semantic binding. Andrea Rocci (‘The Italian modal dovere in the conditional : future reference, evidentiality and argumentation’) tackles the semantics of the conditional form dovrebbe in its epistemic use. This form, Rocci argues, cannot simply be considered as the downgraded version of epistemic deve, i.e. the differences between epistemic deve and epistemic dovrebbe cannot be straightforwardly related to different positions on a certainty scale. This is, among other things, indicated by the observation that deve and dovrebbe are



typically not interchangeable : whereas epistemic deve does not appear in future contexts, epistemic dovrebbe actually favors them. Dovrebbe, then, is analyzed as the conditional counterpart, i.e. the hypothetical version of future reference deve, the latter being neither epistemic nor evidential. Dovrebbe’s epistemic overtones result from the fact that the necessity it expresses depends on conditions, the epistemic status of which may vary (but very often this amounts to a probability reading). Gabriele Diewald and Elena Smirnova (‘The German evidential constructions and their origins : a corpus based analysis’) study the German ‘semi-modal’ verbs scheinen (‘seem’), werden (‘become’), drohen (‘threaten’) and versprechen (‘promise’), which combine with a zu-infinitive (in the case of scheinen, drohen and versprechen) or with a bare infinitive (in the case of werden). They are said to function as (more or less) grammaticalized evidential markers that – within the domain of inferential evidentiality – build a paradigm with clear-cut oppositions. Scheinen is a neutral inferential marker within this paradigm, werden an inferential conceptual marker and versprechen and drohen are regarded as inferential perceptual evidentials. The latter verbs differ with respect to the speaker’s evaluation of the state of affairs in the infinitival complement : it is viewed as positive (desirable) with versprechen and as negative (undesirable) with drohen. Diewald and Smirnova also embark on a diachronic analysis of the four verbs, which reveals, amongst other things, that the evidential meaning of werden and scheinen developed considerably earlier than the evidential use of drohen and versprechen. With respect to drohen and versprechen, their corpus analysis shows that the evidential reading of drohen is more widespread (i.e. more frequently found) from the beginning than the one with versprechen, a situation that also obtains in present-day German. In fact, drohen can be considered as the more strongly grammaticalized item of the two. Eser E. Taylan and Ayhan Aksu-Koç (‘Adverbs at the interface of tense, aspect and modality : evidence from Turkish’) discuss the Turkish adverbs az kalsın and nerdeyse, both meaning something like ‘almost’ or ‘nearly’ in order to explore the interface between these adverbs and verbal morphology in Turkish, the latter being a complex inflectional system with multifunctional grammatical markers. In fact, the authors show that both adverbs share the multifunctionality of the verbal markers in Turkish in that they have both aspectual and modal meanings. As aspectual markers, the adverbs focus on a phase before a boundary ; as modal adverbs they bear on the factuality status of the proposition. Their specific semantics derives from the interaction between the adverbs themselves, the aspectual-temporal meaning expressed by the verbal markers and the situation type of the verb. Although both adverbs can often be used interchangeably, the authors show that differences between them exist, for instance with respect to their


Tanja Mortelmans

pragmatic values. Moreover, the adverb nerdeyse has a somewhat broader distribution than az kalsın, the latter being mainly restricted to past nonperfective contexts. Zuzana Vokurkova (‘Epistemic modalities and evidentiality in Spoken Standard Tibetan’) presents an analysis of the complex and manifold epistemic endings in Spoken Standard Tibetan. One of her main findings pertains to the fact that at least some of the endings that are traditionally labeled ‘epistemic’ also convey evidential nuances, apart from expressing different degrees of likelihood. The author also addresses further differences between the epistemic markers concerning their frequency and their geographical spread, amongst other things. In their paper (‘Evidential extensions of aspecto-temporal forms in Japanese from a typological perspective’) Toshiyuki Sadanobu and Andrej Malchukov reject the traditional aspectual or aspecto-temporal approaches toward the continuous-perfect form teiru and the past form ta in present-day Japanese, as these are neither able to account for the polysemy of these markers nor for a number of restrictions on their use. Instead, they propose an evidential account for both markers which, from a synchronic point of view, is able to catch their general meaning and use. Although diachronically both teiru and ta undoubtedly derive from clearly aspectual sources (teiru originally had resultative meaning, whereas ta derives from the stativeresultative marker tari), a synchronic account, the authors argue, should focus more strongly on the evidential meaning components. Finally, Sumiyo Nishiguchi (‘Fake past and covert emotive modality’) discusses so-called fake past sentences, i.e. sentences with a past tense verb carrying a present time meaning (typically expressing the speaker’s surprise at finding something), in Japanese. These sentences provide arguments in favor of the position that monsters, i.e. context-shifting operators in the sense of Kaplan (1989) exist not only in complex clauses, but in simple clauses as well. This analysis rests on the assumption that with these fake past sentences, covert epistemic necessity modals, expressing implicit speaker attitudes, fulfill the ‘monstrous’ function such that they manipulate the temporal parameters of the construction.

Modals and the present perfect Kristin M. EIDE Norwegian University of Technology and Science

1. Introduction The generalization that in Germanic languages a modal preceding a perfect auxiliary gets an epistemic reading, as in (1a), and a modal following a perfect auxiliary gets a root reading, as in (1b), used to be widespread and largely undisputed 1. In what follows, I refer to this generalization as the Mod-Perf ordering generalization. Several authors made a similar claim for Romance languages ; cf. the Catalan data in (1c) and (1d) from Picallo (1990). (1)

a. Jon må ha spist. Jon must have eaten ‘Jon must have eaten.’ b. Marit har måttet reise mye. Marit has mustPERF travel much ‘Marit has had to travel a lot.’ c. En Joan pot haver anat a Banyoles. Joan can have gone to Banyoles ‘Joan may have gone to Banyoles.’ d. En Joan ha pogut anar a Banyoles. Joan has could go to Banyoles ‘Joan has been allowed to go to Banyoles.’





In more recent discussions on this topic, this generalization has been challenged by authors trying to determine its exact scope. A modal does not always get an epistemic reading in constructions like (1a) and (1c). Under certain circumstances, it may receive a root reading, as observed by several authors. Much less known, however, is the fact that the construction in (1b) and (1d) may also give rise to an epistemic reading of the modal in numerous languages and dialects 2. In an attempt to preserve the aforementioned generalization, one might argue that any modal allowing the perfect to take 1


Cf. e.g. Barbiers (1995), Cinque (1999), Dyvik (1999), van Gelderen (2003), and many others. Cf. Eide (2005). © Cahiers Chronos 23 (2011) : 1-20.


Kristin M. Eide

scope over it should be considered an alethic, not an epistemic, modal 3. This claim is weakened by the fact that in some languages a construction like (1b) and (1d) is seemingly possible for evidential modals, which cannot very easily be construed as alethic under any circumstances 4. In what follows, I investigate the Mod-Perf ordering generalization for a number of languages (section 2). The data that constitute exceptions to the generalization are examined in sections 3 and 4. I also propose a compositional tense system that can explain the generalization and most of its exceptions (section 5). However, certain idiosyncratic properties of one specific modal / present perfect construction are somewhat unexpected within this theory (section 6). 2. Data supporting the generalization In the literature on modals and perfect auxiliaries, a number of sources (such as Dyvik (1999) for Norwegian) illustrate the Mod-Perf ordering generalization ; not surprisingly, the modal in (2a) receives an epistemic reading and the one in (2b) a root reading. (2)

a. Han vil / kan / må / skal ha dreiet håndtaket. he will / can / must / shall have turned leverDEF ‘He will / may / must / is said to have turned the lever.’ b. Han har villet /kunnet / måttet / skullet dreie håndtaket. he has [want-to / can / must / shall]PERF turn leverDEF ‘He has wanted / been able / obliged to turn the lever.’

Wurmbrand (2001) provides German data to illustrate the Mod-Perf ordering generalization, noting that the epistemic reading is favored, but not forced, in (3a) ; Picallo (1990) observes the Mod-Perf ordering generalization for Catalan modals, as in (4). (3)

a. Moel muss die Oliven gegessen haben. Moel must the olives eaten have ‘Moel must have eaten the olives.’ b. Sue hat zu Hause arbeiten müssen. Sue has at home work must(IPP) ‘Sue (has) had an obligation to work at home.’


Cf. e.g. the discussion on modals and temporality in Cinque (1999). Vikner (1988) on Danish, Fagan (2001) on German, Eide (2005) on Norwegian.


Modals and the present perfect (4)


a. En Joan pot haver anat a Banyoles. Joan can have gone to Banyoles ‘Joan may have gone to Banyoles.’ b. En Joan ha pogut anar a Banyoles. Joan has could go to Banyoles ‘Joan has been allowed to go to Banyoles.’

The same pattern exists in English, though embedded modals must be substituted by have to (as English modals are never non-finite) ; (5a) is from van Gelderen (2003 : 32) and (5b) from Quirk et al. (1985 : 145). The ModPerf ordering generalization is crucial to certain points in the analysis of English modals and their complements in van Gelderen (2003). (5)

a. He must have read that letter. b. The administration has had to make unpopular decisions.

The Mod-Perf ordering is also claimed to hold for Dutch, as in (6) from Barbiers (1995 : 197). (6)

a. Jan moet zijn kamer gisteren hebben opgeruimd. John must his room yesterday have cleaned ‘John must have cleaned his room yesterday.’ b. Jan heeft de hele dag aardig moeten zijn. John has the whole day kind must be ‘John (has) had to be kind all day.’

Barbiers mentions that the sequence [modal > perfect auxiliary] may also yield a root reading of the modal (in (6a), we also need to replace the adverb gisteren ; cf. below). This means that the Mod-Perf ordering generalization does not always hold for a modal preceding a perfective auxiliary. For those favouring universalist analyses, the Mod-Perf ordering generalization is an argument in support of a universal ordering of syntactically expressed semantic operators in any clause of any language. Hence, this generalization is often discussed in the modal literature. Judging from the frequency with which this generalization is invoked, the Mod-Perf ordering generalization must be the predominant pattern. However, there are significant exceptions to this generalization. 3. Exceptions, part 1 : Root modal + perfect auxiliary Contrary to the prediction of the Mod-Perf generalization, a modal may receive a root reading as the only likely and natural reading when it precedes


Kristin M. Eide

a perfect auxiliary if there is something in the context (e.g. a future-denoting adverbial) to facilitate a ‘future state’ construal of the infinitival perfect. The following Norwegian data are from Eide (2005) : (7)

a. Pasienten må ha blitt feilbehandlet for å få erstatning. patientDEF must have been wrong-treated for to get compensation ‘The patient must have been subject to malpractice to get compensation.’ b. Du skal ha gjort ferdig leksene dine først. you shall have done finished homework yours first ‘You must have finished your homework first.’ c. Paris er en av de stedene man bare må ha vært. Paris is one of the places one just must have been ‘Paris is one of those places one simply needs to have been.’

We can find comparable data for other languages : (8) from Barbiers (1995) for Dutch, (9) from Brennan (2004) for English, and (10) from the internet for German. (8)

(9) (10)

Jan moet morgen zijn kamer opgeruimd hebben. John must tomorrow his room cleaned have ‘John must have cleaned his room (by) tomorrow.’ Students must have taken calculus by the start of their senior year. Bis Weihnachten muss ich folgendes erledigt haben. by Christmas must I the-following finished have ‘I must have finished the following before Christmas.’

These data are unexpected on an analysis adopting the Cinque hierarchy and on other universalist analyses, such as van Gelderen (2003), Stowell (2004) and others. Those theories take the Mod-Perf ordering generalization to express the universal order of modalities and perfect aspect ; i.e. Epistemic modality>Perfect aspect> Root modality. Although exceptions to the Mod-Perf ordering generalization exist in a number of languages, they are rarely included in a unified account with other Mod-Perf constructions. Instead, authors typically tend to do what Barbiers (1995 : 198, n. 41) does : « the order MOD AUX can also have a [root] interpretation […] The analysis must therefore be more complex […] I leave this for future research. »

In fact, most analyses of modals + infinitival perfect chose to ignore the future construal of the infinitival perfect altogether, either implicitly (by not

Modals and the present perfect


mentioning the possibility for future construal at all) or explicitly, as in Condoravdi (2002 : note 2), who says : « [f]or the purposes of this paper I ignore the future perfect reading of modals [+ infinitival perfect]. »

In my analysis in section 5, the ‘future construal’ data are readily accounted for in the same system as the well-behaved data of section 2. 4. Exceptions, part 2 : Perfect auxiliary + epistemic / evidential modal Although data like those in section 3 are usually ignored or relegated to a footnote, speakers usually accept them as grammatical and natural. Seemingly much more exotic are data where the order [perfect auxiliarymodal] gives rise to an epistemic (or evidential) reading of the modal. This construction is hardly found in written standards of Norwegian, but flourishes in most western and northern dialects (cf. Eide 2005). (11) a. Han har måtta arbeidd med det i heile natt. he has mustPERF workPERF on it in all night ‘He must have worked on it all night through.’ b. Han har skulla vorre en sjarmør i sine yngre daga. he has shallPERF bePERF a charmer in his younger days ‘He is supposed to have been a charmer in his youth.’ c. Hu har kunna vorre her og forre igjen. she has canPERF bePERF here and leavePERF again ‘She may have been here and left again.’

The construction is not confined to ‘obscure’ Norwegian dialects, however. Vikner (1988) gives Danish examples, in (12), originally from DavidsenNielsen (1988), illustrating non-root readings of modals in the perfect. Another Scandinavian dialect employing the same type of construction is the Finnish-Swedish dialect Solv (cf. Eide 2005) illustrated in (13). These data were kindly provided by Professor Jan-Ola Östman, Helsinki. (12) a. ?Der har måske nok kunnet være there has maybe probably could be ‘It might have been a mistake.’ b. ?Han har skullet bo i Århus. he has should live in Århus ‘He is supposed to have lived in Århus.’

tale om en feil. talk about a mistake


Kristin M. Eide

(13) a. An a noo måtta / måsta he has probably mustPERF ‘He must have worked on it all night.’ b. On a noo kona vari she has probably could been ‘She may have been here and left again.’

arbet me e work with it

hejla natten. all nightDEF

jeer å fori på nytt. here and left again

Comparable data exist for Dutch, cf. Boogaart (2007) ; for German, cf. Fagan (2001) 5 ; and for Spanish, cf. Stowell (2004) ; they are provided in (14), (15) and (16), respectively. (14) a. [...] hoe onzeker Beethoven geweest heeft moeten zijn. […] how insecure Beethoven been has must be ‘[...] how insecure Beethoven must have been.’ b. [...] dat het vertoon van strijdmachten de aanzet heeft that the display of armed forces the beginning has kunnen zijn voor de recente verandering [...] couldINF be for the recent change ‘[...] that the display of armed forces may have been the trigger for the recent change [...]’ (15) Er hat krank sein sollen. he has sick be shall ‘They claimed that he was sick.’ (16) El ladron ha podido entrar por la ventana. the thief has canPERF enter through the window ‘The thief may have entered through the window.’

These data present another potential problem for universalist approaches. According to universalist theories, epistemic and evidential modalities are semantically and syntactically outside the range of temporal and aspectual operators. The (« obligatory ») finite tense marking on epistemic and evidential modals is thus considered pleonastic, a semantically vacuous effect of the morphological requirement that finite clauses contain a finite verb as their first verbal element. Given these assumptions, there is no reason why epistemic modals would follow a perfect auxiliary. These data are commonly explained away in one of two ways. One is in essence that of Cinque (1999), claiming that instances of ‘epistemic’ modals 5


Note that Fagan (2001) observes a difference between evidential sollen and wollen on the one hand and epistemic modals like können and müssen on the other. The latter, she claims, cannot occur in the perfect.ȱ

Modals and the present perfect


clearly scoping under tense markers are not epistemic, but alethic. We might choose to consider the perfect as one relevant type of tense marker and adopt this solution for the problematic ‘epistemic’ modals. This might explain data like (13), (14), and (16), but it cannot explain (11b), (12b) and (15), containing evidential modals in the perfect. Evidential modals cannot very easily be argued to have alethic counterparts, as alethic modality is concerned with what is logically possible or necessary, not with the quotative type of modality of skulle and sollen. Vikner (1988) and Stowell (2004) offer a different solution. They argue that the perfect in such instances is “misplaced” and that scope reversal has to be part of the interpretation of such clauses. In what follows, we will examine this claim more carefully. But first, I will show how the compositional tense system of Eide (2005) accounts for the modal constructions listed thus far. 5. A compositional tense system (Eide 2005) In Eide (2005), I argue that tense is an inherent element of the verb, i.e. that every verb comes with its own tense package. In the garden variety Germanic language, the basic tense system consists of four verb forms, each specified as past or non-past and finite or non-finite 6. (17)



+Finite -Finite preterite participle




Whereas universalist theories treat tense as a semantically (and in a sense syntactically) autonomous element tied to a specific position in the clause, the present theory claims that all verbs are inherently tensed. There is no 6

In Eide (2006, 2007) I argue that main verbs in English are moving away from the paradigm in (17) and towards a collapsed paradigm like (i). (i) +Past preterite / participle -Past present / infinitive This explains the findings of e.g. Sampson (2002 : 19) : « […] nonstandard dialects […] frequently [have] the same form for past tense and past participle of an irregular verb which has distinct forms in the standard language (e.g. drove for both parts of DRIVE, done for both parts of DO). The form used for these two parts is sometimes identical to the base form, e.g. run, and sometimes different from any standard form, e.g. seed as past tense/participle of SEE.»


Kristin M. Eide

reason to assume that certain verbs are immune to tense marking since tense is part of the definition of being a verb (at least for the languages presently under consideration). Of course, there is no denying that finiteness is tied to specific positions in a clause, e.g. to the V2 position in V2 languages, but finiteness is not tense. It has much in common with pronominality ; in the verbal domain finiteness behaves rather like pronominality in the nominal domain. If these speculations have merit, one would also expect forms that behave like verbal anaphors. This is exactly the idea I pursue. I suggest that tense elements are subject to principles of Binding Theory and, in languages employing the finiteness distinction, finite forms behave like temporal pronouns while nonfinite forms behave like temporal anaphors 7. I elaborate on these potentially controversial claims in the following subsections. 5.1. Temporal referential chains One way of implementing the semantics of tense elements is to treat them as dyadic predicates of temporal ordering (Stowell 1995, Julien 2001). I will adopt this analysis, and follow Giorgi & Pianesi (1997) and Julien (2001) in assuming that the arguments of these dyadic predicates are events (where the term event should be understood to encompass dynamic events and states). This does not conflict with the observation that tense elements behave like pronouns and anaphors, as we will see shortly. I will assume that each verb contains an event argument (e in the sense of Davidson (1967)) in addition to a tense element, and each tense element anchors the event argument of its own verb to the preceding event. The speech event S also counts as an event, which means that in a sentence with n verbs, the total number of relevant events is n+1. In the typical case, the speech event functions as the anchor for the first (i.e. finite) verb ; the event argument of the first verb is the anchor for the tense element of the second verb, and so on. This gives rise to referential chains of temporality, not very different from nominal referential chains ; cf. (18) versus (19). (18)


Marit [skulle][ prøve] å [rømme]. ‘Marit would try to escape.’

I am not the first to suggest that ‘tense’ elements are pronominal and anaphoric counterparts to elements in the nominal domain ; cf. Partee (1973, 1984) and Enç (1987). Although I will not go into the details here, these analyses differ substantially from the one advocated here: in the present analysis, verbal pronominality is tied to finiteness and anaphoricity to non-finiteness. Non-finite forms are not considered tenses by Partee or Enç. It follows that these forms are irrelevant to their analyses.

Modals and the present perfect skulle e1

S T1 (19)


prøve e2


rømme e3


[Marit] sa at [hun] kunne høre [seg selv] le av [seg selv]. ‘Marit said that she could hear herself laugh at herself.’

A non-finite tense element, behaving like an anaphor, needs to find its antecedent in the same clause to be referentially bound (assuming here the classical version of Binding Theory ; cf. Chomsky 1981 : 188). The antecedent also serves as the first argument of the tense element. In practice, this implies that a non-finite tense element must be bound by a preceding verb in the same clause, and assuming Relativized Minimality (Rizzi 1990) 8, the binder must be the closest verb. Compare this to the anaphor seg selv, which also must be bound by a local antecedent. Just like seg selv, to yield a specific reference the temporal anaphor must be part of a chain where the topmost element is referential. In the nominal referential chain [hun, seg selv1, seg selv2], seg selv2 is bound by seg selv1, which in turn is bound by hun. In the temporal referential chain [skulle, prøve, rømme] of (18), the tense element of rømme is bound by prove, which in turn gets its tense element bound by skulle. Likewise, in the temporal referential chain of the embedded sentence in (19) [kunne, høre, le], le is bound by høre, which is bound by kunne. A finite tense-element, on the other hand, behaves like a pronoun, e.g. like hun, and must be unbound within its own clause, i.e. it finds its first argument outside its clause. It may be bound by something in the context (deictic), or by some syntactically realised antecedent in the matrix clause. Consider the nominal and temporal referential chains of (19). Either hun has a deictic reference or it is bound by Marit. The choice of binder for hun naturally affects the reference of seg selv2 and seg selv1. Likewise, the finite tense element of kunne may be bound deictically (i.e. by the speech event S), or by an antecedent in the matrix clause ; for (19) the verb sa is a likely candidate. The latter choice gives rise to a sequence-of-tense construal. In either case, the referential construal of the finite tense element of kunne affects the reference of the non-finite forms høre and le, a situation parallel to that of nominal referential chains. Although I have not yet investigated to what extent the binding theory constructed for nominal reference pertains to all facets of tense elements, I 8

Relativized Minimality imposes a locality constraint such that in a structure [..X..Y..Z..] the relation between X and Z is licit only if there is no Y (with the relevant feature) such that Y is structurally closer to Z than X


Kristin M. Eide

believe it to be suggestive that both nominal and temporal anaphors seem to be sensitive to the presence or absence of certain barrier categories, such as NPs. Thus, assuming that the English progressive, being non-finite, is a temporal anaphor might help explain the parallel behaviour of the progressive and the nominal anaphor herself in the following constructions. (20) a. b. c. d.

Maryi showed Lucyj [NP a picture of herselfi/j]. Maryi let Lucyj help herselfj. [NP Those sittingT1/S on the floor] wereT1 expelled 9. SittingT1 on the floor, John wasT1 expelled.

In (20a), herself may be bound by either Mary or Lucy whereas in (20b) the closest c-commanding antecedent Lucy is the only possible binder. Likewise, in (20c), the event encoded by the progressive may be simultaneous with S (‘those presently sitting on the floor’) or (near-)simultaneous with the time of the expelling event. Without the NP barrier in (20d), the sitting event can no longer be bound by S, but must be (near-)simultaneous with the expelling event. Again, without the NP barrier, the anaphor must be bound by the closest c-commanding binder. 5.2. Tense elements and aspectual features of the predicate Tense elements are not only specified as finite or non-finite, but also morphologically specified as ‘past’ or ‘non-past’. There are thus two pieces of information encoded in them : [+/-PAST] and [+/-FIN(ite)]. [+FIN] encodes pronominality, hence the relevant tense element is bound outside the clause ; it finds its first argument outside its own clause. S is typically the first argument of a finite tense element. [–FIN] encodes anaphoricity and must find its first argument within the clause, in the closest c-commanding antecedent. Hence the first argument of a non-finite tense element is the event argument of the preceding verb. [+PAST] encodes that the first argument is temporally subsequent to the second argument, e.g. (S > e1) ; S is after the event encoded by the finite verb. A non-past relation is the negation of the past-relation, i.e. “the first argument is not subsequent to the second argument,” such as ¬(S > eLIKE) in (21b). ¬(S > eLIKE) denotes that S is anything from ‘simultaneous with’ to ‘previous to’ the liking-event, thus the liking-event is ‘future’ or ‘present’ with respect to S. The aspectual properties of predicates are crucial for specifying temporal relations in this underspecified tense system. Dynamic non-past predicates typically give rise to a future reading, as in (21a), whereas stative non-past predicates give rise to a ‘present’ reading, as in (21b). 9

Thanks to Renaat Declerk for the example in (20c).

Modals and the present perfect (21) a. Marit kommer. Marit comesPRES ‘Marit will come.’ b. Marit liker Jon. Marit likesPRES Jon ‘Marit likes Jon.’


kommer [-PAST,+FIN] ¬ (S > eKOMME )

liker [-PAST,+FIN] ¬ (S > eLIKE)

The tense element itself does not determine whether the temporal relation is ‘future’ or ‘present’, only that this is non-past. Hence, the matrices of the tense elements in (21a) and (21b) are identical. The default construal of a dynamic predicate, however, is ‘future’ and that of a stative predicate ‘present’. Almost any stative predicate with a non-past tense element, although typically construed as ‘present’, may be forced to encode ‘future’ by means of a future-denoting adverbial. This is the case in (22). The futuredenoting adverbial clause in (22b) overrides the default construal of the stative predicate spiser as ‘present’, as in (22a), and a future construal of the predicate results 10. (22) a. Jon spiser. Jon eatPRES ‘Jon is eating.’

spiser [-PAST,+FIN] ¬ (S > eSPISE )

b. Jon spiser når han kommer. spiser [-PAST,+FIN] ¬ (S > eSPISE ) Jon eatPRES when he arrivePRES ‘Jon will eat when he arrives.’

The same pattern can be observed with the non-finite non-past, i.e. the infinitive. A non-finite (i.e. anaphoric) tense element takes as its first argument the event argument of the preceding verb. A dynamic verb gives rise to a ‘future’ construal, but relative to the preceding verb, not to S. The default construal of a stative infinitive is ‘present’ relative to the preceding verb unless a future-denoting adverbial is added. (23) a. Marit må komme. ‘Marit must come.’

komme [-PAST,-FIN] ¬ (eMÅ > eKOMME )

b. Jon må være på kontoret (før ni). være [-PAST,-FIN] ¬ (eMÅ > eVÆRE ) ‘Jon must be in his office (by nine).’


It is also possible to force a present reading of a dynamic predicate by adding adverbials forcing a habitual or progressive (i.e. in some sense stative) construal of the dynamic predicate.


Kristin M. Eide

Note that the ‘present’ construal of the infinitive yields an epistemic reading of the modal ; the ‘future’ reading of the infinitive facilitates a root reading. This is because root modals are what Bybee et al. (1994) call “futureprojecting” : the verbal complement of the root modal denotes events that are ‘future’ with respect to the modal. Root modals denote what is perceived as required or allowed to take place in the future (relative to the modal) ; the present or past situation is simply not relevant as the addressee cannot control or change situations that are already taking place or have taken place. In This door must be firmly closed, the present or past states of the door are simply irrelevant. In the words of Lyons (1977 : 843) : « John may have come yesterday construed as a permission-granting utterance is semantically anomalous for the same reason that Come yesterday, John! is anomalous. »

This gives rise to the situation depicted in (24), where ‘past’ and ‘future’ means ‘past’ and ‘future’ events relative to the time denoted by the tense element of the modal (typically simultaneous with S). (24)


‘future’ modal

Epistemic only

Root possible

5.3. The Mod-Perf ordering generalization and its exceptions Armed with these theoretical assumptions, we are in a position to explain the Mod-Perf ordering generalization. To start with the latter part of the generalization, the sequence [perfect auxiliary > modal] typically gives rise to a root reading of the modal. As observed by numerous authors, epistemic modals do not very easily undergo temporal alternation, a generalization expressed by the assumption that epistemic modals lack a time variable (Iatridou 1990, Fagan 2001). However, this cannot be claimed for epistemic modals universally. Dyvik (1999 : 5) provides the Norwegian sentence in (25) as evidence that epistemic modals can be under the scope of future tense 11. (25) a. Han vil kunne ha reist i morgen. He will canINF have left tomorrow ‘Tomorrow, he will possibly have left.’ 11

Cinque (1999) argues that modals in such sentences are alethic, not epistemic.

Modals and the present perfect


Likewise, one can construct examples where the modality encoded by epistemic modals seems to have undergone temporal alternation 12. For example, we can invoke a context where I am in the process of writing a novel and, as the author, I am free to construct and reconstruct the contingent truths of the universe as I please. (26) a. I går måtte butleren være morderen. Yesterday mustPRET butlerDEF be murdererDEF ‘Yesterday, the butler had to be the murderer.’ b. I morgen vil Marit måtte være morderen. Tomorrow will Marit mustINF be murdererDEF ‘Tomorrow, it will be the case that Marit must be the murderer.’

Since epistemic modals refer to what is possible or necessary according to the speaker’s mental model of the world, signalling temporal alternation for these modalities would typically imply that the speaker does not really trust his own mental world model, which might be an indication of insanity. An insane person, not trusting his own mental model of the world, might utter (26) felicitously even outside the context of writing a novel. The sane tend to treat their mental models as accurate, trustworthy, and not likely to change from one day to another. Root modals do not refer to a mental model, but to what is required and allowed in the real world ; therefore, they may undergo temporal alternation. Thus, a root modal in the perfect is unsurprising and natural in most Germanic languages (except English). The first part of the Mod-Perf generalization states that the sequence [modal-perfect auxiliary] yields an epistemic reading of the modal. This can be explained by means of our compositional tense system. Cf. the sentence in (27). (27)

Jon må ha spist.

må [-PAST, +FIN]

¬ (S > eMÅ )

‘Jon must have eaten.’

ha [-PAST, -FIN]

¬ (eMÅ > eHA)

spist [+PAST,-FIN]

(eHA > eSPIST )

The three verbs involved are må, ha, and spist ; the first two (i.e. the present and the infinitive) each encode a non-past relation between their two arguments. As both the modal and ha are stative verbs, the non-past relation is construed as simultaneity unless overridden by other factors. The third verb


This is reminiscent of generic statements expressing universal truths. They cannot very easily undergo temporal alternation either, unless we know that this is a “truth” that turns out to be “false”, e.g. Whales used to be fish, but nowadays they are mammals.


Kristin M. Eide

(i.e. the participle) encodes relative past, i.e. past relative to the preceding verb ha. This yields the following time line. (28)

S ¬ (S > eMÅ ) må ¬ (eMÅ > eHA ) ha

(eHA > eSPIST ) spist

Since root modality is future-projecting, it requires the event encoded by its complement to take place in the (relative) future. In (27) there is nothing to force a future construal of the modal’s complement [ha spist]. Ha is thus construed as simultaneous with må and, by transitivity, simultaneous with S. The participle spist is past relative to ha, hence by transitivity, past relative to the modal. Thus, the complement of the modal is not future-projecting, and a root reading of the modal is excluded. The data in section 3 illustrated root readings of modals in the sequence [modal > perfect auxiliary] for a range of languages, contrary to the ModPerf ordering generalization. These facts are readily explained in our compositional tense system, cf. (29). (29) Jon må ha spist før han kommer.

¬ (S > eMÅ )

Må [-PAST, +FIN]

‘Jon must have eaten

ha [-PAST, -FIN]

before he arrives.’

spist [+PAST,-FIN]

¬ (eMÅ > eHA) (eHA > eSPIST )

In (29), unlike in (27), the presence of a future-denoting adverbial forces at least one of the non-past relations to be construed as ‘future’ with respect to S, to meet the semantic requirements of the adverbial. Although a future construal of the modal is possible, I will not discuss this possibility further here (but cf. Eide 2005). The tense element most likely to be forced into a future construal in this context is the perfect auxiliary ha. This gives rise to the reading ‘by the time of Jon’s arrival, a state must exist, consisting in the aftermath of the event of Jon’s eating’. (30)

Jon's arrival


¬ (S > eMÅ ) Må (eHA > eSPIST ) spist

¬ (eMÅ > eHA )


Modals and the present perfect


Note that the participle spist could be anywhere on the time line, as long as it is past relative to ha. Thus, although it is positioned as ‘future relative to S’ in (30), this placement is in principle arbitrary as long as it is to the left of ha. This also supports our intuition about this construction : we simply do not know when the eating took place, before S or after S, only that it must be ‘past relative to ha’. Since the construal in (30) of the tense relations of (29) yields a complement that is future relative to the modal, the root reading of the modal is felicitous (recall 24). This system, unlike universalist theories, does not predict a particular relative ordering of root and epistemic modals with respect to tense or with respect to the perfect. Instead, all verbs, even auxiliaries and modals, are equipped with their own tense package. There is nothing in this tense system to exclude the possibility for ‘real’ tense marking on epistemic and evidential modals ; instead, data like those in section 4 could be taken to support the fundamental flexibility built into this compositional tense system. I have recognized, though, that epistemic modals are reluctant to undergo temporal alternations, for the reasons stated above. So what are the relevant facts for the data in section 4? 6. Modals and the present perfect puzzle The present perfect is sometimes rather sloppily described with the generalization that it, unlike the preterite, is incompatible in many languages with a punctual adverbial. However, the Norwegian present perfect does accept punctual adverbials, as long as they can be construed as ‘future’ or ‘habitual’, cf. (31b) 13. (31) a. Marit spiste grøten sin klokka to. Marit ate porridgeDEF PossRefl clock two ‘Marit ate her porridge at two.’ (past punctual, habitual,*future state) b. Marit har spist grøten sin klokka to. Marit has eaten porridgeDEF PossRefl clock two ‘Marit has eaten her porridge at two.’ (future state, habitual, *past punctual)

The Norwegian present perfect is always felicitous with adverbials referring to the current cycle (‘this week’, ‘this morning’, ‘this year’, ‘this century’, etc.), and always infelicitous with adverbials denoting the previous cycle (‘last week’, ‘last year’, ‘last month’, etc.). Hence, a better test for distinguishing the present perfect from other tenses is to add an adverbial denoting ‘previous cycle’, e.g. I går ‘yesterday’. Replacing klokka to in (31) 13

Comrie (1985: 78-9) and Giorgi & Pianesi (1997: 111) also observe that the present perfect accepts punctual adverbials with a habitual reading.


Kristin M. Eide

with i går gives rise to the ungrammatical (31b), cf. (32a). As is well known, this effect disappears when an infinitival perfect is embedded under a modal ; cf. (32b). (32) a. *Marit har spist grøten sin i går. Marit has eaten porridgeDEF PossRefl yesterday ‘Marit has eaten her porridge yesterday.’ b. Marit må ha spist grøten sin i går. Marit must have eaten porridgeDEF PossRefl yesterday ‘Marit must have eaten her porridge yesterday.’

To explain the facts in (32), Eide (2005) noted that many languages distinguish between immediate past and remote past (cf. Bybee et al. 1994 : 100). One possible assumption is that languages where the present perfect rejects ‘previous cycle’ adverbials, like Norwegian, employ the present perfect as the immediate past and the preterite as the remote past. The immediate past is used for events of the current cycle and the remote past for events of the previous cycle. In certain languages, like German, this distinction between remote past and immediate past has lost most of its significance and previous cycle adverbials are possible with the present perfect. This distinction between the immediate and remote past is also not supported in some constructions in languages like Norwegian, which otherwise maintain the distinction productively. The modal construction in (32b) does not support this distinction since the remote past does not have a non-finite version in these languages. As noted by Hofmann (1976), the infinitival perfect is the only way of expressing ‘past’ under a modal, cf. (33). Thus, (33c) must be the answer to both (33a) and (33b) since there is no way to express the remote past (i.e. the preterite) of (33b) under a modal. Instead, the non-finite version of the immediate past (the perfect) must serve as a substitute for the remote past, fulfilling the selectional requirements of the modal for an infinitival complement. (33) a. A :

b. A :

Tror du Marit har drept ham ? believe you Marit has killed him ‘Do you believe that Marit has killed him ?’ Tror du Marit drepte ham ? believe you Marit killed him ‘Do you believe that Marit killed him ?’

Modals and the present perfect c. B :


Hun må ha drept ham. she must have killed him ‘She must have killed him.’

We can observe this substitute solution effect in other constructions where the semantics of the clause would require the remote past, but the preterite cannot meet the selectional requirements for an infinitive ; cf. (34) where a finite preterite is once again replaced by a non-finite infinitival perfect. (34) a. Hun hevder at hun ankom she claims that she arrived ‘She claims that she arrived yesterday.’ b. Hun hevder å ha ankommet she claims to have arrived ‘She claims to have arrived yesterday.’

i går. yesterday i går. yesterday

As for the data in section 4, exemplified in (35), these constructions do in fact accept previous cycle adverbials. Crucially, the construction is no longer potentially ambiguous since the root reading of the modal is suddenly excluded. (35)

Marit har måtta ete grøten sin Marit has must-PERF eaten porridgeDEF PossRefl ‘Marit must have eaten her porridge yesterday.’ *‘Marit has had to eat her porridge yesterday.’

i går. yesterday

Only in the case of root modals does the construction in (35) behave as a true perfect, rejecting previous cycle adverbials. Moreover, there is a clear difference between the root and epistemic readings of the modal when we consider its temporal interpretation of the data in section 4. Only in the root case does the modal yield a ‘relative past’ reading of the participle. When construed as epistemic, the reading of the modal is not ‘relative past’ ; instead, the modality is interpreted as ‘true at S’ 14. These two facts suggest that we do in fact need some kind of ‘scope reversal’ analysis along the lines of Stowell (2004) and Vikner (1988) to account for the interpretation of the data in section 4, although our compositional tense system can readily account for all the others.


Cf. Also Stowell’s (2004) discussion of the English example There had to be at least a hundred people there.


Kristin M. Eide

7. Conclusion The (allegedly universal) generalization that a modal preceding a perfect auxiliary gets an epistemic reading, and a modal following a perfect auxiliary gets a root reading — what I referred to above as the Mod-Perf ordering generalization — used to be widespread and largely undisputed. The data presented in this paper clearly show, however, that the Mod-Perf ordering generalization cannot be upheld for a number of Germanic and Romance languages. Moreover, most works investigating modals and the perfect implicitly or explicitly exclude from the discussion the future reading of [modal + infintival perfect] constructions. In contrast, I offer a compositional tense system to give a unified account for all combinations of the modal and the perfect, obeying a « what you see is what you get » restriction. However, the final section of the paper acknowledged the fact that we need to relax this restriction for one particular construction ; the present perfect of an epistemic modal (a construction which is frequently claimed not to exist). For this particular construction, we need a scope-reversal analysis along the lines of Stowell (2004) or Vikner (1988). References Barbiers, S. (1995). The Syntax of Interpretation. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Leiden. Boogaart, R. (2007). The past and perfect of epistemic modals, in: L. de Saussure ; J. Moeschler ; G. Puskas, (eds), Recent Advances in the Syntax and Semantics of Tense, Mood and Aspect, Berlin : Mouton De Gruyter, 47-70. Brennan, V. (2004). Modalities, MS, Vanderbilt University, Nashville. Bybee, J.; Revere, P.; Pagliuca, W. (1994). The Evolution of Grammar. Tense, Aspect, and Modality in the Languages of the World, Chicago : The University of Chicago Press. Chomsky, N. (1981). Lectures on Government and Binding. The Pisa Lectures, Berlin : Mouton De Gruyter. Cinque, G. (1999). Adverbs and Functional Heads, Oxford : Oxford University Press. Comrie, B. (1985). Tense, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press. Condoravdi, C. (2002). Temporal Interpretation of Modals. Modals for the Present and for the Past, in : D. Beaver ; S. Kaufmann ; B. Clark ; L. Casillas, (eds), The Construction of Meaning, Stanford, CA : CSLI Publications, 59-88. Davidsen-Nielsen, N. (1988). On Tense and Mood in English and Danish, Ms, Copenhagen School of Economics, Business Administration, and Modern Languages.

Modals and the present perfect


Davidson, D. (1967). The logical form of action sentences, in : N. Rescer, (ed.), The Logic of Decision and Action, Pittsburg, PA : University of Pittsburgh Press, 81-95. Dyvik, H. (1999). The universality of f-stucture : discovery or stipulation? The case of modals, in : M. Butt ; T. Holloway King, (eds), Proceedings of the LFG99 Conference, CSLI Publications. Eide, K. M. (2005). Norwegian Modals, Berlin : Mouton De Gruyter. Eide, K. M. (2006). Finiteness. The haves and the have-nots. Talk at LAGB 2006 (Annual meeting of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain), Newcastle upon Tyne, August 31st, 2006. Also : MS, Scandinavian dept. NTNU. Eide, K. M. (2007). Finiteness and inflection : The syntax your morphology can afford, http :// Enς, M. (1987). Anchoring Conditions for Tense, Linguistic Inquiry 18 : 633657. Fagan, S. (2001). Epistemic modality and tense in German, Journal of Germanic Linguistics 13 : 3. Gelderen, E. van (2003). ASP(ect) in English Modal Complements, Studia Linguistica 57.1 : 27-44. Giorgi, A. ; Pianesi F. (1997). Tense and aspect : from semantics to morphosyntax, Oxford : Oxford University Press. Hofmann, T. R. (1976). Past Tense Replacement and the Modal System, in : J. D. McCawley, (ed.), Syntax and Semantics 7, New York : Academic Press, 86-100. Iatridou, S. (1990). The Past, the Possible and the Evident, Linguistic Inquiry 21 : 123-29. Julien, M. (2001). The syntax of complex tenses, The Linguistic Review 18 : 125-167. Lyons, J. (1977). Semantics, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press. Partee, B. (1973). Some Structural Analogies Between Tenses and Pronouns in English, The Journal of Philosophy 70 : 601-609. Partee, B. (1984). Nominal and Temporal Anaphora, Linguistics and Philosophy 7 : 243-286. Picallo, M. (1990). Modal verbs in Catalan, Natural language and Linguistic Theory 8 : 285-312. Quirk, R.; Greenbaum, S. ; Leech, G. ; Svartvik, J. (1985). A comprehensive grammar of the English language, London : Longman. Rizzi, L. (1990). Relativized Minimality, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. Sampson, G. (2002). Regional variation in the English verb qualifier system, English Language and Linguistics 6 : 17–30. Stowell, T. (1995). What do the present and past tenses mean?, in : P. Bertinetto ; J. Bianchi ; V. Higginbotham ; M. Squartini, (eds),


Kristin M. Eide

Temporal Reference, Aspect and actionality, Vol. 1, Semantic and Syntactic Perspectives, Torino : Rosenberg and Sellier, 381-396. Stowell, T. (2004). Tense and Modals, in : J. Guéron ; J. Lecarme, (eds), The Syntax of Time, Cambridge, MA : The MIT Press, 621-635. Vikner, S. (1988). Modals in Danish and Event Expressions, in : Working papers in Scandinavian Syntax 39 : 1-33. Wurmbrand, S. (2001). Infinitives. Restructuring and Clause Structure, Berlin : Mouton De Gruyter.

Constraints on the meanings of modal auxiliaries in counterfactual clauses 1 An VERHULST Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Renaat DECLERCK Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

1. Introduction As is well-known, auxiliaries (and semi-auxiliaries) expressing ‘root’ (‘nonepistemic’ – see section 4) modality can sometimes be used in clauses receiving a counterfactual (‘contrary to fact’) reading 2. The following are examples of such sentences. (In section 5 we will examine the various ways in which the sense of counterfactuality is brought about in them.) (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)

[If you were a student], you could travel at half-price. [If you had been a student], you could have travelled at half-price. The way they are staring at me, I {could / might} be an alien coming from outer space. (Declerck 1991 : 400) [These paintings look so modern.] They might have been made yesterday. (Declerck 1991 : 400) He was to have been in his office. The decision should have been made tomorrow [but now we understand that there is another week’s grace]. (Google UK) I {could / might} have been in Iraq now. [It’s 10 p.m.] Those kids should be in bed.

Examples in which an epistemic modal auxiliary is used in a counterfactual (henceforth : CF) clause are harder to come by, but can be found :



We would like to thank the Fund for Scientific Research (Flanders, Belgium) for supporting this research and Susan Reed for her very useful comments. As we will see, it is often not the modal auxiliary by itself that expresses a root or epistemic meaning : must, may, should, etc. can appear in clauses which, according to context, can receive either a root or an epistemic reading. Phrases like ‘auxiliary expressing root modality’ or ‘root modal auxiliary’ may therefore be sloppy abbreviations of ‘modal auxiliary used in a clause receiving a root interpretation’. © Cahiers Chronos 23 (2011): 21-42.

22 (9)


An Verhulst & Renaat Declerck [If you had taken the path through the woods], you might have got lost. (= ‘It is possible that, if you had taken the path through the woods, you would have got lost.’) Columbus is usually thought of as a happy-go-lucky who should have died [because he didn’t have provision and water enough to get to India, but I think this is an error]. (Cobuild)

The purpose of the present article is to investigate the possibilities of using a modal auxiliary in a CF clause. We will attempt to find answers to such questions as ‘Which mechanisms produce counterfactuality ?’, ‘What exactly is represented as CF : the modality or the situation referred to by the infinitival clause following the auxiliary ?’ and ‘Which type of modal meaning (root / epistemic) is compatible with a CF reading ?’. 2. Terminological preliminaries Before starting the analysis proper, we will briefly clarify some concepts. (a) We use SITUATION as a cover term for the various possible types of contents of clauses, i.e. as a cover term for anything that can be expressed in a clause, be it an action, an event, a process or a state. The verb ACTUALIZE will be similarly used as a cover term for the predicates that are typically associated with one of these four situation types. Thus, when it is irrelevant whether a clause refers to the performance of an action, the happening of an event, the development of a process or the existence of a state, we will say that the clause in question refers to the ACTUALIZATION of a situation. (b) A basic distinction in connection with clauses involving a modal auxiliary is that between the modal auxiliary and the RESIDUE (Huddleston 1984 : 167-8). The residue is what is left of the clause when the modal auxiliary is abstracted from it, viz. the subject plus the nontensed and nonmodal proposition which has the form of an infinitival clause. Thus, in Tom can swim, ‘Tom swim’ is the residue. The situation denoted by this untensed proposition is the RESIDUE SITUATION (henceforth abbreviated to ‘R’). (c)

Factual clauses locate the actualization of a situation in the FACTUAL This is the real world, comprising all the situations that are actualizing at S (= the moment of speaking or writing) or have actualized before that moment. (Situations that are predicted at S belong to a world that is ‘not-yet-factual (at S)’ – see Declerck 2006 : 102-103.) WORLD.

Constraints on the meanings of modal auxiliaries in counterfactual clauses


3. Definition of modality We define modality as follows. A clause receives a modal reading (= interpretation) if and only if it evokes a MODAL WORLD, i.e. a possible world which is not the factual world but is evaluated in terms of its relation to the factual world. We will henceforth use ‘M-’ as an abbreviation for ‘modal’. As we will see, there are several types of M-worlds, such as (a) the world corresponding to the kind of modality (e.g. necessity) that is expressed by a modal auxiliary (e.g. must creates a modal world of necessity in which the R actualizes), (b) CF worlds, (c) ‘not-yet-factual’ worlds, (d) ‘suppositional worlds’ created by a conditional conjunction or by an expression like Suppose or Supposing that... An M-world is always created by a MODALIZER, such as a modal auxiliary or adverb, a verb like expect or wish, the subjunctive mood, the imperative mood, a conditional conjunction, etc. An M-auxiliary refers to an M-STATE which is usually located in the factual world and creates a nonfactual M-world in which the actualization of the R is located. For example, in Henry must clean his room, the M-state ‘[For Henry to clean his room] is necessary’ is located in (i.e. is said to exist in) the factual world, while the not-yet-factual actualization of Henry’s cleaning his room is located in the root M-world in which it is necessary for certain situations to actualize. Similarly, in Susan may be ill, the M-state ‘It is possible that…’ is represented as actualizing in the factual world, while the R (Susan being ill) is represented as actualizing in the M-world created by may. Because of the possibility relation between the two worlds, the R is interpreted as possibly actualizing in the factual world. The sentence Susan may be ill is therefore interpreted as ‘It is possible that Susan is ill’. When the M-state (e.g. ‘be possible’) is represented as actualizing in the factual world, the M-world is GROUNDED in the factual world. This is the case, e.g., in Ken must be at home, where the M-state is ‘[Ken’s being at home] is necessary’ (irrespective of whether the reading is epistemic or root). There are also occasional instances in which one M-world is grounded in another. Thus, in If I had not given in, I might have been killed, the suppositional M-world (created by if) is grounded in the epistemic M-world (created by might) comprising theoretically possible actualizations : the sentence means ‘It is possible that if I had not given in, I would have been killed’ 3. 3

To one of the reviewers the epistemic M-world (I might have been killed) seems to be grounded in the suppositional one (if I had not given in), rather than vice versa. We think that if this were the case, the sentence would have to be paraphrased differently, viz. ‘If I had not given in, it would have been possible that I was killed’. We do not find this analysis appropriate. However, even if it were correct, it would also corroborate the point we are making, viz. that “There are occasional instances in which one M-world is grounded in another”.


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Note that this definition of modality covers epistemic modality as well as root modality. The difference is that in the case of root modality nothing is said about the actualization or likelihood of actualization of the R. Sentences like Henry must clean his room or An aerosol can explode locate an M-state (‘be necessary’ or ‘be possible’) in the factual world. This M-state evokes a nonfactual M-world. Thus, in An aerosol can explode, can creates a world of possibilities which concern the actualization of the situation of an aerosol exploding. This world exists even if there has not been a single instance of such an actualization in the factual world. The world in question is therefore a NON-FACTUAL (= not factual) world. The speaker asserts the existence of this M-world without saying anything about actualization of the R in the factual world. There may or may not have been explosions in the factual world, but the sentence An aerosol can explode does not say anything about the factual world (except that one of the actualizations that are factual is the actualization of the M-state ‘be possible’). For the rest can just creates a nonfactual (modal) world in which a possibility is located. In sum, irrespective of whether the modality is epistemic or not, the Mauxiliary evokes an M-world. If the M-state is represented as actualizing in the factual world, the M-world is grounded in the factual world. However, it is also possible for an M-world to be grounded in another M-world (which is itself grounded in the factual world). 4. Modal readings and types of nonfactual worlds (a) We speak of EPISTEMIC modality when the degree of compatibility between the M-world and the factual world is at stake. Epistemic utterances express the speaker’s evaluation of the relation between the M-world in which the R actualizes and the factual world. Thus, Bill may be stuck in a traffic jam expresses that the situation (state) of Bill being stuck in a traffic jam is possibly actualizing in the factual world. (b) By contrast, utterances that are interpreted in terms of ROOT modality are concerned with the factors that render the actualization of the R (im)possible or (un)necessary, as in the following examples : (11) (12)


You may leave tomorrow. (The speaker is granting permission.) You {can / cannot} buy tickets in the office over there. (The addressee’s ability or inability to buy tickets at a certain place depends on a circumstantial factor.) The fugitives must leave the country because their visas expired last week. (The expiration of the visas makes it necessary to leave the country.)

Constraints on the meanings of modal auxiliaries in counterfactual clauses


(c) Clauses receive a COUNTERFACTUAL (CF) reading if the speaker locates a situation in a CF world, i.e. in an alternative world which is exactly the reverse of (what the speaker treats as) the factual world. Thus, Bill ought to have helped me locates Bill’s helping me in a CF world : the speaker makes it clear that Bill did not help him. As noted by B. Dancygier and E. Sweetser (2005 : 68), an utterance can only be labelled ‘CF’ if it is aimed at separating facts from fantasy or lies ; there must be an immediate clash between the CF world and the factual world (p.73). That this is correct becomes clearer if one compares CF worlds with ‘imaginary’ worlds – see the next point. (d) An IMAGINARY world is a world that is different from the factual world, not in that it is the exact reverse of the factual world, but in that it only contains ‘invented’ situations. In other words, an imaginary world results from a mere thought experiment, it represents a purely invented scenario. As a result, in creating an imaginary world, a speaker is not concerned about its relation with the factual world at all. R. Declerck and S. Reed (2001 : 79-80) point out in connection with imaginary conditional clauses that these « presuppose or implicate nothing in connection with the (in)compatibility of the suppositional […] world with the real world. »

The following example illustrates this : (14) [He would have loved a surprise party.] And if you had been able to attend it, he would have been mad with joy.

The conditional sentence in this example describes the addressee’s presence at a party that actually never took place. « This means that it refers to a world which is not represented as truthconditionally related to the actual world. » (Declerck & Reed 2005 : 55)

By contrast, in (15), both clauses refer to a situation that is located in a CF world, i.e. in an M-world which is « negatively related to the actual world, in that it is explicitly different from (i.e. contrary to) it. » (Declerck & Reed 2001 : 55-56) (15)

You shouldn’t have gone through the woods. You might have got lost.

5. Root modality combined with counterfactuality Consider the following examples (repeated here for convenience) : (1)

[If you were a student], you could travel at half-price.

26 (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)

An Verhulst & Renaat Declerck [If you had been a student], you could have travelled at half-price. The way they are staring at me, I {could / might} be an alien coming from outer space. [These paintings look so modern.] They might have been made yesterday. He was to have been in his office. The decision should have been made tomorrow [but now we understand that there is another week’s grace]. (Google UK) I {could / might} have been in Iraq now. [It’s 10 p.m.] Those kids should be in bed.

In (1)-(2), the relevant clause is each time interpreted as CF because it is the head clause of a CF conditional (i.e. a sentence consisting of a CF conditional clause and a head clause). As noted by Declerck & Reed (2001 : 55), a head clause combining with a CF conditional clause is normally (by implicature) also interpreted as CF. The head clauses of (1) and (2) form no exception to this rule and are understood as CF. Whereas (1) refers to the present, (2) can have either present or past time reference – see also Declerck & Reed (2001 : 248). It is also worth noting that in both cases it is the existence of the modality (permission) that is interpreted as CF. It naturally follows that the present or past actualization of the R is considered as CF too. Sentences (3)-(8) do not form part of a CF conditional. Example (3) illustrates MODAL BACKSHIFTING (or FORMAL DISTANCING), which is a basic mechanism producing either a tentative or a CF reading : the present tense form of the auxiliary is replaced by its past tense form. I {could / might} be an alien, which means ‘For me to be an alien would be possible’, hence ‘It would seem as if I were an alien’, is the modally backshifted version of I {can / may} be an alien, which means ‘For me to be an alien is possible’. In this case it is only the M-auxiliary can or may (expressing root possibility) that is modally backshifted – be is left unchanged – but representing the Mstate as CF is sufficient for the proposition ‘I be an alien’ to be interpreted as CF too : the actualization of the R is located in the CF world. Modal backshifting of the auxiliary is also to be observed in (1) : because the existence of the permission is to be represented as CF, the speaker uses could rather than can. Sentence (4) is exactly like (3), except that it uses have been instead of be. This is because the actualization of the R must be located in the past rather than in the present. The use of the perfect infinitive is thus unrelated to the mechanism of modal backshifting : have is used here to express anteriority and thus has a purely temporal function. Sentence (4) is therefore interpreted something like ‘For these paintings to have been made yesterday would be possible’. (This is an important point : not any form consisting of

Constraints on the meanings of modal auxiliaries in counterfactual clauses


an M-auxiliary in the past tense plus a perfect infinitive is a modally backshifted form. Thus, could have V-ed does not trigger a CF reading in [‘Has he spoken to the boss yet ?” –– “I’m not sure. I suppose] he could have seen him yesterday.’ The perfect infinitive here simply expresses anteriority of R to S.) In (5), it is not the M-semi-auxiliary that is modally backshifted but the infinitive. The result is that it is the actualization of the R (and not the Mstate) that is interpreted as CF. He was to have been in his office says that there was a past obligation (resulting from some kind of arrangement or rule) for him to be in his office at a given time, but that he was not there at that time. The existence of the obligation itself is not CF. In (6) too, only the infinitive is modally backshifted. Again, it is not the existence of the necessity (advisability) expressed by should or ought to that is interpreted as CF but the actualization of the R. In isolation, (7) is an instance of DOUBLE MODAL BACKSHIFTING. Both the M-auxiliary and the infinitive are backshifted to create a CF reading. The sentence is interpreted something like ‘It would have been possible for me to be in Iraq now, (but I am not).’ Thus, both the M-state (in this case : root possibility) and the R are not only interpreted but also represented as CF 4. Sentence (8), finally, is special in that it yields a CF reading (‘The kids are not in bed’) 5 without there being a verb form expressing counterfactuality. This is because the CF reading is a pragmatic implicature here, which arises via Grice’s (1975) Maxim of Relation (= Relevance). Other things being equal, there is no point in telling someone that the children should be in bed if they are already in bed. The sentence therefore only makes sense if the children are not in bed. Sentences (1)-(8) are all examples with root M-auxiliaries. They show that, as regards root modality, there are five different paths to a CF reading and three possibilities as far as the scope of the counterfactuality is concerned 6 : 4



This mechanism of double backshifting can also be observed in cases like the following : I hoped to sit beside her.  I had hoped to sit beside her.  I had hoped to have sat beside her. I would like to see her tonight.  I would have liked to see her tonight.  I would have liked to have seen her tonight. If he had a car, he would collect us.  If he’d had a car, he’d have collected us.  If he had’ve had a car, he’d have collected us. We are disregarding the epistemic interpretation of (8) because in the present section we are considering ‘Root modality combined with counterfactuality’. Of course, there are differences between the various root auxiliaries. For example, should have V-ed easily yields a CF reading, whereas must have V-ed does not.


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(a) If the clause with the M-auxiliary is in the scope of a CF condition, as in (1)-(2), or if the auxiliary is modally backshifted, as in (3)-(4), the modality itself is represented as CF, i.e. the M-state and the corresponding M-world are said not to exist. It follows that the R must be CF too, i.e. that it does not actualize in the factual world. Thus, (1) expresses that, for lack of permission, the addressee cannot travel at half-price. (b) If only the infinitive is modally backshifted, as in (5)-(6) or if the sense of counterfactuality is a pragmatic implicature, as in (8), the modality is factual (i.e. the M-state is said to exist in the factual world). Only the actualization of the R is represented as CF. (c) If there is double modal backshifting, as in (7), both the M-state and the actualization of the R are represented as CF. In section 8 we will examine whether the same paths can lead to a CF reading of a clause with an epistemic M-auxiliary. However, before doing so it is necessary to introduce some further concepts in connection with epistemic modality. Sections 6 and 7 will be devoted to this. 6. The epistemic scale A. ‘Epistemic’ has to do with knowledge. We can say that there is epistemic meaning when either knowledge or a degree of (un)certainty is expressed about whether there {is / was / has been / will be} actualization of a situation in the factual world or in the expected future extension of it 7. In other words, a clause with an M-auxiliary receives an epistemic reading if the speaker expresses his opinion on the chances of actualization of the R in the factual or future world. These chances represent different values on an epistemic scale which ranges from ‘factual’ to ‘CF.’ This scale consists of (at least) the following values : (a) factuality : there is no doubt about the actualization of the (positive or negative) 8 situation in the speaker’s factual world, because that actualization is affirmed (asserted as being a fact in that world) : John is ill ; John is not ill. (b) strong necessity : [John is not here.] He must be ill. 7


The difference between ‘knowledge’ and ‘a degree of (un)certainty’ is explained in point B below. It may be worth stressing that, contrary to what is sometimes claimed, negation is not a modalizer. A negative clause like John is not ill does not express counterfactuality (but rather what we might call ‘the factuality of nonactualization’.) This means that both John is ill and John is not ill represent the actualization of a (positive or negative) situation as ‘factual’. Both sentences should therefore be treated as nonmodal sentences – see section B.

Constraints on the meanings of modal auxiliaries in counterfactual clauses


(c) weak necessity : [The money is not in the till, so] it should already be in the safe. (d) probability : John may well be ill. (e) possibility : John may be ill ; It might be true. (f) improbability : It should not be difficult to find his address. (g) impossibility : It cannot be true ; You cannot be serious ! (h) not-yet-factuality : the actualization of the situation is not located in the factual world but rather in a world that is not-yet-factual at a given time (such as S). For example, John will come tomorrow. (i) counterfactuality : [You shouldn’t have gone through the woods.] You might have got lost. Because a CF world is the opposite of the factual world, there is no doubt about the actualization of a (positive or negative) situation in a CF world. (Note that, unlike the actualization of a negative situation, the actualization of a CF situation is not located in the factual world. It is located in a CF world, which is defined in relation to the factual world.) B. There are some further remarks to be made. First, the values in between the extremes ‘factual’ and ‘CF’ can be referred to as INFERENTIAL VALUES or RELATIVE FACTUALITY VALUES. Unlike the extremes, they all imply some degree of uncertainty on the part of the speaker. Second, only the inferential values and the counterfactuality value are modal values. Factuality, which means that the speaker expresses his knowledge about the actualization of a situation in the factual world, is the one case in which there is an epistemic value but no M-world. (Obviously, a sentence with the epistemic value ‘factual’ cannot refer to a nonfactual world.) Thirdly, counterfactuality differs from the other epistemic M-values (i.e. the ‘inferential’ values) in that it is not a relative factuality value : it is the only nonfactual epistemic M-value that does not imply a degree of uncertainty about the actualization of the R in the factual world. Because counterfactuality is defined in relation to the factual world – a situation is CF if it is located in a world which is the reverse of the factual world – there is no doubt about the ABSOLUTE FACTUALITY status of CF situations. Thus, in [Kim shouldn’t have gone through the woods.] She might’ve got lost, there is a clear understanding that Kim did not get lost when she went through the woods. Unlike She may get lost, the clause She might have got lost does not leave any room for uncertainty. C. The following chart summarizes the main conclusions arrived at in AB:


An Verhulst & Renaat Declerck

epistemic scale nonmodal epistemic value

modal epistemic values




= absolute factuality value (a)

= relative factuality values (b–h)

= absolute factuality value (i)

7. Evaluation time A. A useful concept in the understanding of epistemic modality is the notion of EVALUATION TIME. The evaluation time is the moment when the content of a proposition is evaluated, i.e. the time when the epistemic value is established. For example, in Bill might come tomorrow, the evaluation time is the moment of speaking (S), while the time of (potential) actualization of the R is future : ‘It is possible that Bill will come tomorrow’. On the other hand, the evaluation time is a past time in examples like the following : (16)

[They hadn’t had the treasure with them when they had been rescued, so] it had to be hidden on the island.

Such a clause usually features in a context of free indirect speech, where it is actually a report of another speech act, as appears from the paraphrase ‘He thought that the treasure had to be hidden on the island.’ The speech act that is reported in (16) is an assumption (in the present tense) : ‘The treasure must be hidden on the island’. Since there are two speech acts, there must be two evaluation times. The evaluation time of the report is the moment of speaking of the reporting speaker ; the evaluation time of the reported speech act is the moment of speaking of the reported speaker, i.e. a moment of speaking that is past from the point of view (S) of the reporting speaker. B. If we disregard the possibility that the epistemic M-clause is the head clause of a conditional sentence, as in (9), and if we also ignore cases of free indirect speech like (16), we can distinguish the following possibilities as regards the time of actualization of the R and the time of evaluation. 1) present evaluation of (the actualization of) a present situation (17) (18)

He may be ill. [It’s past five o’clock.] He should be here by now.

Constraints on the meanings of modal auxiliaries in counterfactual clauses


2) present evaluation of a future situation (19) (20)

He may come tomorrow. It should be easy to convince him.

3) present evaluation of a situation that is anterior to a future reference time (21) (22)

[He has not arrived yet, but] he may have arrived by tonight. [It’s only 3 p.m.] We should have finished this before 5 p.m.

4) present evaluation of a past situation (23) (24)

He may have come yesterday. [I expect he will support us.] It should not have been difficult to convince him.

In none of these cases is there a sense of counterfactuality. This should not surprise us, since may and should express ‘inferential’ epistemic values (i.e. ‘relative factuality values’), while counterfactuality is an absolute factuality value on the epistemic scale. It seems logical that the actualization of the R cannot at the same time be interpreted as CF and as ‘possibly factual’ or ‘necessarily factual’. Still, the matter is worth investigating more closely. In what follows we will first of all (in section 8) examine whether the factors evoking a CF reading in root clauses can have the same effect in epistemic clauses. After that we will analyse the various readings of clauses with ‘might have V-ed’ or ‘could have V-ed’ (in section 9) and of clauses with ‘should have V-ed’ or ‘ought to have V-ed’ (in section 10). 8. Factors inducing a CF reading A. The first possibility we have pointed out in connection with root modals (see section 5) is that the clause with the M-auxiliary is interpreted as CF because it is the head clause of a CF conditional. Let us see whether this possibility is also available when the auxiliary is an epistemic one. Compare the following : (25) a. b. (26) a. b.

If your father were here, he would be helping you. If your father were here, he {might / could} be helping you. If you had come through the woods, you would have got lost. If you had come through the woods, you {might / could} have got lost.


An Verhulst & Renaat Declerck

(25a) and (26a) are examples of INFERENTIAL CONDITIONALS (Declerck & Reed 2001 : 42), which express the logical relation ‘if P, then Q’ 9. Both the P-clause (conditional clause) and the Q-clause (head clause) are interpreted as CF. Sentences (25b) and (26b) are similar CF inferential conditionals, except that the speaker now represents the inferential relation between P and Q as possible rather than factual. This is clear from the following paraphrases : (25’) a. I consider it a fact that if your father were here, he would be helping you. b. I consider it a possibility that if your father were here, he would be helping you. (26’) a. I consider it a fact that if you had come through the woods, you would have got lost. b. I consider it a possibility that if you had come through the woods, you would have got lost.

In sum, (25b) and (26b) express the following meaning : (27) a. It is possible that [if P, then Q] (where both P and Q are CF) b. It is possible that if the P-situation had actualized, the Q-situation would have actualized.

Of course, things look more complicated in (25b) and (26b) than in (27a-b) because the idea ‘it is possible that’ is expressed by an M-auxiliary there, which is inserted into the verb form of the Q-clause : in (25b), might be helping is the result of combining would be helping with may. However, this does not alter the fact that, semantically speaking, he might be helping you is a combination of ‘it is possible (in the factual world) that’ and ‘he would be helping you (in the CF world in which he were here)’. This leads to a double conclusion. Firstly, it is true that the clause with the M-auxiliary is interpreted as CF because it is the head clause of a CF conditional. Secondly, whereas in a CF Q-clause the modality expressed by a root M-auxiliary is represented as CF (i.e. the root modality is grounded in the CF P-world) 10, an epistemic M-auxiliary occurring in a CF Q-clause expresses an idea (e.g. ‘it 9


The term ‘inferential’ has a different meaning in ‘inferential value’ (see section 6) and ‘inferential conditional’. In the latter phrase it just means that the speaker infers the truth of the head clause of the conditional sentence from the truth of the conditional clause. (In other words, ‘infer q from p’ expresses a logical conclusion from p to q.) This is clear from examples like the following (discussed in section 4) : (i) [If you were a student], you could travel at half-price. (ii) [If you had been a student], you could have travelled at half-price.

Constraints on the meanings of modal auxiliaries in counterfactual clauses


is possible that’) which is grounded in the factual world, not in the CF world created by the P-clause. In other words, epistemic possibility or necessity cannot be represented as CF. Only the R can be 11.

B. The second path to a CF reading that we have pointed out in connection with root modals (see section 5) is that the M-auxiliary undergoes modal backshifting, as in (28) (29)

The way they are staring at her, she could be an alien coming from outer space. [These paintings look so modern.] They could have been made yesterday.

In these examples, it is replacing can be and can have been made by, respectively, could be and could have been made that, in these contexts, renders the idea of possibility of actualization of the R, and hence the idea of actualization of the R, CF. This mechanism of modal backshifting is not available where epistemic M-auxiliaries are concerned. (Might can replace could in the above examples, but it does not change the meaning of root possibility into that of epistemic possibility. This accords with the fact that might cannot be replaced here by would perhaps.) Thus, no CF reading is induced when the epistemic sentences John may be ill and John may have done it are changed into John might be ill and John might have done it. C. The third means of inducing counterfactuality that was discussed in connection with root modals is the mechanism of applying modal backshifting to the infinitive rather than to the M-auxiliary, as in the following : (5)

He was to be in his office.  He was to have been in his office.

If we similarly backshift the infinitive following an epistemic M-auxiliary like must, may, cannot, should, etc. we get a form in which the perfect infinitive just expresses anteriority of R to M, not counterfactuality : That {must / may / cannot / should} have been easy to do.


Theoretically, we might expect that the M-state of epistemic possibility could be located in the counterfactual world created by the P-clause. This would result in the following idea : ‘If the P-situation had actualized, it would have been possible that the Q-situation would have actualized.’ However, it is quite impossible to interpret (25b) and (26b) in this way. The fact that the paraphrase uses would have expected does not alter the fact that the epistemic conclusion is reached at S. The conditional perfect form is necessary because ‘I expect him to be walking through it’ cannot express a counterfactual meaning.


An Verhulst & Renaat Declerck

D. The fourth device to trigger a CF reading of root M-clauses is ‘double modal backshifting’, which we observed in (7) [Ian could have been in Iraq right now]. Whereas Ian can be in Iraq right now says that it is possible for Ian to be in Iraq at this moment, Ian could have been in Iraq right now represents both the present root possibility and the R as CF : ‘It would have been possible for Ian to be in Iraq now.’ Whether double modal backshifting can also be used to produce counterfactuality in clauses with an epistemic Mauxiliary will be investigated in section 9 (in connection with ‘might + perfect infinitive’) and section 10 (in connection with ‘should + perfect infinitive’). E. In section 5, the fourth type of sentence with a root M-auxiliary and a CF reading of the R was illustrated with The children should be in bed ! We argued that the CF reading is an implicature here, following from the Gricean Maxim of Relevance : it is totally pointless to say that the children should be in bed if they are already in bed. The only way to make sense of The children should be in bed ! is to assume that the children are not in bed yet. However, this implicature only applies if should is interpreted in terms of root obligation. The epistemic sentence It should be easy to fix that does not implicate that it is not easy to fix it. The conclusion from section 8 is that at least four of the five factors inducing counterfactuality in clauses with a root M-auxiliary (viz. factors A, B, C and E) cannot have the same effect in clauses with an epistemic M-auxiliary. In the following two sections we will investigate whether a similar conclusion should be drawn in connection with factor D. Can double modal backshifting produce counterfactuality in clauses with an epistemic M-auxiliary ? We will attempt to find the answer by having a closer look at the readings of clauses with might have V-ed (section 9) and {should / ought to} have V-ed (section 10). 9. The construction ‘might have V-ed’ J.-Chr. Verstraete (2005 : 232), who offers an analysis of the formal compositionality of CF utterances in Australian aboriginal languages, defines ‘epistemic modality’ (which is his term for our ‘inferential epistemic modality’) as « the speaker’s assessment of a situation […] in terms of the plausibility of its truth value » (our emphasis). He argues that « CF expressions […] combine the component of non-actualization with a modal component that expresses some kind of potentiality : something was possible, desirable, or intended, but in the end it did not take place, in spite of

Constraints on the meanings of modal auxiliaries in counterfactual clauses


this potentiality. […] Epistemic counterfactuality […] marks non-occurrence in spite of past possibility. » (Verstraete 2005 : 238-9).

He gives (30) as an example which he claims is interpreted in terms of a kind of modality that is at the same time CF and epistemic. (30)

The man might have hit his sister [though I know he didn’t]. (McGregor 1990 : 548 in Verstraete 2005 : 238)

This example does not form part of a CF conditional context, so we will only examine the meanings that The man might have hit his sister can have if it is not interpreted as a CF Q-clause logically depending on a CF P-clause. In our opinion, the sentence can be used with four different readings, none of which is a CF epistemic reading : (a) The first reading is that on which might is a tentative alternative to epistemic may (representing an inferential value (relative factuality value – see section 6), and the sentence is taken to mean ‘It is (tentatively) possible that the man {has hit / hit} his sister’. This sentence leaves it vague whether the man actually hit his sister (in the factual world) and can therefore be used in a context saying that he did as well as in a context saying that he did not : (31)

The police are questioning the man because they think he might have hit his sister yesterday. Personally, I know he {did / did not} because I was with him all the time.

The same reading is to be found in a context like the following : (32)

“Who’s looking after your baby while we are out ?” –– “Her older brother, Ken.” –– “What ?! That boy is only thirteen and quite irresponsible ! Right now he might already have hit his sister, he might even have killed her ! Come on ! We must get home at once.”

In this context, he might have hit his sister is interpreted as ‘The possibility of his having hit his sister is real. (Maybe he has already done it.)’. This merely expresses the present epistemic possibility of an anterior situation. There is no sense of counterfactuality. (b) The second reading is to be found in free indirect speech : (33)

She was very worried about what Ken could have done while she was away. He might have hit his sister. She knew he was quite capable of doing so.

The reading assigned to the sentence here is again not CF. The sentence expresses the idea ‘He may have hit his sister’, but then with the epistemic conclusion located at a past evaluation time rather than at S. (In other words,


An Verhulst & Renaat Declerck

the ‘backshifting’ of may to might is not an example of modal backshifting but is an instance of ‘sequence of tenses’ in free indirect speech and thought.) (c) A third reading is produced by a context such as the following : (34)

“Who looked after your baby while you were out ?” –– “Her older brother, Ken.” –– “What ?! That boy is only thirteen and quite irresponsible ! He might have hit his sister, he might even have killed her ! Thank God he did not do anything to her !”

In this context, he might have hit his sister is interpreted as ‘The possibility of his hitting his sister was real’ and the context expresses ‘but he did not do it’. This is a combination of counterfactuality and past root possibility. Unlike what we have observed in (a), might does not express present epistemic possibility. There is no epistemic reading in (34) because might does not reveal any concern about the compatibility between the M-world and the factual world. Rather, (34) expresses that it was theoretically possible for the situation of Ken hitting his sister to actualize. Moreover, the sense of counterfactuality is not expressed by might have hit but comes exclusively from the next sentence. (d) The fourth reading is an ‘imaginary’ reading (which can only arise in a CF context – see section 4) : (35)

[‘He would have loved to have got a tennis racket.’ –– ‘Yes, but then he would have wanted to play against his sister and] he might have hit her with it.’

The final clause here describes the possibility of the boy hitting his sister during a tennis game. He might have hit her with it thus locates both the possibility and the actualization of the R in an imaginary world, i.e. in a world resulting from a mere thought experiment, a purely imaginary scenario. As pointed out in section 4, an imaginary world is not a CF world. It is different from the factual world, not in that it is the exact reverse of the factual world, but in that it only contains ‘invented’ situations. In fact, an imaginary world is not truth-related to the factual world at all (see section 4), which means that ‘imaginary’ is not an inferential value (relative factuality value) on the epistemic scale (whose values represent different degrees of compatibility between a nonfactual world and the factual world). In conclusion, we can discern four possible readings of Ken might have hit his sister, but in none of them is might an epistemic M-auxiliary that combines with have hit to yield a CF reading of the R. (Remember that we are only dealing here with examples in which sentences like Ken might have hit

Constraints on the meanings of modal auxiliaries in counterfactual clauses


his sister are not the Q-clauses logically depending on a CF P-clause. If they are, the R is automatically CF : (36)

Luckily I was not on the train when it collided. Otherwise [= if I had been on it] I might have been killed !)

10. The construction ‘{should / ought to} have V-ed’ According to J. Coates (1983 : 75), CF examples like (37) contain features of both epistemic and root modality : (37)

It ought to have been obvious to Tony that nobody in authority there was going to have a person with my sort of reputation writing articles in their paper.

In our opinion, this sentence indeed yields a CF reading of the R, but ought to is interpreted as expressing root necessity, not epistemic necessity. This is clear from its temporal reference. When used with a CF reading of the R, an epistemic auxiliary in the past tense such as might in (36) always expresses a present conclusion (except in free indirect speech). Thus, (36) means ‘It is possible that if I had been on the train I would have been killed’. However, the correct paraphrase of (37) is not ‘It is expected of Tony that he would have realized that …’ but rather ‘It was expected of Tony that he would have realized that …’. As is clear from John was to have arrived yesterday, it is typical of CF sentences expressing root (rather than epistemic) modality that the modality is located in the past : ‘The arrangement was that John would arrive yesterday’. Since the obligation expressed by ought to in (37) is also located in the past (‘It was expected of Tony that…’), we can conclude that (37) expresses root (rather than epistemic) necessity. If we are looking for examples which do express epistemic necessity and moreover yield a CF reading of the residue, the following would seem to be better candidates : (38)


Columbus is usually thought of as a happy-go-lucky who should have died because he didn’t have provision and water enough to get to India, but I think this is an error. (Cobuild) Under ordinary circumstances, the storm ought to have bent to the east and eventually died out somewhere in the North Atlantic. (Cobuild)

There seems to be something epistemic about these sentences, although the actualization of the R is each time interpreted as CF. These sentences therefore deserve our special attention.


An Verhulst & Renaat Declerck

A. Let us begin by pointing out that ‘should + Verb’ and ‘ought to + Verb’ can receive two different epistemic readings. Firstly, in their unmarked use, both express weak logical necessity : ‘I expect (or : assume) that…’. (40)

It’s 5.10 p.m. John should be walking home from work now.

As is clear from the paraphrase ‘I assume that he is walking home from work now’, the epistemic conclusion expressed by (40) is drawn at S and concerns actualization of the R at S. Secondly, in a context expressing or implying counterfactuality, ‘X {should / ought to} + present infinitive’ express something like ‘I would have expected X to…’ : (41)

Where is John ? He’s not in the park. Yet he should be walking through it now on his way home. He always does that.

A suitable paraphrase is ‘I would have expected John to be walking home from work now’, which shows that the epistemic conclusion is again drawn at S and again concerns actualization of the R at S 12. In both (40) and (41) a conclusion is expressed which is based on the speaker’s knowledge of the world, more specifically on his knowledge of the fact that John as a rule stops working at 5 p.m. and then immediately walks home through the park. However, in (41) the CF context evokes the CF condition ‘if the world were what we expect it to be’, i.e. ‘if the world obeyed the normal rules and patterns of the factual world’. This implicit CF condition can be made explicit by the addition of an adverbial like under normal circumstances : (42)

Where is John ? He’s not in the park. Yet under normal circumstances he should be walking through it now on his way home. He always does that.

In sum, there are two different epistemic readings of should be walking in (40) and (41). In the latter case, the epistemic reading is CF because the context evokes a CF condition. B. Let us now consider should have V-ed and ought to have V-ed, which can also receive two different epistemic readings. Firstly, in their unmarked use, both express weak logical necessity (= ‘I expect (or : assume) that…’) plus anteriority :


The fact that the paraphrase uses would have expected does not alter the fact that the epistemic conclusion is reached at S. The conditional perfect form is necessary because ‘I expect him to be walking through it’ cannot express a counterfactual meaning.

Constraints on the meanings of modal auxiliaries in counterfactual clauses (43)


It’s 5.10 p.m. John should have left the office by now.

As is clear from the paraphrase ‘I assume that he has left the office by now’, the epistemic conclusion is drawn at S and concerns actualization of the R at a time anterior to S. Secondly, in a context expressing or implying counterfactuality, should have V-ed and ought to have V-ed are interpreted something like ‘I would have expected that…’. This means that have V-ed expresses anteriority and that a CF reading is inherited from the context : (44)

John was not in the park. Yet at that moment he should have been walking through it on his way home. He always does that.

A suitable paraphrase here is ‘I would have expected John to be walking through it…’. As in (43), the epistemic conclusion is made at S and concerns actualization of the R at a time anterior to S. Just like (40)-(41), sentences (43)-(44) express a present conclusion which is based on the speaker’s knowledge of the world, more specifically on his knowledge of the fact that John as a rule stops working at 5 p.m. and then goes home at once, walking through the park in doing so. However, unlike (40) and (43), (41) and (44) contain a context (‘John was not in the park’) which denies that the expected situation is actualizing or actualized and in doing so evokes the CF condition ‘if the world were what we expect it to be’ or ‘if the world had been what we would expect it to be’. Thus, the second sentence of (44) is interpreted as ‘I would expect that, if the world had obeyed the normal rules of the factual world, John would have been walking through the park at that time on his way home’. C. Examples (38)-(39) (repeated here) illustrate the same use of should have and ought to have as is found in (44) : (38)


Columbus is usually thought of as a happy-go-lucky who should have died because he didn’t have provision and water enough to get to India, but I think this is an error. Under ordinary circumstances, the storm ought to have bent to the east and eventually died out somewhere in the North Atlantic.

Here, ‘should have + V-ed’ and ‘ought to have + V-ed’ mean ‘would have Ved in a world that behaved properly, i.e. in a world that obeyed all the normal rules and patterns of that world’. In other words, (38) can be paraphrased something like this : (38’)

Columbus is usually thought of as a happy-go-lucky who, if the world had been as we expect it to be, would have died because he didn’t have provision and water enough to get to India.


An Verhulst & Renaat Declerck

In (39), under ordinary circumstances expresses precisely the same CF condition. The above observations lead to the conclusion that epistemic ‘should have V-ed’ and ‘ought to have V-ed’ cannot evoke a CF reading (of the R) by themselves, but that they can be used in a context inducing a CF reading. This is the same conclusion as we reached in connection with epistemic ‘might have V-ed’ in section 9, where the only example combining one of these forms with a CF reading of the R was (36) (If I had been on the train, I might have been killed). We can therefore derive the generalization that the combination of (the past tense form of) an epistemic auxiliary and a perfect infinitive cannot be used as a device to induce a CF reading of the R : even in the case of ‘should have V-ed’ and ‘ought to have V-ed’, if there is a CF reading of the R, it must be ‘inherited from’ (= induced by) the context, which must be either explicitly CF or evoke the implicit CF condition ‘if the world had been as we expect it to be’. It is also worth noting that the uses of ‘should have V-ed’ and ‘ought to have V-ed’ discussed in this section might not be purely epistemic 13 : there seems to be an element of weak root necessity in them. Thus, even though (38’) seems to be a reasonable paraphrase of (38), the following might also be suitable : (38’’)

Columbus is usually thought of as a happy-go-lucky. If the world had been as we expect it to be, it would have been {appropriate / right / normal} for him to die because he didn’t have provision and water enough to get to India.

In a similar way, (39) contains a slight element of root necessity, so that it could be paraphrased as follows : (39’)

Under ordinary circumstances, the storm would have been destined to bend to the east and eventually die out somewhere in the North Atlantic.

On the other hand, it does not seem possible to treat (38) and (39) as expressing root modality only, because there is a clear aspect of inferential meaning and because the root idea ‘be destined to’ is actually called up by the condition ‘if circumstances had been normal’, i.e. ‘if the world had been as we would expect it to be’. (Thus, in (39), it is because we have expectations about what a storm should do under normal circumstances that we have a feeling that the storm was actually destined to follow the normal route.)


It was Susan Reed who pointed this out to us.

Constraints on the meanings of modal auxiliaries in counterfactual clauses


Sentences (38)–(39) appear to express root necessity and epistemic necessity (inference) at the same time. 11. Conclusion The main purpose of this article has been to examine to what extent a CF reading is compatible with the use of a root or epistemic M-auxiliary, how such a CF reading is brought about, and what exactly is interpreted as CF : the modality or the residue, or both. In our opinion, these topics have not been satisfactorily treated in the linguistic literature yet. One conclusion from the analysis concerns the theoretical status of counterfactuality as an epistemic value. We have argued that, contrary to previous accounts (e.g. Declerck 1991 : 351 ; van Linden 2004 : 47 ; Verstraete 2005 : 24 ; Morneau 2006 : 192), counterfactuality is not on a par with other epistemic M-values like logical necessity, epistemic (im)possibility, etc. We have distinguished between two kinds of M-values on the epistemic scale, viz. counterfactuality and ‘inferential’ epistemic values. While the former is an absolute factuality value, because there is certainty about the factuality status of the actualization of the R, the latter are relative factuality values, as they all imply a degree of uncertainty on the part of the speaker. We have examined the possible cases in which counterfactuality is compatible with other M-meanings. The conclusion has been that root and epistemic modality differ as to the mechanisms they allow to bring about a CF meaning. In sentences with a root M-auxiliary, there are five mechanisms that lead to a CF reading of the modality or of the actualization of the R, or of both. By contrast, in sentences with an epistemic M-auxiliary, the modality cannot be represented as CF by any of these mechanisms. Also, there is only one case in which the actualization of the R can be represented as CF, viz. if the CF reading does not arise from the verb form proper but from the context. In the case of epistemic ‘might + perfect infinitive’, there is usually an explicit CF conditional context (section 9), while in the case of epistemic ‘should + perfect infinitive’, there is usually an implicit CF condition ‘if the world had obeyed the normal rules of the factual world’ (section 10). In both cases the actualization of the R is thus subject to an (overt or implicit) CF condition. This conclusion leads to further interesting points. For example, compatibility with a CF reading can be used as one of the criteria to decide whether a given M-auxiliary is used epistemically or not. The (im)possibility of applying one or more of the five mechanisms identified in section 5 can also be used as a criterion.


An Verhulst & Renaat Declerck

References Coates, J. (1983). The semantics of the modal auxiliaries, London / Canberra : Croom Helm. Dancygier, B. ; Sweetser, E. (2005). Mental spaces in Grammar, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press. Declerck, R. (1991). A Comprehensive Descriptive Grammar of English, Tokyo : Kaitakusha. Declerck, R. ; Reed, S. (2001). Conditionals : A Comprehensive Empirical Analysis, Berlin, New York : Mouton de Gruyter. Declerck, R. (2006). The grammar of the English verb phrase. Part 1 : The grammar of the English tense system, Berlin, New York : Mouton de Gruyter. Grice, H. P. (1975). Logic and conversation, in : P. Cole ; J.L. Morgan, (eds), Syntax and Semantics. Volume 3 : Speech Acts, New York : Academic Press, 41-58. Huddleston, R. (1984). English Grammar : an Outline, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press. McGregor, W. (1990). A Functional Grammar of Gooniyandi, Amsterdam : John Benjamins. Morneau, R. (2006). The Lexical Semantics of a Machine Translation Interlingua, on Richard Morneau’s homepage (accessed on 5 September 2006) van Linden, A. (2004). A typological study of counterfactuality, Unpublished MA thesis, Catholic University of Leuven. Verstraete, J.-Chr. (2005). The semantics and pragmatics of composite mood marking : The non-Pama-Nyungan languages of northern Australia, Linguistic Typology 2 : 223-268.

Non-root past modals * Hamida DEMIRDACHE Université de Nantes / LLING EA 3827

Myriam URIBE-ETXEBARRIA University of the Basque Country

0. Introduction This paper incorporates non-root modals within the framework for temporal interpretation developed in Demirdache & Uribe-Etxebarria (1997, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008a), where temporal relations are uniformly defined in terms of elementary and isomorphic semantic and structural primitives. We argue that the syntactic heads, Tense (T°), Modal (M°), Aspect (ASP°) and V°, each contribute a time argument / reference-time to the temporal calculus of the clause in which they occur. This time argument is projected in the syntax onto the specifier position of the selecting head. The reference-time contributed by M° is the Modal-Time (MOD-T), an open ended interval [t, ), following Condoravdi (2001). We offer an account of crosslinguistic variation in the morphosyntax and temporal construals of non-root past-inflected modals in English vs. Spanish. Non-root modals have the same temporal syntax in both languages, but crucially differ in that tense (past) morphology on the modal is temporally interpreted in Spanish but not in English. This assumption, together with the proposal that time-denoting DPs, Zeit-Phrases in the sense of Stowell (1993), can, just as any DP, enter into anaphoric dependencies where anaphora is (semantic) binding, accounts for the cross-linguistic differences in the construal of past-inflected modals in English vs. Spanish.


Thanks to Claudia Borgonovo, Sarah Cummins, Heidi Harley, Raffaella Folli, Brenda Laca, Jacqueline Lecarme and Tim Stowell for insightful comments. This research was funded by the LLING / EA 3827, the University of the Basque Country (9-UPV 00114.130-16009/2004) and the Basque Government (Programs Development of Research Nets in Humanities 2006 (HM-2006-1-8), 2007, 2008 (HM-2008-1-10), 2009 (HM-2009-1-1), Mobility Programs (MV2008-2-18), and Research Groups (GIC07/144-IT-210-07)). This research is also part of Program 1.2 « Temporalité : typologie et acquisition » of the CNRS Fédération Typologie et Universaux Linguistiques (FR 2559). © Cahiers Chronos 23 (2011): 43-60.


Hamida Demirdache & Myriam Uribe-Etxebarria

1. The grammar of temporal relations The temporal syntax for modals we propose is rooted in a model for temporal relations developed in our earlier work, which seeks to uniformly derive the compositional interaction of tense and aspect by reducing the latter to the same set of semantic and syntactic theoretical primitives. We establish a strict parallelism between the semantics of tense and aspect by adopting Klein’s (1995) proposal that aspect, just like tense, establishes ordering relations between two times. We capture this semantic parallelism syntactically by proposing that both tense and aspect are spatiotemporal predicates heading a maximal projection in the syntax, Tense-Phrase (TP) and Aspect-Phrase (ASPP) respectively, each projecting their time-denoting argument in the syntax onto an external argument (specifier) position. We summarize below the core assumptions relevant to our analysis of non-root modals. 1.1. Viewpoint aspect We adopt Smith’s (1991) proposal that (grammatical) aspect serves to convey a viewpoint on the situation described by a sentence —that is, a temporal perspective that focuses an interval in the temporal contour of the described eventuality. We call the time interval that aspect focuses, the Assertion-Time (AST-T), following Klein (1995 : 687) : « The Assertion Time is the time for which an assertion is made or to which the assertion is confined, for which the speaker makes a statement. »

The time span focused by aspect is the time of the assertion. The question remains, however, as to why viewpoint aspect serves to focus, pick up, a time interval within the internal temporal structure of the described event. The proposal that aspects are predicates of spatiotemporal ordering offers a straightforward answer to this question. Aspects are dyadic predicates with inherent lexical meanings (WITHIN, BEFORE, AFTER), establishing ordering relations between two time spans. The relation established between the time span focused by aspect (the AST-T) and the interval defining the time of the described situation (henceforth Situation-Time, SIT-T) can be one of inclusion, precedence or subsequence. When this relation is one of subsequence as in (1a), the aspectual viewpoint is said to be retrospective (perfect aspect). When this ordering relation is one of inclusion as in (1b), the viewpoint is said to be progressive or durative. Finally, when this ordering relation is one of precedence as in (1c), the viewpoint is said to be prospective.

Non-root past modals (1)

a. Perfect / Retrospective AST-T after SIT-T b. Progressive AST-T within SIT-T c. Prospective AST-T before SIT-T


SIT-T AST-T —[——]——[——]———> SIT-T AST-T SIT-T —[———[——]———]—> AST-T SIT-T —[——]——[——]———>

1.2. Tense Tense is also a predicate of spatiotemporal ordering relating two times : the Assertion-Time and the Utterance-Time (UT-T), following Klein (1995). This ordering relation can again be one of subsequence (past), inclusion (present) or precedence (future) : (2)

a. Past UT-T after AST-T b. Present UT-T within AST-T c. Future UT-T before AST-T

AST-T UT-T —[——]——[——]———> AST-T UT-T AST-T —[———[——]———]—> UT-T AST-T —[——]——[——]———>

We have seen that tense and aspect can be reduced to the same set of semantic primitives : spatiotemporal predicates establishing topological relations between time-denoting arguments. We now reduce tense and aspect to the same set of syntactic primitives by developing isomorphic structural representations for tense and aspect that capture the semantic parallel established. In so doing, we extend to aspect proposals initially put forth in Zagona (1990) and Stowell (1993) for the syntax of tense. Our proposal is illustrated in (3-4). (3)

a. Syntax of tense TP





Syntax of aspect ASP-P AST-T



46 (4)

Hamida Demirdache & Myriam Uribe-Etxebarria The isomorphic syntax of tense and aspect TP REF-T UT-T






Tenses and aspects are functional heads uniformly projecting their timedenoting arguments onto the syntax, as Zeit-Phrases in the sense of Stowell. They thus serve to establish ordering relations between two Zeit-Ps (Zeit-P1 within / after / before Zeit-P2). The proposal in (3-4) breaks down both tense and aspect syntactically into their respective semantic components. The functional heads ASP° and T° each relate two temporal arguments. The external argument of T° is a reference-time (UT-T in independent or matrix clauses). T° orders this reference-time with respect to its internal argument, the time of the assertion. The external argument of ASP° is itself also a reference-time (the AST-T). ASP° orders this time interval with respect to its internal temporal argument, the time of the situation (the eventuality) denoted by the VP. Tense and aspect are thus assigned isomorphic structural and semantic representations 1.3. The temporal syntax of perfect (retrospective) viewpoint Since perfect aspect will play an important role in our derivation of the temporal construal of English non-root past oriented modals, we illustrate below how our grammar for temporal relations derives the existential construal of the present perfect 1. The present perfect sentence in (5a) is assigned the phrase structure in (5b). (5)

The phrase structure of the present perfect a. Zara has built a house.


See Demirdache & Uribe-Etxebarria (2002, 2008b) for discussion of how the phrase structure in (5) also derives the universal / continuative and the resultative readings of the English present perfect.

Non-root past modals b.



c. Perfect AST-T after SIT-T d. Present UT-T within AST-T

[ZARA BUILD A HOUSE] AST-T —[——]—[——]—> SIT-T AST-T —[——]—[—|—]—> UT-T SIT-T

Perfect aspect is the spatiotemporal predicate AFTER. It orders the AST-T after the SIT-T of the VP. It thus picks out a time span after the interval that defines the SIT-T of the eventuality denoted by the VP [ZARA BUILD A HOUSE], as shown in (5c). Present tense in (5a) is the spatiotemporal predicate WITHIN : it orders the UT-T within the AST-T, as shown in (5d). The event of building in (5) is thus viewed, retrospectively, as completed, as having culminated prior to a reference-time (our AST-T), itself overlapping with UT-T. On this analysis, perfect aspect acts like past tense since it orders a time span (the AST-T) in the past of (that is, after) another time span (the SIT-T of the eventuality denoted by the VP). We now turn to the temporal construal of past-inflected non-root modals in English vs. Spanish. We incorporate modals into our temporal framework by assuming that modals, just like tenses, aspects and lexical verbs, contribute a reference-time to the temporal calculus of the sentence in which they occur. This reference-time, which we call the Modal-time (MOD-T), is projected onto the syntax in the external argument position of the modal head. 2. Construals of past-inflected epistemic modals in English vs. Spanish Modal verbs expressing possibility or necessity allow a non-root epistemic construal. On this construal of (6a) and (6b), modal sentences report the speaker’s epistemic modal judgment relative to the truth-value of the modal propositional complement. (6)

a. Zara might / could win the race. ‘It is possible that Zara will win the race.’


Hamida Demirdache & Myriam Uribe-Etxebarria b. Zara might / could be in Cloverdale. ‘It is possible that Zara is in Cloverdale (now).’ ‘It is possible that Zara will be in Cloverdale (at some future time).’

There are two times involved in the interpretation of these sentences : the time at which the possibility holds —that is, the Modal-time (MOD-T) ; and the time at which the situation described by the propositional complement in the scope of the modal holds —its situation-time (SIT-T). Now, in both (6a) and (6b), the epistemic modal judgment holds at UT-T. That is, the time of the possibility under discussion is the present. Note that in (6a) with an eventive verb, the time of the situation of the modal complement [ZARA WIN THE RACE] is construed as forward-shifted relative to UT-T, while in (6b) with a stative predicate, the time of the situation of the modal complement [ZARA BE IN CLOVERDALE] can be construed as either ongoing at UT-T, or as forward-shifted relative to UT-T. We conclude that past inflection on might / could is temporally uninterpreted, semantically vacuous, since it has no impact on the temporal interpretation of the clause. That is, it does not serve to locate in the past either the time of the possibility under discussion (MOD-T), or the situation-time of the modal complement. The situation is very different when we turn to Spanish. Spanish modal verbs contrast sharply with English modal verbs in that they appear fully inflected for person agreement as well as for tense and aspect, as illustrated in (7) with poder (‘can / may’). (7)

a. Maddi pudo ganar la carrera. Maddi mayPERFECTIVE.PAST.3.SG win the race ‘It is possible that Maddi won the race.’ b. Maddi pudo estar dormida. Maddi mayPERFECTIVE.PAST.3.SG be asleep ‘It is possible that Maddi was asleep.’

Both (6) and (7) allow an epistemic construal where the possibility under discussion (the MOD-T) holds at UT-T. However, while the SIT-T of the modal complement in the English sentences in (6) is construed as either futureshifted or ongoing relative to this present time of possibility, the SIT-T of the modal complement in the Spanish sentences in (7) can only be construed as past-shifted relative to the present time of possibility. In sum, the Spanish examples in (7), with past morphology on the modal verb are not the counterpart of the English examples in (6). In particular, past inflection on modals in Spanish is temporally interpreted : it contributes the spatiotemporal

Non-root past modals


ordering predicate AFTERTENSE which serves to locate the SIT-T of the modal complement ([MADDI BE ASLEEP / WIN THE RACE] in (7)) in the past. Now, this past shifted construal of the situation-time of the modal complement relative to the present time of possibility is felicitous in English — but, crucially, only arises when the modal combines with perfect have : (8)

Zara might / could have won the race. ‘It is possible that Zara has won the race.’

Summarizing. The past inflected English modals in (6) (without auxiliary have) express that it is possible (as far as knowledge of the speaker / state of the world / evidence at UT-T is concerned) that a situation obtains either in the present or in the future. Following Condoravdi (2001), we will say that these modals have a future temporal orientation since the possibility is about a present or future situation time from the temporal perspective of the present, as illustrated in (9). In contrast, the past-inflected Spanish modals in (7) (without auxiliary haber) express that it is possible (as far as knowledge of the speaker / state of the world / evidence at UT-T is concerned) that a situation obtains in the past. Following Condoravdi, these modals have a past temporal orientation since the possibility is about a past situation time from the temporal perspective of the present, as illustrated in (10). (9)


Future oriented epistemic modals UT-T / MOD-T SIT-T —([)———⏐———([)——————]————> Past oriented epistemic modals SIT-T UT-T / MOD-T —[——————]——————⏐——————>

To achieve the past oriented construal in (10), the past-inflected English modals could / might must combine with perfect auxiliary have, as was illustrated in (8) 2. In what follows, we develop a unified analysis of English and Spanish non-root modals that seeks to explain the different temporal construals that past-inflected modals yield across these languages. We propose a uniform temporal syntax for non-root modals and derive the cross-linguistic asymmetries in the temporal construals of past-inflected modals discussed above from a single assumption : whereas in Spanish, past morphology on 2

The English perfect modals in (8), just like the past Spanish modals in (7), allow a second non-root construal, where the modality is not epistemic but rather “metaphysical” in Condoravdi's terms. For reasons of space, we cannot discuss this alternative construal here, but see Demirdache & Uribe-Etxebarria (2008ab) for a detailed analysis.


Hamida Demirdache & Myriam Uribe-Etxebarria

the modal is temporally interpreted, in English, past morphology on the modal is temporally uninterpreted (semantically vacuous). 3. The temporal syntax of non-root modals To incorporate non-root modals into our phrase structure for tense and aspect, we borrow a core proposal from Condoravdi’s (2001) analysis of the temporal interpretation of non-root modals in English. Condoravdi argues that modals do not shift the local evaluation-time of the propositional complement under their scope forward, as has often been assumed in the literature in order to account for the future orientation of English non-root modals illustrated with the temporal schema in (9) ⎯e.g. Zara might / ought to / should be in Cloverdale (see discussion of (6) above). Adapting a proposal by Abush (1998), Condoravdi argues that modals expand the complement evaluation-time into the future and then generalizes this analysis to all non-root modals, be it future or past oriented modals. The specific proposal is that non-root modals contribute an open ended interval, [t, ), to the temporal interpretation of the clause in which they occur —that is an interval, starting at an initial bound t and extending without limit into the future. We adopt Condoravdi’s proposal that non-root modals, whether they are future or past oriented, uniformly contribute a temporal interval [t, ), to the temporal interpretation of the clause in which they occur. This (open ended) time interval is a reference-time, projected into the syntax as the external (temporal) argument of the modal head. We refer to this time argument as the modal-time (MOD-T). The modal head projects a maximal projection (MP), which we take to be embedded under TP and above ASP-P. On this proposal, the sentence in (11a) would be assigned the phrase-structure in (11b). Note that each syntactic head contained in (11a) —that is, Tense (T°), Modal (M°), Aspect (APS°) and V°— heads a maximal projection and contributes a time argument to the temporal calculus of the sentence. This time argument is projected onto the (external) specifier position of the selecting head 3. (11) a. Zara might have won the race.


We accommodate all the arguments of the verb inside the VP on the assumption that heads / X°s project multiple specifiers. The time argument of the verb is projected onto the highest specifier position of the VP.

Non-root past modals b.



T’ T°



[t, ’)







Let’s now see how the above proposal derives the temporal construal of epistemic past-inflected non-root modals. We first discuss English modal verbs (with and without perfect have). We then turn to the construals of Spanish past-inflected modals. 3.1. Future oriented past-inflected epistemic modals in English We start with the epistemic construal of English modals with apparent past inflection. The sentence in (12a) contains three heads (Tense / T°, Modal / M° and V°) projecting the temporal phrase structure in (12b) 4. Recall that we have adopted Condoravdi’s proposal that non-root modals uniformly contribute a time span to the temporal interpretation of the sentence in which they occur. This reference time is an open-ended interval [t, ) projected into the syntax as the external argument of the Modal-Phrase (MP) in (12b). (12) a. Zara might / could be in Cloverdale / win the race. ‘It is possible that Zara is / will be in Cloverdale.’ ‘It is possible that Zara will win the race.’


We assume here that when there is no (overt) aspectual head in the sentence, as is the case in (12a), ASP-P is not projected. This, however, is a simplification since we have argued elsewhere that ASP-P is always projected. We make this simplification here merely for reasons of space, as adding an empty aspectual head to the phrase structure in (12b) would involve an extra step in the temporal calculus that has, ultimately, no effect on its output. See Demirdache & UribeEtxebarria (2007, 2008a-b) for discussion.


Hamida Demirdache & Myriam Uribe-Etxebarria



T’ T°


MOD-T [t, )





We have argued above that the past morphology on English modals (e.g. might / could) is temporally uninterpreted (semantically vacuous) since it does not serve to locate in the past either the time of the possibility under discussion (MOD-T), or the situation-time (SIT-T) of the modal complement. In other words, although there is morphological tense in (12a), there is no semantic tense. T° in (12b) is consequently empty : it does not contribute the spatiotemporal predicate AFTERTENSE to the temporal calculus of the sentence. Now, the MOD-T is itself an interval starting at an initial bound t and extending without limit into the future. This initial bound must be temporally anchored. How then is the MOD-T set anchored in (12b), if there is no semantic tense heading TP ? We assume that in semantically tenseless modal sentences, the initial bound of the modal time is deictically anchored to UT-T, as shown in (13a-b) : (13) a.


T’ T°


MOD-T [UT-T, )

M’ M°



The initial subinterval of the MOD-T in (13) has directly picked up the local evaluation-time, which is UT-T in an independent clause such (12) / (13). The MOD-T thus denotes an interval starting at the time of speech and extending without limit into the future, [UT-T, ). We now turn to the question of how the modal-time in (13) is ordered relative to the time argument under its scope —that is, relative to the SIT-T of

Non-root past modals


the modal complement. Note that the head of MP is not a temporal head (that is, a predicate with a spatiotemporal meaning). Unlike tense or aspect, it cannot therefore establish an ordering relation between the time argument it takes as external argument (MOD-T) and the time argument immediately in its scope (the SIT-T of the eventuality denoted by the VP). We propose that the ordering relation between the external and internal arguments of the modal is established via anaphora, where anaphora is semantic binding (λ-abstraction) as shown in (14) 5. (14) a.


T’ T°


MOD-T [UT-T, )




λSIT-T [BE IN CLOVERDALE (ZARA) (SIT-T)] MOD-T BE IN CLOVERDALE c. —[—————[———————]——> UT-T MOD-T / UT-T d. —[—[———————————]———>



Binding in (14b) requires that the MOD-T / [UT-T, ) have the property of being an interval at which [ZARA BE IN CLOVERDALE] holds. This property will hold of the MOD-T under either of the temporal construals illustrated in (14c-d). In (14c), the SIT-T of the modal complement (including its initial bound) is properly contained within the modal interval [UT-T, ), and, hence, future-shifted relative to the UT-T. In (14d), the MOD-T contains a subinterval of the time of Zara’s being in Cloverdale, yielding the so-called non-shifted construal where the SIT-T of the modal complement is understood to be ongoing at the present modal-time. With an achievement such as win the race, binding of the SIT-T of the predicate by the MOD-T will yield the representation in (15a). 5

See Reinhart (1997) and Heim & Kratzer (1998) for arguments that (semantic) binding involves predicate abstraction. The λ-operator is adjoined to the sister node of the MOD-T, which thus serves as the ‘antecedent’ of the time variable inside the VP (SIT-T), as shown in (14).


Hamida Demirdache & Myriam Uribe-Etxebarria

(15) a.





b. —[——————[———————]——> UT-T MOD-T / UT-T c. —[—[————————————]——>

Binding in (15a) requires that the MOD-T / [UT-T, ) have the property of being an interval at which [ZARA WIN THE MARATHON] be true. This property will hold of the MOD-T under either of the temporal construals illustrated in (15b-c). In (15b), the running time of the winning event is properly contained within the modal interval, [UT-T, ). This temporal configuration generates the construal where the EV-T of the modal complement is future-shifted relative to UT-T. In (15c), the modal interval contains the subinterval at which the winning event culminates. (15c) correctly predicts that a sentence such as Zara might / could with the race can be felicitously uttered even when the race has already started 6. In sum, the assumption that past-inflected modals in English are tenseless, together with the proposal that the ordering relation between the modal-time and the time argument in its scope is achieved via semantic binding, explains why the situation-time of the modal complements in (12a) can be construed as either future shifted or ongoing at UT-T. The two proposals developed in this section —that is, (i) that non-root modals are semantically tenseless, and (ii) that the ordering relation between the MOD-T and the SIT-T of the propositional modal complement is established via semantic binding— carry over to all non-root modals in English, whether they surface with (possibly frozen) past or present tense morphology (e.g. Zara may / might / ought to / must win the race.). 3.2. Perfect epistemic modals in English We now turn to the epistemic construal of past-inflected perfect modals in English. The sentence in (16a) contains four heads (Tense, Modal, Aspect 6

Note the contrast between the modal sentences in (i-ii) with an accomplishment predicate. While (i) can be felicitously uttered in a context where the building has already started at UT-T, (ii) cannot. See Demirdache & Uribe-Etxebarria (2007, 2008a-b) for discussion of the factors involved in licensing this futureshifted construal of eventive predicates where the SIT-T of the modal complement is construed as overlapping with UT-T, illustrated in (15c). (i) Zara might / could build the house quickly. (ii) Zara might / could build a house.

Non-root past modals


and V°) that project the temporal phrase structure in (16b). Note that the temporal phrase-structure given in (16b) differs in one single but crucial respect from the phrase structure given in (12-14) above for past-inflected modals without auxiliary have. (16b) contains perfect viewpoint aspect ⎯ that is, projects an aspectual phrase (ASP-P) headed by the spatiotemporal predicate AFTER (see discussion of perfect / retrospective viewpoint in section 1.3 above). (16) a. Zara might / could have won the race. ‘It is possible that Zara has won the race.’ b. TP UT-T T°


MOD-T [UT-T, )




As we have already argued, T° in (16b) is empty since the past morphology on might / could is semantically vacuous. The modal in (16b) contributes a reference-time to the temporal interpretation of its clause. Once again, the initial bound of the modal-time is set to UT-T via deictic anchoring. The MODT is thus an open-ended interval starting at UT-T : (17) a.


———[————————> UT-T

Since there is no temporal head to order the MOD-T in (16b) relative to the time argument immediately under its scope (that is, the AST-T), the ordering relation between these two times is established via binding : the MOD-T binds the AST-T, as shown in (16b) / (17b). Perfect aspect (that is, the predicate of spatiotemporal ordering AFTER) orders in turn the AST-T (its external argument) after the SIT-T of the VP (its internal argument). The MOD-T thus binds an interval (the AST-T) that is itself constrained to follow the SIT-T of the described eventuality :

56 (17) b.

Hamida Demirdache & Myriam Uribe-Etxebarria MOD-T


λ-abstraction over the temporal variable in the specifier of ASP-P (the AST-T) in (16b) / (17b) creates a predicate which takes the MOD-T as external argument. The MOD-T is an open-ended interval starting at UT-T : [UT-T, ). Since (i) the MOD-T binds the AST-T, and (ii) the AST-T has itself been ordered by perfect aspect after the SIT-T of the VP, (17b) requires that the MOD-T have the property of being an interval itself subsequent to the time of Zara’s winning the race, as illustrated in (17c). The MOD-T in (17c) picks out an interval, [UT-T, ), starting at the time of speech and extending without limit into the future. Binding ensures that the modal-time also have the property of being a time that is subsequent to Zara’s winning the race. (17) c.

SIT-T MOD-T / AST-T ——[—————]———[———————> WIN THE RACE UT-T

The phrase-structure in (16b) thus automatically yields the epistemic construal of perfect modals in English : the possibility under discussion (that is, the MOD-T) holds at the time of speech, while the SIT-T of the propositional complement in the scope of the modal [ZARA WIN THE RACE] is past-shifted relative to this present modal-time. 3.3. Past oriented past inflected epistemic modals in Spanish Recall that in Spanish, unlike English, the epistemic past oriented construal of modals arises with past-inflected modals (without auxiliary HABERASPECT; see discussion of (7-8)). Let’s now see how we can derive this crosslinguistic asymmetry in the temporal construal of past-inflected modals in Spanish vs. English. The sentence in (18a) contains three heads (T°, MOD°, and V°) projecting the temporal phrase structure in (18b). The modal contributes a referencetime to the temporal calculus of the sentence in which it occurs. This reference time is an open-ended interval [UT-T, ) projected into the syntax as the external argument of the Modal-Phrase (MP). (18) a. Maddi pudo ganar la carrera. Maddi mayPAST.3.SG win the race ‘It is possible that Maddi won the race.’

Non-root past modals b.




[t, )




We argued in section 2 above, that Spanish past inflected modals differ from English past modals in that the past morphology on the modal is temporally interpreted : it contributes to the temporal interpretation of the sentence the predicate of spatiotemporal ordering AFTERTENSE. AFTERTENSE in (18b) takes the UT-T as its external argument and the MOD-T as it internal argument, ordering the UT-T after the MOD-T. Since, however, the MOD-T is an open ended interval extending indefinitely into the future, [t, ), no time can ever be ordered after it. In other words, the phrase structure in (18b) will yield an uninterpretable temporal output and, unless nothing else happens, the derivation will crash. The derivation in (18b) can, however, be rescued by lowering at LF the spatiotemporal predicate AFTER generated under T° to the closest head, that is, M°, as shown in (19). (19)


T’ T°



[t, )




Now, once the spatiotemporal predicate AFTER lowers to ASP° as in (19), there is no longer any semantic tense heading TP. How then is the initial bound of MOD-T in (19) set, temporally anchored ? Recall that in (English) semantically tenseless modals sentences (sections 3.1-2 above), the initial bound of the modal-time was deictically anchored to UT-T. This will now also be the case here, since (19) is semantically tenseless. That is, the initial subinterval of the MOD-T in (19) directly picks up the local evaluation-time, UT-T. The MOD-T thus denotes an interval starting at the time of speech and extending without limit into the future, [UT-T, ), as shown in (20a-b).


Hamida Demirdache & Myriam Uribe-Etxebarria

(20) a.



MOD-T [UT-T, ]



MOD-T / UT-T b. ————————[————————> AST-T MOD-T / UT-T c. ——[——]———[————————>

The spatiotemporal predicate AFTER under M° then orders its external argument, the modal-time [UT-T, ), after its internal argument, the AST-T, as shown in (20c). Lowering at LF to rescue the temporal derivation in (18b) thus yields the temporally interpretable output in (20c). The MOD-T is deictically anchored to UT-T and, thus, denotes an interval starting at UT-T and extending indefinitely into the future. The spatiotemporal predicate AFTER under M° has ordered this present MOD-T (its external argument in (20a)) after the AST-T (its internal argument). The derivation in (18-20) thus yields the epistemic construal of the pastinflected modal in (18a), where the time of the possibility holds at UT-T and the situation-time of the modal complement is past-shifted relative to this present MOD-T. 4. Conclusion We have proposed a uniform temporal phrase structure for non-root modals in Spanish and English. The modal head projects a maximal projection (MP) embedded under TP and above ASP-P. On this proposal, each syntactic head contained in a modal sentence —that is, Tense (T°), Modal (M°), Aspect (ASP°) and V°— contributes a time argument to the temporal calculus of the sentence. This argument is projected onto the (external) specifier position of the selecting head. We have adopted Condoravdi’s proposal that the modaltime (MOD-T) in non-root modals, whether they are future or past oriented, is an open-ended time interval. Spanish non-root modals differ from their English counterparts in one crucial respect. Tense (past) morphology on the modal is temporally interpreted in Spanish : it contributes the spatiotemporal predicate AFTERTENSE to the temporal calculus of the modal sentence. Generating AFTER under T°,

Non-root past modals


however, yields a temporally uninterpretable output since the UT-T cannot be ordered after a time that extends indefinitely into the future (see discussion of (18b)). The derivation can, however, be rescued by lowering the predicate AFTER under T° to the closest head, M°. Lowering AFTERTENSE to M° yields the epistemic past-oriented construal of past-inflected non-root modals in Spanish 7. In contrast, tense (past) morphology on English non-root modals is temporally uninterpreted (semantically vacuous). This proposal explains why epistemic past-oriented construal of non-root modals in English can only surface with perfect auxiliary have, which contributes the spatiotemporal predicate AFTERASPECT to the temporal calculus of the sentence. We thus uniformly derive the temporal construals of past-oriented non-root modals in English vs. Spanish from the proposal that Perfect aspect, just like Past tense, is the spatiotemporal predicate AFTER. We derive the future-oriented construal of English non-root modals without auxiliary HAVEAFTER from two independently motivated assumptions. In tenseless modal sentences, the initial bound of the modal-time is deictically anchored — that is, it directly picks up the local evaluation-time, UT-T in an independent clause. Time denoting arguments (Zeit-Ps) can, just as any DP, enter into anaphoric dependencies where anaphora can be construed as (semantic) binding. In particular, when there is no temporal head under M°, the ordering relation between the external argument of the modal (MOD-T) and the time argument immediately under its scope (either the assertion-time or the situation-time of the described eventuality) is achieved via binding. References Abusch, D. (1998). Generalizing tense semantics for future contexts, in : S. Rothstein, (ed.), Events and Grammar, Dordrecht : Kluwer, 13-33. Condoravdi, C. (2001). Temporal interpretation of modals. Modals for the present and for the past, in : D. Beaver ; S. Kaufmann ; B. Clark ; L. Casillas, (eds), Stanford Papers on Semantics, California : SLI Publications, 59-82. Demirdache, H. ; Uribe-Etxebarria, M. (1997). The syntax of temporal relations : A uniform approach to tense and aspect, WCCFL XVI, 145159.


We assume that X°-movement (raising or lowering) of a temporal head at LF is a last resort operation targeting the closest licit landing site that would yield a well-formed temporal output and generating a temporal output that could not otherwise be generated.


Hamida Demirdache & Myriam Uribe-Etxebarria

Demirdache, H. ; Uribe-Etxebarria, M. (2000). The primitives of temporal relations, in : R. Martin ; D. Michaels ; J. Uriagereka, (eds), Step by Step : Essays on Minimalist Syntax in Honor of Howard Lasnik, Cambridge, MA : MIT Press, 157-186. Demirdache, H. ; Uribe-Etxebarria, M. (2002). Temps, aspects et adverbes, in : B. Laca, (éd.), Temps et Aspect. De la morphologie à l’interprétation, Collection Sciences du Langage, Paris : Presses Universitaires de Vincennes, 125-175. Demirdache, H. ; Uribe-Etxebarria, M. (2004). The syntax of time adverbs, in : J. Guéron ; J. Lecarme, (eds), The Syntax of Tense and Aspect, Cambridge, MA : MIT Press, 143-179. Demirdache, H. ; Uribe-Etxebarria, M. (2005). Aspect and temporal modification, in : P. Kempchinsky ; R. Slabakova, (eds), The Syntax, Semantics and Acquisition of Aspect, Dordrecht : Kluwer, 191-221. Demirdache, H. ; Uribe-Etxebarria, M. (2007). The syntax of time arguments, Lingua 117 : 330-366. Demirdache, H. ; Uribe-Etxebarria, M. (2008a). On the temporal syntax of non-root modals, in : J. Guéron ; J. Lecarme, (eds), Time and Modality, Dordrecht : Springer, 79-113. Demirdache, H. ; Uribe-Etxebarria, M. (2008b). Scope and anaphora with time arguments : the case of ‘perfect modals’, Lingua 118 : 1790-1815. Heim, I. ; Kratzer, A. (1998). Semantics in Generative Grammar. Oxford : Blackwell. Klein, W. (1995). A time relational analysis of Russian aspect, Language 71.4 : 669-695. Reinhart, T. (1997). Strategies of anaphora resolution, UiL OTS Working Papers TL97-007, Utrecht : Utrecht University. Smith, C. (1991). The Parameter of Aspect, Dordrecht : Kluwer. Stowell, T. (1993). The syntax of tense, ms., UCLA. Zagona, K. (1990). Times as temporal argument structure, talk presented at the Time in Language conference, MIT, Cambridge, MA.

The Italian modal dovere in the conditional: future reference, evidentiality and argumentation Andrea ROCCI University of Lugano (Switzerland)

1. Broader context of the research The present paper is at the same time a development of ongoing research on epistemic modality in Italian and the very first step into research on argumentation, modality and evidentiality in economic-financial news discourse that the author is currently developing. 1.1. Relative modality and the semantics of the modals Here, we will be drawing on previous work on the epistemic readings of the Italian modals potere and dovere (Rocci 2005a, b), of the Italian future tense (Rocci 2000, 2005a), as well as of other Italian modal constructions (Rocci 2007a). This work explained how these linguistic structures can function as markers of inferential evidentiality and can establish argumentative discourse relations, using a version of the relative modality approach initiated by Kratzer (1981). According to this approach modals are to be analysed as two-place relations, of the form R (B, p), taking as their arguments a set of propositions – their conversational background (B) – and a proposition (p) corresponding to the complement of the modal. Necessity modals are taken to indicate that the argument proposition is necessarily entailed by – that is logically follows from – the conversational background (B) of the modal. (Def. 1)

[[must / necessarily (B, ϕ)]] ⇔ [[ϕ]] is a logical consequence of B

This means that the universal quantification over possible worlds of the necessity operator is restricted to the set of worlds where all the propositions in the conversational background are true. This set of worlds is called the modal base. In fact, within possible world semantics, saying that ϕ is a logical consequence of B means exactly that ϕ is true in all the worlds where all the propositions that make up B hold, that is in all the worlds of the modal base 1. 1

A sentence ϕ is a logical consequence of a set of sentences Φ if and only if ϕ is true in all possible worlds in which all sentences in Φ are true (cf. Kaufmann, Condoravdi & Harizanov 2006). © Cahiers Chronos 23 (2011): 61-79.


Andrea Rocci

The relative semantics of the necessity modals can also be given equivalently “by translation” using an unrestricted logical necessity operator (…) and the material entailment connective (→) : (Def. 2)

must / necessarily (B, ϕ) ⇔ … ( B → ϕ)

This indirect formulation involves a strictly unnecessary step but will come in handy for descriptive purposes. Within the relative modality approach the various interpretations of the modals can be understood in terms of the kind of propositions that compose the conversational background, or, equivalently, by the kind of worlds in the modal base. Three broad classes of conversational backgrounds are relevant to our discussion of the interpretations of the Italian modal dovere : alethic, deontic and doxastic backgrounds. We can render modalities with alethic (realistic backgrounds according to the terminology of Kratzer 1981) conversational backgrounds using the following informal paragraph schema : (i)

A possible state of affairs ϕ is entailed by or compatible with facts of kind B.

Deontic conversational backgrounds can be characterized by the formula : (ii)

An action  is entailed by or compatible with norms or ideals of kind B.

And, finally, we have doxastic conversational backgrounds : (iii)

A (meta-represented) 2 hypothesis ϕ is entailed by or compatible with a relevant set of beliefs B held by the speaker at the moment of utterance.

Research on the necessity modal dovere (Rocci 2005a, b), in particular, suggested that in the epistemic readings of dovere in the indicative the conversational background was to be identified with a set of beliefs of the speaker at the moment of utterance, and thus with a doxastic modal base 3.



Cognitively, epistemic / doxastic modalities relate to the higher faculty of metarepresentation : that is the ability of an agent to represent his/her thoughts as representations distinct from the world, thus enabling the agent to cope with her partial and fallible access to the facts. In doxastic modalities the proposition ϕ is entertained as a metarepresentation – as a thought – and compared with the agent’s beliefs. For a detailed discussion of the role of metarepresentation in the analysis of epistemic modality see Papafragou (2000). Note that this is not the “standard analysis” of the epistemic interpretation of the modals proposed for German and English by Kratzer (1981) and adopted by much of the subsequent literature, which does not involve doxastic backgrounds. The doxastic analysis of deve proposed in Rocci (2005a, b), in this

The Italian modal dovere in the conditional


Only with epistemic-doxastic backgrounds the logical consequence relation is directly identified with an inferential, and, hence, possibly argumentative relation. With the other backgrounds this coincidence may or may not obtain (Rocci 2007c). In the following pages we will recall some consequences of this analysis, as well as some of the arguments that support it in order to illuminate the contrast between the epistemic readings of the indicative (henceforth deve) and those of the conditional (henceforth dovrebbe), which react in a distinctively different manner with respect to a number of semantic and discursive variables, including notably the condition under which it is possible to establish argumentative discourse relations between the modalized utterance and adjacent utterances in the co-text. 1.2. Modality and the structure of argumentative discourse : the case of economic-financial news The discourse genre of economic-financial news is an interesting test bed for investigating the contribution of the semantics of the modals to discourse organization and to argumentation in particular. In contrast with other news genres, financial news is as much about predicting the future and evaluating possible outcomes as about reporting past events (cf. Del Lungo Camiciotti 1998, Walsh 2004). Future events – both in the form of forecasts and of alternative conditional scenarios – receive the same importance as the reporting of past events. Explicit argumentation supporting acts of prediction 4 is also more prominent than in other news genres. This supporting argumentation is largely attributed to expert sources (e.g. financial analysts) and sometimes accompanied by further indirect argumentation on the source’s credibility. At a semantic level this has a number of interesting consequences. Predictions appearing in financial news typically take the form of modalized utterances (cf. Walsh 2001, 2004, 2006) referring to future events. These modalized statements typically appear as conclusions in arguments based on causal argumentation schemes (Walton 1996). Predictions and causal relations are often relativized to plausible or merely possible scenarios. Consider, as a partial illustration of these features, the following English


respect, is more closely related to the analysis of epistemic must in terms of metarepresented beliefs proposed by Papafragou (2000). Merlini (1983) addresses predictions in economics papers from the viewpoints of Searlean Speech Act Theory. The analysis reveals an intimate connection between the nature of the illocutionary force of prediction and its role in argumentation. Merlini (1983) devotes particular attention to the conditional nature of predictions and the role of epistemic modalities in modifying the prediction along an epistemic gradient and an evidential-inferential one.


Andrea Rocci

examples, taken from an article appearing in the Wall Street Journal Europe (WSJE) on September 14, 2006 5 : (1)

a. Firm’s fortunes may rise as commodity prices fall (Headline) b. Major airlines around the globe continue to see strong passenger demand, so profit could climb if they are able to raise prices while their own costs drop as fuel prices fall. (From the body text)

The headline in (1a) consists of a modalized conclusion supported by an argument based on a form of “economic causality”, while the passage in (1b) presents a more developed form of the same argument where the modalized conclusion introduced by could holds only within a conditional frame (if they are able to raise prices). Explicit attribution to sources (financial analysts, rating agencies, etc.) and forms of quotative evidentiality 6 create another kind of shifted discourse domain which interacts with conditional structures and epistemic modals, as illustrated by (2) : (2)

A reduction of that percentage to 30% would likely lead Standard & Poor’s to raise the company’s corporate credit rating to “stable” from “negative”, according to primary credit analyst Mary Ellen Olson. (WSJE, 13.2.2007)

The above semantic features make this discourse genre an ideal – and largely unexploited – environment to explore the interaction between modals, evidentials and conditional structures and their contribution to discourse organization. While the present paper basically remains a semantic study of the epistemic readings of Italian conditional modal dovrebbe, it can also be seen as a first step in the exploration envisaged above. For the present study of the discursive implications of the semantics of dovrebbe, we will rely on a small corpus of examples collected from the Italian economic-financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore 7.




The whole article contains 12 modal expressions (modal auxiliaries and modal adverbs). Interestingly Heard on the Street is the title of the recurring feature to which the source article of examples (1.a,b) belongs. This title nicely points to the role of expert sources (sometimes anonymous) in this kind of discourse. All the examples are taken from a small sample of 126 occurrences of the “epistemic” use of the conditional dovrebbe, extracted from the electronic archives of the Italian economic daily Il Sole 24 Ore. For all the occurrences extracted, the entire texts of the articles have been included in the corpus.

The Italian modal dovere in the conditional


2. Deve and dovrebbe : different degrees on a certainty scale? The epistemic interpretations of the modal dovere (‘must’) in the indicative mood (henceforth deveE) and in the conditional mood (dovrebbeE) – are exemplified in (3) below. (3)

A : Dov’è lo zucchero? (Where is the sugar ?) B1 : Dev’essere da qualche parte nella credenza. (It must be somewhere in the cupboard) B2 : Dovrebbe essere da qualche parte nella credenza (It should be somewhere in the cupboard)

One way of looking at the difference between the two modals is to say that the conditional form dovrebbe is to be understood as a downgraded version of epistemic deve on a certainty scale. Certainty scales are a simple and much used way to represent differences between epistemic meanings. Pietrandrea (2005 : 70-76), for instance, presents the following one, which she considers as one of the key scalar dimensions structuring the epistemic domain in Italian : DEVE

+ certain



- certain

However she also observes : « The conditional morpheme [= the one appearing in dovrebbe] is not an epistemic marker per se. It merely indicates that the truth of the modal that it modifies holds in a world where certain conditions are met. That increases the degree of uncertainty only indirectly. » (Pietrandrea 2005 : 76).

Here we follow this hint on indirectness, to argue that often scalar paradigms of this sort do not reflect meaning construction processes, but rather offer a map – a one-dimensional map actually – of post-pragmatic meaning effects. We will also argue that a description mirroring more closely meaning construction can lend deeper insights into discourse functions. This issue is particularly relevant with respect to argumentative discourse. Modal scales such as the above are particularly prominent as an analytic tool in studies addressing modality in specific discourse genres.


Andrea Rocci

Consider, for instance, the classic functional treatment of modality in Halliday (1994 : 354-363) 8 and its many applications in discourse analysis. Moreover, the tradition of argumentation studies, since Toulmin (1958), has essentially considered “modal qualifiers” as indicators of the degree of strength of a conclusion 9, or, similarly, of the extent of commitment to the truth or acceptability of the propositional content of a standpoint (SnoekHenkemans 1992). Here, without discounting the indubitable relevance of scalar phenomena for the understanding of the quantificational aspect of modality (cf. Horn 1972), we want to suggest that there are subtle differences between modals that have more to do with the nature and internal structure of their modal bases (or conversational backgrounds) than with their basic force of quantification, and that these differences have interesting consequences at the discourse level. A first observation suggesting that the difference between epistemic deve and dovrebbe cannot be reduced to different positions on a certainty scale is the following : in most of the contexts in which they occur, the two modals are not interchangeable. Consider (4.a,b) : .


a. Ciò detto, ci dobbiamo preparare ad agire in un mercato negativamente influenzato dall’ andamento fiacco del Pil, un mercato che nel 2002 dovrebbe calare dell’ 8% in Italia a 2,2 milioni di vetture [...] (Corpus IL SOLE 24 ORE). ‘That said, we must be prepared to act in a market negatively influenced by the weak GDP figures, a market that in 2002 is expected to decrease by 8% in Italy to 2.2 million cars.’ b. Poco dopo la seconda guerra mondiale, ha ricordato, l’ Italia ha vissuto il famoso miracolo economico, diventando in poco tempo uno dei Paesi più ricchi del mondo. Dev’ essere scattata una molla particolare per innescare un processo di sviluppo così rapido, ha sottolineato l’ economista. (Corpus IL SOLE 24 ORE) ‘Shortly after WWII – he reminded – Italy witnessed the famous Economic Miracle, becoming in a short time one of the richest countries in the world.


Certainly the complex system of choices related to modality that Halliday postulates goes beyond the scale encompassing high, median and low modalities. However this scalar dimension remains primary in the whole conception : « Modality is the area of meaning that lies between yes and no – the intermediate ground between negative and positive polarity » (Halliday 1994 : 356). According to the “Toulmin Model” of argumentation, the category of the modal qualifier is meant to provide an “explicit reference to the degree of force which our data confer to our claim in virtue of our warrant” (Toulmin 1958 : 101).


The Italian modal dovere in the conditional


Some very particular trigger must have gone off that sparkled such a rapid economic development process – the economist emphasized.’

In (4.a) the substitution of dovrebbe with deve creates a bizarre effect of absolute certainty – which is not at all the usual “strong probability” meaning of epistemic deve : the “8% decrease” of the automotive market in Italy would be presented as an inevitable necessity. On the other hand, in (4.b) changing deve to dovrebbe destroys discourse coherence, making it impossible to consider the event of the ‘Economic Miracle’ as evidence that ‘some special trigger went off’. In other words, it becomes impossible to establish an argumentative discourse relation where the modalized proposition is interpreted as a conclusion, and the fact mentioned in the previous utterance as a premise. As it will be argued in the following sections, it is possible to account for the lack of mutual substitutability of deve and dovrebbe in contexts such as the above by looking at some basic differences between the two constructions. These differences emerge at three levels : a. b. c.

The possibility of epistemic interpretation of the modal when the embedded proposition refers to a future eventuality ; The presence of restrictions on the evidential source of the modalized proposition ; The presence of restrictions on the type of argumentative discourse relations inferable.

3. Epistemic dovere and future reference Elsewhere (Rocci 2005a) we have argued that epistemic interpretations of deve are completely incompatible with embedded propositions referring to future events. This means that, most of the time, epistemic interpretations of deve are available only when there is a perfect infinitive (5a), or the simple infinitive of a stative predicate (5b) as has already been observed by Bertinetto (1979 and 1986). (5)

a. Giovanni non è ancora arrivato. Deve essersi perso. ‘Giovanni hasn’t arrived yet. He must have lost his way.’ b. Giovanni deve conoscere una scorciatoia. Perché è arrivato là prima di tutti. ‘Giovanni must know a shortcut. Because he arrived there before everybody else’. c. Giovanni non conosce la strada. *Deve perdersi. 10 ‘Giovanni does not know the way. *He must get lost.’


The star refers only to the impossibility of an epistemic reading. A deontic reading of (5c) is perfectly possible both in Italian and in English.


Andrea Rocci

In (5c), with a non-stative eventuality, the modalized process is interpreted as having future reference, and, at the same time, the epistemic reading of the modal deve is blocked. Similar constraints for English epistemic must have been observed by many authors 11, and are, in fact, apparent from the translation of examples (5a,b,c). The above restriction on epistemic readings does not apply at all to the conditional form dovrebbe, as shown by (4a) above. In fact, most of the occurrences of “epistemic” dovrebbe in our sample from the Sole 24 Ore Daily have future reference, many of them being predictions of how the economic situation will develop. In contrast with the picture drawn above, Squartini (2004) argues that occurrences of deve like (6a) and (6b) have a future event as their argument and are indeed epistemic. (6)

a. Il cielo è pieno di nuvole. Deve piovere. ‘The sky is full of clouds. It’s going to rain.’ b. George Bush deve incontrarsi con il Primo Ministro israeliano Ehud Olmert il 22 di Maggio. ‘George Bush is to meet Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert on May 22.’

One can show, however, that future reference examples like (6a) and (6b) differ from typical epistemic-inferential uses of deve in some important respects and there are quite strong grounds to reject Squartini’s hypothesis. It is worth paying special attention to these differences between epistemic and future reference dovere, because they will turn out to be one of the keys to understand the functioning of the conditional dovrebbe in predictions. 4. Inferential and quotative evidentiality Much like the English epistemic must, the epistemic use of deve is deictically anchored to the moment of utterance and refers to on-line inferences of the speaker (except in free indirect speech). It can be reconstructed as having a doxastic modal base, referring to beliefs meta-represented qua beliefs 12. Epistemic deve functions as a marker of inferential evidentiality as it signals that the speaker does not have direct access to the propositional content and infers it from contextual data. As such it is incompatible with knowledge from testimony and typically creates difficulties in the context of reportative expressions such as (7) :

11 12

Werner (2005) proposes an explanatory theory for this constraint in English. On the role of metarepresentation in epistemic / doxastic readings see note 2 above.

The Italian modal dovere in the conditional (7)


Deve aver piovuto qui stamattina. ?Me l’ha detto Giovanni. ‘It must have rained here this morning. ?Giovanni told me that.’

Although it is still marginally possible to interpret (7) in a ‘shifted context’ as a kind of free indirect speech reporting someone else’s inference, it is, in any case, not possible to take deve as referring to the degree of certainty of the speaker towards a proposition whose knowledge derives from testimony. Deve with future reference, on the contrary, does not create any difficulty when it is used in combination with reports : (8)

a. Deve piovere. Lo ha detto la meteo. ‘It’s going to rain. The weather forecast told that.’ b. Bush deve incontrare Olmert il 22 maggio. Lo ha comunicato un portavoce della Casa Bianca. ‘Bush is to meet Israeli prime minister Olmert on May 22. A White House spokesman announced.’

According to Squartini (2004) – who considers, in particular, examples similar to (8b), taken from a journalistic corpus – there are two distinct epistemic-evidential values of deve : INFERENTIAL and REPORTATIVE, which would explain the differences between (7) and (8). The same reportative evidential use would be found in the conditional form dovrebbe. However, there are some strong arguments against this explanation. Future reference deve tolerates embedding in a number of epistemic environments where both inferential deve and the reportive evidential use of the conditional mood cannot ‘survive’, such as, for instance, the subjective epistemic adverb forse (‘maybe’) : (9)

a. Forse Bush deve incontrare Olmert il 22 maggio. ‘Maybe Bush is to meet Olmert on May 22.’ b. ?? Forse Bush deve aver incontrato Olmert. ?? Maybe Bush must have met Olmert on May 22.’ c. *Forse Bush incontrerebbe Olmert il 22 maggio. (reportive reading of the conditional) ‘Maybe Bush is reportedly to meet Olmert on May 22.’

Not only the epistemic adverb forse is incompatible with epistemic deve in (9b) due to a clash between epistemic possibility and necessity ; by situating the source of belief in a subjective evaluation of the speaker 13, forse also enters into conflict with the reportive evidential reading of the conditional 13

For a discussion of subjectivity as an evidential dimension manifested by a number of epistemic modal expressions see Nuyts (2001).


Andrea Rocci

mood in (9c). Future deve, in contrast, can be embedded in the subjective evaluation expressed by forse, as shown by (9a). Actually, the future uses of deve can be embedded in any kind of epistemic structure, including constructions of the type ‘nobody thinks that p’ and ‘I don’t know whether p’. At this point, then, it is quite natural to conclude that – contrary to what Squartini (2004) hypothesizes – the modality expressed by future-reference deve is neither epistemic nor evidential. The uses in (8a) and (8b) can be explained by resorting to non-epistemic modal bases. In (8a) we have an instance of restricted alethic modality (cf. Lycan 1994), or, to use Kratzer’s (1981) terminology a realistic modal base, where the conversational background consists of facts of a certain kind. Here the modal quantifies over possible future developments of a set of circumstances (weather conditions). Such a modality is causal in nature : it concerns circumstances that have physical causal power on the future event related by the modalized proposition. In (8b) we have a kind of normative modality, close to deontic modality, where necessity is defined by what is entailed by a schedule, a program, or other similar human arrangements. Kronning (1996 and 2001b) makes a similar hypothesis to explain future reference uses of French devoir. Kronning considers both cases as instances of restricted alethic modality. By doing so, however, he conflates the physical causality of (8a) with the expectations brought about by the assumed respect of human norms in (8b). Kronning (2001a) makes another interesting hypothesis as well. He considers the future reference uses of French devoir as the “source” of the apparently epistemic uses of the conditional form (devrait). Here we adopt a similar hypothesis to explain the “epistemic” uses of Italian dovrebbe. We will argue that they can be nicely explained as hypothetical versions of future reference deve (be it causal or schedule based). We can find evidence for this hypothesis by looking at the restrictions in the type of argumentative-inferential discourse relations inferable with discourse sequences involving dovrebbe. 5. Epistemic deve and dovrebbe and the manifestation of argumentative discourse relations Consider the following examples : (10) a. Giovanni ha lavorato molto. Dev’essere stanco. ‘John worked a lot. He must be tired’ b. Giovanni è stanco. Deve aver lavorato molto. ‘John is tired. He must have worked a lot.’

The Italian modal dovere in the conditional


c. E’ tutto rosso in faccia. Deve essere fuori di sé. ‘He’s all red in the face. He must be out of his mind.’

Epistemic deve can be used to manifest inferential relations both cooriented with the direction of time-causation (inference from cause to effect), as in (10a), and anti-oriented (inference from effect to cause) as in (10b). It can also be employed to manifest inferences corresponding to temporal concomitance, like (10c). Let us compare these sentences with their equivalents containing the conditional dovrebbe in (11) : (11) a. Giovanni ha lavorato molto. Dovrebbe essere stanco. ‘John worked a lot. He should be tired’ b. Giovanni è stanco. *Dovrebbe aver lavorato molto. ‘John is tired. He should have worked a lot’ c. E’ tutto rosso in faccia. *Dovrebbe essere fuori di sé. ‘He’s all red in the face. He should be out of his mind’

We find that dovrebbe cannot occur in temporally anti-oriented inferences from the effect to the cause (11b), and is also clearly excluded in certain cases of concomitance like the symptomatic argument in (11c). If we go back to the authentic example in (4b), we find that the impossibility of substitution of deve with dovrebbe stems from the same restriction on inferences from the effect (‘the Italian economic miracle’) to the cause (‘the hidden trigger of the event’). The diverging behaviour of deve and dovrebbe with respect to argumentative discourse relations can find an explanation in the context of the hypothesis we have been progressively developing in the previous sections. Epistemic deve, selecting a meta-representational doxastic conversational background – corresponding to a set of beliefs held by the speaker at the moment of utterance – concerns the properly argumentative level, the form of argumentation, and can convey any kind of deduction (from cause to effect, from effect to cause, and many non-causal schemes) : it is sensitive only to the form of the major premise that supports the deduction, and disregards its specific contents. Dovrebbe, on the other hand, primarily conveys a causal relationship of a natural or deontic 14 kind. As a further implicature, the assertion of this relationship may be taken as manifesting the major premise of an argument based on direct causality.


In this latter case the existence of a commitment / obligation / arrangement creates the expectation of a subsequent action.


Andrea Rocci

6. Dovrebbe and the Italian conditional mood We have hypothesized that dovrebbe is a conditional version of the alethic and deontic future oriented readings of indicative deve. Still, we have to flesh out in detail what it means exactly to be a hypothetical version of future deve and how this can give rise, in the end, to interpretations that appear “epistemic”. It is now time to consider the semantics of the morpheme of the conditional mood and the way it contributes to the meaning of dovrebbe. In this section we formulate the hypothesis that the basic invariant semantics of the Italian conditional mood morpheme is that of a relative necessity modal operator. The modal semantics we propose for the conditional is consistent with the diachronic development of the morpheme from Latin necessity modal constructions and parallels the modal semantics we have developed elsewhere for the Italian future tense (Rocci 2000 and 2005). Such a semantics is also intended to fit with the idea introduced by Lewis (1973) and further developed by Kratzer (1981) and Frank (1996) that in natural language conditional constructions always involve some explicit or implicit modal operator relating the protasis and the apodosis. The basic semantics of the conditional mood can be captured by the following general formula : (Def. 3) Conditional (B, ϕ) ⇔ … ( B → ϕ) Procedural restriction on the saturation of B : ‘B is identified with some set of non-factual propositions’

Provided that it is not made up of factual propositions, the B of the conditional can be understood in context as comprising different sorts of propositions giving rise to the various readings of this mood. Let us consider 15 three typical cases :


For a more extensive discussion of the derivation of the various readings of the Italian conditional from its basic modal semantics, see Rocci (2007b).

The Italian modal dovere in the conditional


(12) a. CONDITIONAL SENTENCE : [...] un orientamento sul duplice controllo che, se accolto, comporterebbe l’ obbligo di consolidare nel gruppo Pirelli anche i conti [...] (IL SOLE 24 ORE 04.01.2002) ‘A view of double control that, if accepted, would entail an obligation to consolidate in the Pirelli group also the finances [...]’ ({the view is accepted, ... }→ there is an obligation to consolidate) b. MODAL SUBORDINATION IN DISCOURSE : Siamo in pratica in tre : Edisontel, Atlanet e Albacom. Pur nelle differenti dimensioni penso che sarebbe una buona chance riuscire a fondere queste attività, in parte complementari. Nascerebbe un gruppo di telefonia fissa forte che potrebbe creare valore e dare soddisfazioni agli azionisti. (IL SOLE 24 ORE 12.01.2002) ‘There are in fact three of us : Edisontel, Atlanet and Albacom. Notwithstanding the different size, I think it would be a good opportunity to manage to merge these activities, which are, in part, complementary. A strong telephony group would be born that could create value and satisfy shareholders’ ({the merger happens, ... }→ a strong telephony group is born) c. REPORTIVE EVIDENTIAL : Barilla ha ufficialmente il 2,07 di Kamps (anche se secondo fonti finanziarie disporrebbe di una quota superiore) (IL SOLE 24 ORE 17.04.2002) ‘Barilla officially owns 2,07 % of Kamps (but according to financial sources it reportedly owns a larger share)’ ({‘what financial sources say’}→ Barilla owns a share > 2,07%’)

In the prototypical case of the conditional sentence (12a) the non-factual conversational background is reconstructed as including the protasis of the 16 conditional construction , while in the case of (12b) it is a more or less explicit discourse antecedent which is inserted in the non-factual conversational background, according to a mechanism similar to modal subordination (Roberts 1989). Finally, in the case of the reportive evidential


In fact, the conversational background of a natural language conditional includes the protasis but it is not limited to it. Many studies have pointed out that in order to get realistic truth conditions for the conditional we cannot maintain that the apodosis holds true in all the worlds in which the protasis is true, no matter what other conditions may obtain in that world. For instance, it runs against our intuitions that a sentence like If John gets the tenure, he will be happy entails that John is happy holds true in a world where he has got the tenure and simultaneously contracted a devastating disease. Due to space constraints, here we will completely ignore this important problem in the semantics of conditionals. For a discussion see Kratzer (1981), Mc Cawley (1996) and Moeschler & Reboul (2001).


Andrea Rocci

use in (12c) the non-factual conversational background is identified with what the quoted or anonymous sources say to be the case. What kind of interaction should we envisage, then, between the modal semantics of the conditional and the semantics of dovere ? A relatively simple and descriptively interesting hypothesis is to consider that due to the conditional mood, the set of worlds over which the modal dovere quantifies is further restricted to the subset of worlds where an explicit or implicit antecedent holds. Where no antecedents are available or recoverable from the context, the further restriction is reconstructed, by default, as a “stereotypical background” (what is normal, usual, typical see Kratzer 1981) 17. (Def. 4)

Where -

dovrebbe (B, ϕ) ⇔ … ({modal base ∪! conditional restriction}→ ϕ)

the modal base is either ALETHIC or DEONTIC ; the conditional restriction is a set of NON-FACTUAL PROPOSITIONS ; the sign ‘∪!’ indicates the set-theoretic operation of compatibilityrestricted union 18.

7. Epistemic dovrebbe and the structure of argumentative discourse The final part of this paper is devoted to applying the proposed semantics of the conditional modal dovrebbe to an extended analysis of an authentic example from our corpus of economic-financial news in order to show how such an analysis can help to understand the contribution of this modal to the structure of argumentative discourse. Let us examine example (13) below in detail : (13)



[...] secondo stime autorevoli, a fronte di consumi per 77,5 milioni di barili / giorno (mbg), l’ offerta ora è di 79,9 mbg, con uno sbilancio che, in condizioni normali, dovrebbe far precipitare le quotazioni. (IL SOLE 24 ORE 05.12.2002)

An apparent drawback of this hypothesis, at least according to a certain view of the relationship between linguistic signs and semantic structures, is that the semantics of dovrebbe is not compositionally derivable from the semantics of dovere and the semantics of the conditional morpheme. Rather, we can see the conditional modal dovrebbe as a motivated construction (cf. Goldberg 1995) where some semantic features are expressed redundantly by the mood morpheme and the modal verb, while others are clearly inherited from one or the other component. On this set theoretic operation see Frank (1996).

The Italian modal dovere in the conditional


‘According to authoritative estimates, with a consumption of 77.5 million barrel per day (MBD), the offer is now of 79.9 MBD with an unbalance that, under normal conditions ought / would / should make the price fall.’

Here the modal base of dovrebbe is contextually identified with the current situation of the economy, a set of factual propositions, which notably includes the following two propositions, presented in the immediately preceding cotext : (a) (b)

Oil consumption is 77.5 MBD Oil offer is now of 79.9 MBD

The CONDITIONAL RESTRICTION of the modal is explicitly identified with the set of normal conditions by the phrase in condizioni normali (“under normal conditions”). Note that the mentioning of the evidential sources (secondo stime autorevoli “According to authoritative estimates”) does not enter into the conditional restriction, because it does not directly concern the causal relationship established by the modal, but only the evidential status of the two propositions (a) and (b). Thus, the predicate-argument structure of the modal can be reconstructed as follows : … ({ situation of the economy : ‘Oil consumption is 77.5 MBD’, ‘Oil offer is now of 79.9 MBD’,...} ∪! {normal conditions}→ ‘Oil price falls’)

It can be observed that in this example economic causality is treated much like physical causality – the human agent involved is not “visible”. This is in accordance with the ontology assumed by classical models of market economy, which largely see market forces through the metaphor of physical forces. The fall of the oil price is a logical consequence of the compatibility restricted union of the propositions in the modal base and the set of propositions making up the normal conditions. This means that the modal base alone might not be enough to license p as a consequence. So, the causal relation described by the modal can be taken as an argument for concluding that the embedded state of affairs will obtain in w0, to the extent that normal conditions do indeed apply in w0 at that time. By definition, normal conditions apply to most of the worlds most of the times, hence the frequent inference of a PROBABILITY reading from the use of conditional dovrebbe. The outline of the resulting argument from cause to effect according to the laws of economics can be traced as follows :


Andrea Rocci

The inference from the normal conditions to the probability meaning of dovrebbe can be blocked if the context provides more specific evidence that the normal conditions in the conditional restriction do not apply in the present situation. This is precisely the case in example (13) where, if we examine the broader co-text we find that in the specific situation normal conditions may well not apply in w0. In fact, in the preceding text, the article, written shortly before the US invasion of Irak, mentions the uncertainty and tension surrounding the work of UN weapons inspectors in Irak and concomitant strikes in Venezuela. Only at this point the author introduces the discussion of oil surplus with (14) : (14)

Se però dimentichiamo i rischi “politici”[...] ‘However, if we forget about “political” risks [...]’

So, the necessary consequence manifested by dovrebbe applies in a ‘normal scenario’ where we ignore political risks and we reason from a purely economical viewpoint. But risks are not facts. Interestingly, the noun risk itself hides a modal component. So, the simplified scenario based on purely economical reasoning might still apply. In the end it becomes quite difficult to associate the use of dovrebbe in (13) to a definite degree of certainty of the writer with respect to the modalized proposition.

The Italian modal dovere in the conditional


8. Conclusion If it is sometimes difficult to place dovrebbe in an epistemic scale of certainty, it is because it does not directly convey an epistemic evaluation of probability, but a conditional necessity, and the epistemic evaluation of the conditions themselves may vary. It is not unusual for economic-financial news texts to outline different scenarios without betting on any of them, leaving to the readers the task of weighing arguments and counterarguments. This, together with the attribution to sources, allows the authors to dilute their argumentative responsibility, and, at the same time, present their discourse as informative rather than persuasive. References Bertinetto, P.M. (1979). Alcune ipotesi sul nostro futuro (con osservazioni su potere e dovere), Rivista di Grammatica Generativa 4, 1-2 : 77-138. Bertinetto, P.M. (1986). Tempo, aspetto e azione nel verbo italiano, Florence : Accademia della Crusca. Del Lungo Camiciotti, G. (1998). Financial news articles and financial information letters : a comparison, in : M. Bondi, (ed.), Forms of argumentative discourse. Per un’analisi linguistica dell’argomentare, Bologna : CLUEB, 195-205. Dendale, P. ; L. Tasmowski, (eds), (2001). Le conditionnel en français, Metz : Université de Metz. Frank, A. (1996). Context dependence in modal constructions. PhD Thesis, Institut für Maschinelle Sprachverarbeitung der Universität Stuttgart. Goldberg, A. (1995). Constructions : A Construction Grammar Approach to Argument Structure, University of Chicago Press : Chicago. Halliday, M.A.K. (1994). Functional Grammar, second edition, London : Arnold. Hollebrandse, B. ; van Hout, A. ; Vet, C., (eds), (2005). Crosslinguistic Views on Tense, Aspect and Modality, Amsterdam, New York : Rodopi. Horn, L.R. (1972). On the semantic properties of logical operators in English, UCLA dissertation. Kaufmann, S. ; Condoravdi, C. ; Harizanov, V. (2006). Formal approaches to modality, in : W. Frawley, (ed.), The Expression of Modality, Berlin, New York : Mouton de Gruyter, 71-106. Kratzer, A. (1981). The Notional Category of Modality, in : H.J. Eikmeyer ; H. Rieser, (eds), Words, Worlds and Contexts, Berlin : De Gruyter, 3974. Kronning, H. (1996). Modalité, cognition et polysémie : sémantique du verbe modal devoir, Uppsala : Almqvist & Wiksell.


Andrea Rocci

Kronning, H. (2001a). Nécessité et hypothèse : ‘devoir’ non-déontique au conditionnel, in : P. Dendale ; L. Tasmowski, (eds), 251-276. Kronning, H. (2001b). Pour une tripartition des emplois du modal devoir, in : P. Dendale ; J. van der Auwera, (eds), Les Verbes modaux. Amsterdam : Rodopi, 67-84. Lewis, D. (1973). Counterfactuals, Oxford : Blackwell. Lycan, W.G. (1994). Modality and meaning, Dordrecht, Boston etc. : Kluwer Academic Publ. Mc Cawley, J.D. (1996). Conversational scorekeeping and the interpretation of conditional sentences, in : M. Shibatani ; S. Thompson, (eds), Grammatical Constructions : Their Form and Meaning, Oxford : Clarendon Press, 77-101. Merlini, L. (1983). Gli atti del discorso economico : la previsione. Status illocutorio e modelli linguistici nel testo inglese, Parma : Edizioni Zara Università di Parma. Moeschler, J. ; Reboul, A. (2001). Conditionnel et assertion conditionnelle, in : Dendale, P. ; L. Tasmowski, (eds), 147-167. Nuyts, J. (2001). Subjectivity as an Evidential Dimension in Epistemic Modal Expressions, Journal of Pragmatics 33 : 383-400. Papafragou, A. (2000). Modality : Issues in the Semantics-Pragmatics interface, Amsterdam : Elsevier Pietrandrea, P. (2005). Epistemic Modality. Functional Properties and the Italian System, Amsterdam, Philadelphia : Benjamins. Roberts, C. (1989). Modal Subordination and Pronominal Anaphora in Discourse, Linguistics and Philosophy 12 : 683-721. Rocci, A. (2000). L’interprétation épistémique du futur en italien et en français : une analyse procédurale, Cahiers de Linguistique Française 22 : 241-274. Rocci, A. (2005a). La modalità epistemica tra semantica e argomentazione, Milano : I.S.U Università cattolica. Rocci, A. (2005b). Epistemic Readings of Modal Verbs in Italian : the relationship between propositionality, theme-rheme articulation and inferential discourse relations, in : B. Hollebrandse ; A. van Hout ; C. Vet, (eds), 229-246. Rocci, A. (2007a). Epistemic modality and questions in dialogue. The case of the Italian interrogative constructions in the subjunctive mood and the ‘epistemic’ future tense, in : L. de Saussure ; J. Moeschler ; G. Puskas, (eds), Tense, Mood and Aspect. Theoretical and Descriptive Issues, Amsterdam : Rodopi, 129-153. Rocci, A. (2007b). Le modal italien dovere au conditionnel : évidentialité et contraintes sur l’inférence des relations de discours argumentatives, Travaux Neuchâtelois de Linguistique (TRANEL), 2006 / 45 : 71-98.

The Italian modal dovere in the conditional


Rocci, A. (2007c). Modality and its conversational backgrounds in the reconstruction of argumentation, in : F.H. van Eemeren, J.A. Blair, Ch.A. Willard, B. Garssen, (eds), Proceedings of the Sixth Conference of the International Society for the Study of Argumentation, Amsterdam : SicSat, 1185-1194. Snoek-Henkemans, F. (1992). Analysing complex argumentation, Amsterdam : SicSat. Squartini, M. (2004). Disentangling evidentiality and epistemic modality in Romance, Lingua 114 : 873-895. Toulmin, S.E. (1958). The uses of argument, Cambridge : Cambridge UP. Walsh, P. (2001). Prediction and Conviction : Modality in Articles from The Economist, in : M. Gotti ; M. Dossena, (eds), Modality in Specialized Texts, Bern : Peter Lang, 361-378. Walsh, P. (2004). Investigating prediction in financial and business news articles, in : R. Facchinetti ; F.R. Palmer, (eds), English modality in perspective : genre analysis and contrastive studies, Frankfurt am Main : Peter Lang, 83-100. Walsh, P. (2006). Playing Safe? A Closer Look at Hedging, Conditions and Attribution in Economic Forecasting, in : V.K. Bhatia ; M. Gotti, (eds), Explorations in specialized genres, Bern : Peter Lang, 135-154. Walton, D.N. (1996). Argumentation schemes for presumptive reasoning, Mahwah N.J. : L. Erlbaum. Werner, T. (2005). The temporal interpretation of some modal sentences in English (involving a future / epistemic alternation), in : B. Hollebrandse ; A. van Hout ; C. Vet, (eds), 247-259.

The German evidential constructions and their origins: a corpus based analysis 1 Gabriele DIEWALD Leibniz University of Hanover


Leibniz University of Hanover 0. Introduction This paper is a report on the state of the art of a larger project concerning the development of evidential meanings in German, in particular the evidential constructions scheinen ‘seem’, drohen ‘threaten’, versprechen ‘promise’ & zu ‘to’-infinitive and werden ‘become’ & infinitive. This paper focuses particularly on the development of the evidential readings of drohen and versprechen. Nonetheless, we are concerned with scheinen and werden, too, in order to delineate the shape of the evidential paradigm as it is developing in German. Each of the four German constructions has a strong evidential value insofar as it refers to reasons, indications, or evidence, i.e. to the source of information speakers have for expressing statements, cf. (1)-(4) : (1)



1 2

Sitz gerade auf dem Fahrrad, Ilja ! Führe den Lenker nach links, wenn du nach rechts zu kippen drohst ! (W) 2 ‘Sit straight on the bike, Ilja ! Turn the handlebars to the left, when you threaten to topple to the right.’ …und nach längerem Suchen und nachdem er ihn mit den Zähnen getestet hatte, fand Kürenberg einen Reis, der körnig zu kochen versprach. (W) ‘…and after a lengthy search and after having tested it with his teeth, Kürenberg found a type of rice which promised to boil grainy.’ …und die die freude am risiko scheint sein zwanzigjähriger sohn hansjoachim geerbt zu haben (DSAv) ‘and his twenty-year-old son Hans-Joachim seems to have inherited his readiness to take risks.’

This paper is based upon the research project « Evidential markers in German » supported by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung. The examples are taken from the IDS-corpora and from the ZEIT-subcorpus of the DWDS-corpora. Since every example can be traced back relatively easily, we only indicated the subcorpora they were taken from: W=Archiv der geschriebenen Korpora, DSAv=Deutsches Spracharchiv. © Cahiers Chronos 23 (2011) : 81-100.

82 (4)

Gabriele Diewald & Elena Smirnova Wenn also Franz Beckenbauer und andere der Stiftung Warentest vorhalten, sie wolle sich über die Weltmeisterschaft profilieren, werden sie ziemlich schnell feststellen, dass…(ZEIT) ‘So, if Franz Beckenbauer and others reproach the Stiftung Warentest for trying to promote themselves via the World Cup, they are bound to realize very quickly that [...]’

This paper naturally covers only part of the whole project, namely it sketches roughly the overall diachronic development and presents, in more detail, the results of a corpus-based study of the infinitive constructions of the four verbs in Early New High German (henceforth ENHG) and of drohen and versprechen in the 18th and 19th centuries. There are two central hypotheses guiding this paper. First, we propose that the four evidential constructions build a paradigm in present-day German and represent distinctions within the domain of indirect inferential evidentiality. Second, we suggest that there are two basic source constructions, from which these inferential evidential meanings arise diachronically, one representing a successive relationship between two events and the other coding a simultaneous relationship between two events. 1. German evidentials – definitions and delimitations In our view on evidentials, we follow the impressive body of typological work on this topic (see in particular Anderson 1986, Willett 1988, Plungian 2001 and Aikhenvald 2003, 2004). The coding of an information source is considered the basic meaning of evidentiality, cf. : « Evidentiality proper is understood as stating the existence of a source of evidence for some information ; this includes stating that there is some evidence, and also specifying what type of evidence there is. » (Aikhenvald 2003 : 1) « Evidentials express the kinds of evidence a person has for making factual claims. » (Anderson 1986 : 273)

It has often been claimed (e.g. Palmer 1986, Ifantidou 2001) that information source marking is not the only function of evidential expressions, and that the degree of the speaker’s commitment to the truth of the proposition (or to the validity of the information source) is part of the evidential meaning. Hence, evidentiality has been subsumed under the area of epistemic modality. In our view, however, and in accordance with the studies quoted above, evidentiality – as a semantic domain as well as a grammatical category – has to be kept notionally distinct from other categories, in particular from modality and the grammatical category of mood (cf. de Haan 1999, 2001 ; Aikhenvald 2003, 2004). Without denying the fact that modality and evidentiality may merge

German evidential constructions and their origins


under certain conditions, we propose to treat evidentiality as a distinct and discrete functional domain whose distinctive feature is INFORMATION SOURCE, whereas epistemic modality is primarily concerned with the speaker’s evaluative attitude towards the proposition. The German evidential constructions considered here have often been taken to express epistemic modality (cf. Heine & Miyashita 2004, 2005 ; Gunkel 2000). In contrast to that, we suggest that their (often contextually present) epistemic modal nuances do not pertain to their basic semantics, and have the status of pragmatic implicatures, instead. Diachronically, this is triggered by the close interaction of the developmental paths of evidential markers and modal markers in German, which are still active today (see Diewald 2001). Furthermore, there are known paths of grammaticalization of evidential systems leading from diverse lexical sources and their particular constructions to different subtypes of evidentials (cf. e.g. Anderson 1986, Aikhenvald 2003, 2004). For instance, direct evidentials often develop out of verbs of perception and locative markers ; indirect evidentials evolve from perfects, resultatives and past tenses ; reportive evidentials come from verbs of speech etc. In the following, we will show that, in their diachronic development, the German evidential constructions derive from characteristic lexical sources and follow specific patterns of change. In addition to the synchronic evidence, these diachronical facts strongly support our view that the four German constructions under consideration here are evolving evidentials. 2. Evidential distinctions in German Several typological studies have presented classifications of the semantic distinctions of evidential systems (see e.g. Plungian 2001, Aikhenvald 2004), which mostly go back to the classification proposed by Th. Willett (1988) (see Fig. 1) Direct evidentials express that there is / was direct access to the described event, and this access is mostly of perceptual nature (visual, other sensory). Indirect evidentials, on the contrary, indicate absence of direct access to the event. The speaker either infers the situation from other information pieces (traces, results, general knowledge etc.), or s/he reports about the situation because s/he learnt the information from someone else. In the first case, it is another situation that provides evidence for the described event, in the second case it is another speaker who provides evidence for the described event. In both cases, the evidence is not accessible in the current speech situation, thus indirect.


Gabriele Diewald & Elena Smirnova Types of Source of Information






Visual Auditory Other Sensory

Secondhand Thirdhand Folklore

Results Reasoning

Figure 1 : Types of evidence (Willett 1988 : 57)

In German, direct evidentiality is expressed either by lexical means (e.g. sichtlich, sichtbar ‘visible’) or by syntactic constructions (e.g. matrix verbs, AcI, parenthetical uses). Recently, it has been suggested (cf. de Haan 2001, Mortelmans 1999) that the German modal verbs wollen and sollen serve as (grammaticalized) reportive evidentials, since they function to mark reported speech. In doing so, wollen indicates a particular person whose speech is reported, whereas sollen introduces the report of an unspecified person’s speech. Although the reportive meaning of these verbs is not controversial, their evidential status is still a matter of discussion which is due to the fact that the German present subjunctive, i.e. a member of the verbal mood category, functions as a marker of indirect speech, or quotative. Taking into account this language-specific situation and bearing in mind the still controversial status of quotatives within the evidential domain (cf. Plungian 2001, Aikhenvald 2004 : 132 ff.), the question is still to be answered whether the German modals sollen and wollen should be considered as reportives, and thus evidentials, or as indirect speech markers, and thus members of the verbal mood category. In this paper, therefore, we are mainly concerned with the German verbal constructions representing the INDIRECT INFERENTIAL 3 evidential value. We propose that the periphrases scheinen / drohen / versprechen & zu-infinitive as well as werden & infinitive have been developing towards grammatical inferential evidential markers. Moreover, we consider these constructions to 3

Other common terms for “inferential” are “conjecture”, “reasoning”, “assumed” etc.

German evidential constructions and their origins


form a semantic paradigm which mirrors the typologically established classifications mentioned above. Thus, if these two criteria are met by facts, i.e. (i) the involvement in a grammaticalization process and (ii) the representation of typologically relevant evidential distinctions, we can claim that an evidential system is emerging in German. The distinction between two kinds of inferential evidentiality – “inferred” vs. “assumed” – is relevant for describing the German evidential constructions. As Aikhenvald (2004 : 3) notes, these are : « […] two types of inference – the one based on visible result, and the other based on reasoning, general knowledge and, ultimately, conjecture. »

Table 1 below presents a partial classification of evidential values in German, which renders the specifications within the indirect inferential evidentiality as shades areas. As noted above, linguistic expressions of direct and reported evidence in German are not in the focus of this paper, and thus are not specified further in the table. evidential values level I level II level III


indirect inferential scheinen & zu & infinitive perceptual conceptual


drohen & zu & infinitive werden & infinitive versprechen & zu & infinitive Table 1: Partial classification of evidential values in German

The first level gives the basic distinction between direct and indirect evidence. The second level is specified for the indirect section only. Indirect inferential evidentials indicate that the speaker has indirect access to the event through his/her own reflections. Indirect reportive evidentials express that the speaker has indirect access based on someone else’s perceptual and cognitive capacities, i.e. what he has heard from someone else. The third level is specified for the indirect inferential section only. Instead of “inferred” and “assumed” proposed by Aikhenvald (2004), we use here “perceptual” versus “conceptual” inferential, because these terms better specify the type of premises the speaker bases her/his inference on. At this level, we distinguish between inference which is perceptually founded, i.e. based on perceptual input, and inference which is conceptually founded, i.e. based on internal reflection (cognition) without perceptual input.


Gabriele Diewald & Elena Smirnova

We think that the following description given by Plungian is applicable to all of the German inferential evidentials presented in the table : « The speaker has not perceived P [= described situation] directly, being separated from P in space or time. However, s/he has had access to other kinds of information about P. […] The speaker has (directly) observed another situation which s/he interprets as pointing towards P. » (Plungian 2001 : 35152)

Thus, inferential evidentials denote primarily the speaker’s reflection of some evidence, i.e. they indicate the relation between the described situation and some other situation, which is treated by the speaker as evidence for the former. The German infinitive constructions with scheinen, drohen, versprechen and werden carry different values within the domain of inferential evidentiality. The value of scheinen is NEUTRAL INFERENTIAL. It encodes the speaker’s reflection of some evidence without specifying what type of evidence it is. In (3), the statement that the son inherited the readiness to take risks from his father is the result of speaker’s inference. The type of evidence, which is the basis for the speaker’s inference, is not specified by scheinen : it may be either personal knowledge of the speaker, or some observation by the speaker, or even a report by someone else. The evidential meaning of drohen and versprechen is INFERENTIAL PERCEPTUAL. They specify the evidence on which the inference is based as directly perceived by the speaker. In (1) and (2), for instance, there are some manifest facts which serve as pieces of evidence which trigger the inference, e.g. first signs of Ilja’s falling to the right in (1), or the sensory effect of testing the rice with the teeth in (2). The evidential meaning of werden is INFERENTIAL CONCEPTUAL. Werden specifies the evidence on which the inference is based as conceptually founded, i.e. not directly perceived by the speaker, for example when the speaker bases his/her reflection on his/her internal cognition (e.g. experience and prior knowledge), cf. (4). In (5), a general paraphrase for the use of these constructions as indirect inferential evidential is given : (5)

The speaker does not perceive the event X, but s/he has access to some other pieces of information which s/he interprets as pointing towards it.

In order to account for the very prominent and well-known semantic distinction between drohen and versprechen, we obviously need a fourth level of distinction in our classification that applies to the inferential perceptual evidentials only. We note this by the features “negative / undesirable from the speaker's point of view”

German evidential constructions and their origins


for drohen and “positive / desirable from the speaker’s point of view” for versprechen – as shown in table 2, which is an extension of table 1. perceptual inferential evidentials negative / undesirable from the positive / desirable from the speaker's point of view speaker's point of view versprechen & zu & infinitive drohen & zu & infinitive Table 2: Perceptual inferential evidential : evaluative semantics

Drohen and versprechen are the youngest members of the German inferential evidential system presented in table 1. They still have very strong lexical semantics which trigger certain restrictions for their evidential readings, e.g. with regard to the zu-infinitives and their subjects. We propose that the present-day gap between scheinen and werden on one hand and drohen and versprechen on the other mirrors the chronological distance between the older and the younger German evidentials. This will be discussed in more detail in section 4. 3. Diachronic development of the infinitive constructions of the four verbs This section gives a brief review on the first attestations of the infinitive construction and its development up to the 18th century. As has been long known, up to the Middle High German period (henceforth MHG) none of the four verbs appears with an infinitive (cf. Behaghel 1924, Dal 1966, Ebert 1976). The corpora we investigated are first, for the Old High German period (henceforth OHG) and MHG, our own KALI-corpus, which consists of 14 texts with a sum of about 160 000 tokens, and, second, the Bonner Frühneuhochdeutsch Korpus and the Bibliotheca Augustana for ENHG data with a sum of about 500 000 tokens. Table 3 below shows the figures of the overall frequency of these items in our corpus. verb

OHG / MHG ENHG with infinitive with infinitive ∑ ∑ werden 813 0 3559 1268 (ca. 35%) scheinen 33 1 178 87 (ca. 49%) drohen 8 2 19 2 (ca. 10,5%) versprechen 5 0 71 30 (ca. 42%) Table 3: The frequency of the verbs in OHG / MHG and ENHG

As the infinitive construction, which is the relevant context for the grammaticalization of evidential markers, is so extremely infrequent in the first


Gabriele Diewald & Elena Smirnova

period 4, we may safely conclude that the processes of grammaticalization has not yet advanced very much at this stage. The construction werden & infinitive has been attested since the 13th century. Though we do not have instances of that earliest use in our corpus, there is reliable evidence in other texts (cf. Westvik 2000 : 235-239, Diewald & Habermann 2005). The examples under (6) illustrate typical instances of the werden & infinitive construction in later centuries : (6)

a. als der herre Kristus sprach zuo sînen jungern‚ in iuwer gedult werdent ir besitzen iuwer sêlen. (G 5 Eck, 14th century) ‘as Christ, the Lord, spoke to his disciples, in your patience you will possess your souls.’ b. wie wir vunten im Vatter vnser hoeren werden (B 135, 16th century) ‘as we shall hear below in the Lord's Prayer’

The exact details of the development of the werden & infinitive construction are complex and still a matter of intense debate. We assume that werden & infinitive was analogically formed after the model of the beginnan & infinitive construction, and became a member of a relatively closed class of aspectualizing ingressive constructions. Our hypothesis rests on the observation that in OHG verbs like beginnan ‘begin’ and gistanten ‘be situated, begin’ were frequently combined with an infinitive to express ingressive notions (cf. Westvik 2000 : 237, see also Wilmanns 1906, Schmid 2000, Diewald & Habermann 2005), cf. : (7)

a. Sô man dáz pegínnet óugen (Notker, Boethius, from Braune & Ebbinghaus 1994 : 63) ‘If one begins to show that.’ b. do ih riuuon gestuont die sunda (Notker II, 15, 21 ; from Behaghel II. P. 311) ‘when I began to repent of my sin.’

Furthermore, we propose that the ingressive meaning of the werden & infinitive construction gave rise to the development of its later inferential evidential meaning. The semantic change towards inferential evidential meaning can be sketched here very briefly (for a more detailed analysis of the rise of evidential meaning of werden / würde & infinitive see Smirnova 2006). From the 14th century onward werden with infinitive developed to mark a successive (e.g. temporal, consecutive, conditional) relation between two described events. This 4 5

Comments on the very few instances of infinitive constructions before ENHG will be given below. The abbreviation G stands for Gloning corpus, B for Bonner Frühneuhochdeutsch Korpus, BA for Bibliotheca Augustana.

German evidential constructions and their origins


stage in the development is best illustrated by the following sentences with past tense forms of werden, cf. : (8)

a. Und ward darumb wainen ser… (Kauringer Gedichte, XIV, 635, 14th century, from Aron 1914 : 83) ‘And [she] began to weep dearly because of that.’ b. Und da aber Lionell befannd, das sein maister Phariens nit chumen was, des ward er ser zürnen [...] (Ulr. Füeterer ; 15, 8, 15th century, from Aron 1914 : 88) ‘And as Lionell found that his master Phariens had not come, he became very angry because of that.’

In the 16th century, instances for inferential evidential readings emerge, in which one of the events is interpreted as evidence for another event, cf. : (9)

a. Doch wird der Warheit einige Gewalt nicht geschehen / wenn wir die Worte dahin deuten / daß … (B 257, 17th century) ‘However, truth will not be violated if we interpret the word in a way that […]’ b. Wer nun Tugend / gute Sitten vnd Kuensten liebhat / wird wissen was er thun solle. (B 127, 17th century) ‘Whoever loves virtue, good manners and the arts is bound to know what to do.’

Thus, werden represents the first type of lexical source constructions from which the German inferential evidentials originate. The inferential evidential meaning of werden develops from its ingressive meaning in infinitive constructions via the stage where werden is interpreted as representing a SUCCESSIVE relationship between (two) described events. Scheinen with zu-infinitive has been attested since the 16th century (cf. Ebert 1976 : 41f., Diewald 2001). The only infinitive it first appeared with was the verb sein ‘be’ (with or without the particle zu) 6. From the 18th century onward, scheinen has been witnessed with all types of infinitives (cf. Askedal 1998) : (10) a. Der Sterbende schien sich noch einmal aufrichten zu wollen (BA Gel, 18th century) ‘The dying man seemed to try and raise himself up once again.’


This may have been promoted by analogical transfer from other copula verbs which could be complemented by a bare infinitive, like sie bleibt liegen etc.; cf. Dal 1966 : 115; Diewald 2001.


Gabriele Diewald & Elena Smirnova b. […] allein meine Umstaende scheinen es zu verbieten. (BA Gel, 18th century) ‘[…] but my situation seems to forbid it.’

As the above examples demonstrate, in the 18th century, scheinen with zuinfinitive already exhibits the evidential meaning comparable to its meaning in present-day German. One important factor for its development is the very frequent use in comparative constructions (cf. Diewald 2001). Most frequently, these are comparisons between Sein ‘being’ versus Schein ‘appearance, pretence’, cf. : (11)

es sind noch einige kleinigkeiten übrig, welche so nüzlich seyn als sie gering scheinen. (BA Leib 1, 17th century) ‘there are still some small things left, which are as useful as they seem trivial.’

Thus, scheinen represents the second type of source constructions for inferential evidential : two events which are compared to each other. This comparative relation between two events represents a SIMULTANEOUS relationship. The original meaning component of visual effect is reinterpreted as evidence for the event that is spoken of to be similar to another event. Leaving aside the two instances found in our MHG data, drohen with zuinfinitive is attested from the 16th century onward 7. (12)


also bald legten wir die Haende an einen alten Mann / welcher vns am naehesten war / vnnd drauweten jhm / wa wir vnsern Steurmann nicht widerbekaemen / den Kopff abzuschlagen. (B 245, 16th century) ‘[…] at once, we laid our hands on an old man who stood next to us, and threatened, in case we should not get our first mate again, to cut off his head.’

The two MHG instances of drohen with infinitive are both found in the Alexanderlied (KALI, 12th century) and show the repetition of the same syntactic construction with the verb slahen ‘fight’, cf.: Unde alsô Alexander den brîf gelas, owî wie smâhe ime was, daz man ime trôte ze slahen. ' ‘And when Alexander had read the letter / oh, how shameful he felt / that they threatened him to fight.’ They represent the lexical reading of drohen, i.e., they introduce a threat which is intended by an animate subject (man ‘one’). Considering furthermore the long interval between the 12th century and the 16th century when drohen and infinitive starts getting used with some frequency by different authors, we may ignore the first two instances from the Alexanderlied.

German evidential constructions and their origins


In our data, we only found instances, in which drohen with zu-infinitive has its basic lexical meaning and expresses a threat. Versprechen with zu-infinitive is first attested in the 15th century and is already quite common in the 16th century, cf. : (13) a. […] und dess habend sich die von zürich gelopt und versprochen vir sy und jr nachkomen war und stet zu halten wie optstat. (B 213, 15th century) ‘[…] and the people from Zurich vowed and promised for themselves and their offspring to keep this true and for ever.’ b. […] kurtzlich anzeigen vnd fur ougen stellen / in maße wie ich jetz zuo thuon versprochen hab. (B 155, 16th century) ‘[…] as I now have promised to do.’

In the infinitive constructions, the meaning of versprechen is still its basic lexical meaning. 4. The development of infinitive constructions with drohen and versprechen towards inferential evidentials As we did not register instances of drohen and versprechen in their evidential reading in our corpus for ENHG, we decided to extend our investigation to data from the late 18th century 8 and from the 19th century. First, we sorted out all instances of drohen and versprechen with zu-infinitives : 18th century 19th century with % with % ∑ ∑ infinitive infinitive versprechen 112 49 43,8 537 193 35,9 drohen 57 24 42,1 196 97 49,5 Table 4: The frequency of drohen and versprechen with infinitives in the data from the 18th and 19th centuries verb

For versprechen, the percentage of the infinitive constructions, though slowly decreasing, remains roughly the same from the 18th to the 19th century 9. More importantly, it approximately equals their percentage in the ENHG period (ca. 42%, see table 3). For drohen, the percentage of infinitive 8


Our corpus for the 18th century consists of the texts from the DE-Gutenberg project and from the Digitale Bibliothek and contains ca. 1190000 tokens. The text selection for the 19th century comes from the IDS-Corpus and consists of ca. 4900000 tokens. We assume that the decrease of the amount of the infinitive constructions with versprechen (from 43, 8% to 35, 9%) may be explained, among other things, by the appearance of other construction types with the lexical verb versprechen, e.g. constructions with es ‘it’ or das ‘this’, elliptical constructions without any complements etc.


Gabriele Diewald & Elena Smirnova

constructions increases. Compared to the earlier stages, there is a very strong increase (from ca. 10% in ENHG to 49,5% in the 19th century). Thus, drohen rapidly accomplishes a relevant step increasing its occurrences in infinitive constructions. Next, we analysed the infinitive constructions with the two verbs to find out whether they already show evidential uses, cf. : 18th century 19th century lexical evidential lexical evidential ∑ ∑ reading reading reading reading versprechen 47 49 174 193 2 19 (96%) (100%) (90, 2%) (100%) (4%) (9,8%) drohen 12 24 19 97 12 78 (50%) (100%) (19,6%) (100%) (50%) (80,4%) Table 5: Lexical and evidential readings of the infinitive constructions verb

As the table shows, drohen is much more frequent in the evidential reading than versprechen. Moreover, comparing the bold figures in the table, we recognize a significant difference in the development of both constructions. Thus, we can summarize that (i) from the 18th to the 19th century, the frequency of drohen with zu-infinitive, unlike versprechen, rises rapidly as compared to ENHG ; this tendency slows down during the course of the 19th century ; (ii) the frequency of drohen with zu-infinitive used evidentially, unlike versprechen, increases considerably from the 18th to the 19th century. In the following, we focus on the development of the evidential meaning of both constructions. 4.1. The common path of development of drohen and versprechen The meaning of the infinitival constructions with drohen and versprechen may be described in accordance with Traugott (1997) as follows : « there is something about the subject that leads to an expectation of the proposition coming into being » (Traugott 1997 : 188)

This reading is exemplified in (14) for drohen and in (15) for versprechen : (14)


[…] schon loderte die Flamme, und drohte das herrliche Werk in die Asche zu legen […]. (Gutenberg-DE [henceforth : GB], Klinger) ‘[…] the flame was blazing up, threatening to reduce the magnificent work to ashes.’ Offenbach am Main zeigte schon damals bedeutende Anfänge einer Stadt, die sich in der Folge zu bilden versprach. (GOE / AGD.06345) ‘Even then, Offenbach am Main displayed significant features of that town, into which it promised to develop in future.’

German evidential constructions and their origins


In such contexts, the zu-infinitive mostly denotes an ACTION. The verbal process of the infinitive verb is seen as caused or even intended by the subject of the utterance, and, as the subject is always INANIMATE, this usage is a metaphorical one. One feature is of particular importance here : such contexts show a great semantic affinity to contexts in which drohen and versprechen occur with a nominal direct object, cf. : (16) (17)

hohe Mauern drohten den Einsturz. (GOE / AGA.01784) ‘high walls threatened the collapse / to collapse.’ geht die Sonne des Morgens auf und verspricht einen feinen Tag (GOE / AGW.00000) ‘the sun rises in the morning and promises a fine day.‘

Investigating the development of drohen, Heine and Miyashita (2005) point out that such contexts are already attested in MHG. They also emphasize that these examples are instances of metaphorical transfer describing certain natural phenomena. Verhagen (2000) observes a similar situation regarding the Dutch verbs beloven ‘promise’ and dreigen ‘threaten’ and interprets this development as a case of personification. In the contexts with accusative complements, the subject cannot be interpreted as committing (i.e. promising, threatening) itself to something : « Rather, the fact that it provides evidence for a particular expectation is what is being conveyed here » (Verhagen 2000 : 205).

Supporting this account, we may state that driven by the metaphorical process of personification, drohen and versprechen come to co-occur with inanimate subjects which are treated like human agents. Presumably, this metaphorical shift occurs first in the contexts with accusative objects, which have been attested in our corpus since ENHG (Heine and Miyashita 2005 register some occurrences already in MHG). Consequently, infinitive constructions, which first appear in the 18th century, are used with inanimate subjects which are conceptualized as being able to intend or to fulfil the action expressed by the infinitive verb. Thus, the first important step from lexical, i.e. performative, or commissive, semantics towards inferential evidential meaning is done : drohen and versprechen combined with personified inanimate subjects tone down the idea of the subject committing itself to some action. Instead, they refer to the presence of evidence for some expectation of the event introduced by drohen or versprechen (cf. Traugott 1997, Verhagen 2000, Cornillie 2004). Moreover, the contexts described above show some structural affinities to the scheinen contexts with sein-infinitives, which, again, correspond to the


Gabriele Diewald & Elena Smirnova

predicative constructions of scheinen with adjective / adverb complements, cf. : (18) a. Im Augenblicke schien ich gantz wieder nüchtern zu seyn. (BA Schna4, 18th century) ‘At that moment I seemed to be all sober again.’ b. Um uns ein Glück, das uns gleichgültig scheint, […] (BA Licht, 18th century) ‘[…] a fortune which seems unimportant to us […]’

We suggest that this parallelism calls for the contention that drohen and versprechen developed analogically to scheinen. This leads us further to the conclusion that there is a common feature in the development of these constructions towards evidential markers. The constructions with scheinen and sein-infinitives have been treated as extensions of the “simpler” copula usages of scheinen (cf. Askedal 1998, Diewald 2004). An analogical development may be proposed for drohen and versprechen, insofar as their combination with inanimate subjects and accusative objects preceded their usages with infinitives. Furthermore, it has been suggested (cf. Askedal 1998, Diewald 2001, 2004) that such constructions gave rise to the occurrence of other infinitive types with scheinen. We propose that this development is in line with the development of drohen and versprechen as well. To sum up, starting from the 18th century, infinitive constructions with drohen and versprechen occur in specific contexts where they cannot be interpreted in their lexical readings. Rather, in these contexts the infinitive constructions express evidential values. These contexts of drohen and versprechen share some relevant features : (i) the presence of an INANIMATE subject, (ii) which is personified as being able to carry out (iii) the ACTION introduced by the infinitive. Furthermore, the metaphorical process of personification triggers an evidential interpretation of the infinitive constructions under consideration whereby the described dynamic situation is seen as connected to some evidence. Displaying this semantic development, drohen and versprechen form a group with werden : referring to two situations successively related to each other, they represent the first lexical source construction of German evidentials. 4.2. Differences in the evidential status of drohen and versprechen In our data, we found that drohen can take infinitives which do not necessarily refer to some kind of ACTION, cf. :

German evidential constructions and their origins (19)


[…] einen Krieg beizulegen, der sich zwischen dem Kaiser und ihrem Herrn in Italien zu entzünden drohte. (GB, Schiller) ‘[…] to put down a war which threatened to spark off between the Kaiser and their lord in Italy.’

In the previous section, we pointed out that drohen and versprechen occur in specific contexts which can be defined by the presence of inanimate subjects combined with infinitival verbs denoting an action. Drohen, unlike versprechen, occurs also with zu-infinitives expressing an unintended EVENT rather than an intended action (e.g. sich entzünden ‘spark off’, verschwinden ‘disappear’, werden ‘become’, stürzen ‘tumble’ etc.), which means that it loses restrictions with regard to the choice of its infinitives. Drohen, thus, is advancing towards the next stage on the grammaticalization path towards an evidential marker. Second, evidential drohen can be used with an ANIMATE subject combined with an event verb, cf. : (20) a. was ist also aus dieser Fiktion geworden […] den Menschen, der sich in das Unendliche des Leeren zu verlieren drohte, zur Erde zurückzuführen ? (mew / WAC.03005) ‘[…] which sprang from the necessity to lead the man who threatened to get lost in the infinity of the void, back to earth.’ b. Walter Fürst schwankt und droht zu sinken… (GB, Schiller) ‘Walter Fürst is staggering and threatens to fall’

In such contexts, drohen unambiguously introduces the described event as being inferred by the speaker. The process of the infinitive verb cannot be understood as controlled by the subject referent. Rather, the whole proposition is (i) related to some (observable) pieces of evidence leading to the conclusion presented in the proposition ; (ii) the propositional content is evaluated negatively, i.e. undesirable from the speaker’s point of view. However, we did not register any uses of versprechen in such contexts : neither are there occurrences of evidential versprechen with animate subjects nor with infinitives referring to some kind of unintended process or event. Therefore, drohen is more advanced in its development towards an inferential evidential marker. 5. Conclusion In this paper, we have argued that the four German constructions scheinen, drohen, versprechen & zu-infinitive and werden & infinitive serve as evidential markers in present-day German. They build a paradigm as inferential evidentials and represent different semantic values within the domain of inferential evidentiality.


Gabriele Diewald & Elena Smirnova

As for the diachronic development of these constructions, we may formulate the following conclusions. First, werden and scheinen accomplished their development towards evidential markers already in ENHG. Second, drohen and versprechen developed their evidential readings later, namely in the course of the 18th and 19th centuries. Third, already in the 19th century, drohen shows a higher degree of grammaticalization as an inferential evidential than versprechen. A possible reason for the slower development of versprechen lies in the fact that versprechen & zu-infinitive has been hampered in its grammaticalization by its strong speech act semantics. In fact, versprechen is much less grammaticalized in this function in present-day German, too (see Diewald & Smirnova 2006). Thus, this diachronic study supports our synchronic findings and provides evidence from the history of German for the different speed in the grammaticalization process of these two verbs. To summarise, we want to propose a schema which shows the relevant semantics of the source constructions for German inferential evidentials and sketches their common developmental path. 1st stage : source lexical semantics 2nd stage : constructional meaning

3rd stage : target meaning

ingressive aspectual werden


visual effect



successive / consecutive relation between two events werden & infinitive & present participle

drohen/ versprechen & zu- infinitive & accusative object

simultaneous / comparative relation between two events scheinen & zu-infinitive & adjective & adverb

inferential evidential value werden drohen /versprechen scheinen & infinitive & zu-infinitive & zu-infinitive Table 6: Successive stages in the development of the German evidential constructions

Table 6 demonstrates the three successive diachronic stages in the grammaticalization of the German evidential verbal periphrases from their lexical source semantics via the intermediate stage of a construction with textually relational meaning towards the expression of inferential evidentiality. It should be noted that table 6 does not mean that the development proceeded simultaneously for all four verbs. It only demonstrates that we indeed can establish a common grammaticalization path with analogous stages for the German evidential constructions.

German evidential constructions and their origins


The first lexical source construction type manifests the successive / ingressive / consecutive relation between two events. So, the source aspectual semantics of the verb werden indicates a strongly related continuum between the beginning of the event and the event itself. At the second stage of the development, i.e. in the constructions with werden & infinitive or present participle, its lexical semantics is reinterpreted as an indication of the successive relation between two (different) situations which are logically connected to each other. Finally, at the third stage, including only the construction werden & infinitive, inferential evidential meaning develops, marking primarily a logical connection between two situations, whereby one of them is regarded as evidence for another. For drohen and versprechen, a similar developmental path can be assumed. First, as performative / commissive verbs, they serve to announce an event which is intended by the (grammatical) subject and thus introduce a strong (objective) connection between two situations. At the second stage, in constructions with accusative objects or with infinitives, these verbs come to mark a successive relationship between two situations. Here, their performative / commissive semantics is bleached and only the relational connection between two events is foregrounded, whereby one event is logically treated as announcing or preceding the other. Finally, the relational connection between the described events turns into the inferential evidential meaning, presenting a logical link between situations one of which is seen as evidence for another. The second lexical source construction type manifests the simultaneous relationship between two situations. Scheinen, a perceptual verb expressing visual effect, implies that some entity triggers a particular effect by means of its appearance. In combination with adjectives, adverbs and infinitives, this verb comes to indicate a relation between two situations which are compared to each other on the basis of their appearance. At the third stage, in constructions with infinitives, scheinen develops towards an inferential evidential, indicating that the described event is logically inferred from another one which is in some way similar to it and thus serves as piece of evidence. To put these two developmental paths in one, we can say that the first source construction type represents a relation between two situations projected to a syntagmatic axis whereas the second source construction type manifests a relation mapped onto the paradigmatic axis. Figure 2 shows the same semantic development focusing on the building of a uniform semantic category : starting from different lexical semantics, the four verbs develop to mark inferential evidentiality passing through the stage of establishing a relational constructional meaning.


Gabriele Diewald & Elena Smirnova 1st stage

2nd stage

3rd stage

beginning (Q) of P ingressive aspectual

announcement (Q) of P performative / commissive

appearance (Q) of P visual effect

event Q → event P successive relationship between Q and P

evidence Q → event P inferential evid. meaning: „Q is related to P“, „Q points to P“

event Q = event P simultaneous relationship between Q and P

Figure 2: Chronological path of the semantic development of the German evidential constructions

References Aikhenvald, A. Y. (2003). Evidentiality in typological perspective, in : A. Y. Aikhenvald ; R. M. W. Dixon, (eds), 1-31. Aikhenvald, A. Y. (2004). Evidentiality, Oxford : OUP. Aikhenvald, A. Y. ; Dixon, R. M. W. (eds), (2003). Studies in Evidentiality, Amsterdam, Philadelphia : Benjamins. Anderson, L. B. (1986). Evidentials, paths of change, and mental maps : Typologically regular asymmetries, in : W. Chafe ; J. Nichols, (eds), 273-312. Aron, A. W. (1914). Die “progressiven” Formen im Mittelhochdeutschen und Frühneuhochdeutschen, Frankfurt am Main : Baer & Co. Askedal, J. O. (1998). Satzmustervariation und Hilfsverbproblematik beim deutschen Verb scheinen, in : K. Donhauser ; L. M. Eichinger, (eds), Deutsche Grammatik – Thema in Variationen : Festschrift für HansWerner Eroms zum 60. Geburtstag, Heidelberg : Winter, 49-74.

German evidential constructions and their origins


Behaghel, O. (1924). Deutsche Syntax. Eine geschichtliche Darstellung. Vol. II : Die Wortklassen und Wortformen, B. Adverbium, C. Verbum, Heidelberg : Winter. Braune, W. ; Ebbinghaus E. A. (1994). Althochdeutsches Lesebuch. Zusammengestellt und mit einem Wörterbuch versehen von Wilhelm Braune, fortgeführt von Karl Helm, 17. Auflage bearbeitet von Ernst A. Ebbinghaus, Tübingen : Niemeyer. Chafe, W. ; Nichols, J., (eds), (1986). Evidentiality : The Linguistic Coding of Epistemology, Norwood, New Jersey : Ablex. Cornillie, B. (2004). Evidentiality and epistemic modality in Spanish (semi)auxiliaries : a functional-pragmatic and cognitive-linguistic account, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Leuven. Dal, I. (1966). Kurze deutsche Grammatik auf historischer Grundlage, Tübingen : Niemeyer. Diewald, G. (2001). Scheinen-Probleme : Analogie, Konstruktionsmischung und die Sogwirkung aktiver Grammatikalisierungskanäle, in : M. Reis ; R. Müller, (eds), Synchronie und Diachronie der Modalverben. Linguistische Berichte, Sonderheft 9 : 87-110. Diewald, G. (2004). Faktizität und Evidentialität : Semantische Differenzierungen bei den Modal- und Modalitätsverben im Deutschen, in : O. Leirbukt, (ed.), Tempus / Temporalität und Modus / Modalität im Deutschen – auch in kontrastiver Perspektive, Tübingen : Stauffenburg, 231-258. Diewald, G. ; Habermann, M. (2005). Die Entwicklung von werden & Infinitiv als Futurgrammem : Ein Beispiel für das Zusammenwirken von Grammatikalisierung, Sprachkontakt und soziokulturellen Faktoren, in : T. Leuschner ; T. Mortelmans ; S. De Groodt, (eds), Grammatikalisierung im Deutschen, Berlin : de Gruyter, 229-250. Diewald, G. ; Smirnova, E. (2006). Semantic and functional distinctions between the German evidential constructions with drohen ‘threaten’ and versprechen ‘promise’, Paper presented at the 39th annual meeting of the SLE, Bremen [manuscript]. Ebert, R. P. (1976). Infinitival Complement Constructions in Early New High German, Tübingen : Niemeyer. Gunkel, L. (2000). Selektion verbaler Komplemente : Zur Syntax der Halbmodal- und Phrasenverben, in : R. Thieroff et al. (eds), Deutsche Grammatik in Theorie und Praxis, Tübingen : Niemeyer, 111-121. De Haan, F. (1999). Evidentiality and Epistemic Modality : Setting Boundaries, Southwest Journal of Linguistics 18 : 83-101. De Haan, F. (2001). The Relation between Modality and Evidentiality, Linguistische Berichte 9 : 201-216. Heine, B. ; Miyashita, H. (2004). Drohen und versprechen – zur Genese von funktionalen Kategorien, Neue Beiträge zur Germanistik, 3, 2 : 9-33.


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Heine, B. ; Miyashita, H. (2005). The structure of a functional category : German drohen, Bordeaux Proceedings [manuscript]. Ifantidou, E. (2001). Evidentials and Relevance, Amsterdam, Philadelphia : John Benjamins. Mortelmans, T. (1999). Die Modalverben sollen und müssen im heutigen Deutsch unter besonderer Berücksichtigung ihres Status als subjektivierter ‚grounding predications’, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Antwerp. Palmer, F. R. (1986). Mood and Modality, Cambridge : CUP. Paul, H. (1992). Deutsches Wörterbuch. 9., vollständig neu bearbeitete Auflage von Helmut Henne und Georg Objartel unter Mitarbeit von Heidrun Kämper-Jensen. Tübingen : Niemeyer. Plungian, V. A. (2001). The place of evidentiality within the universal grammatical space, Jounal of Pragmatics 33 : 349-357. Schmid, H. U. (2000). Die Ausbildung des werden-Futurs : Überlegungen auf der Grundlage mittelalterlicher Endzeitprophezeihungen, Zeitschrift für Dialektologie und Linguistik 67 : 6-27. Smirnova, E. (2006). Die Entwicklung der Konstruktion würde + Infinitiv im Deutschen, Berlin : de Gruyter. Traugott, E. C. (1997). Subjectification and the development of epistemic meaning : The case of promise and threaten, in : T. Swan ; O. J. Westvik, (eds), Modality in Germanic Languages : Historical and Comparative Perspectives, Berlin : de Gruyter, 185-210. Verhagen, A. (2000). ’The girl that promised to become something’ : An exploration into diachronic subjectification in Dutch, in : T.F. Shannon ; J. P. Snapper, (eds), The Berkeley Conference on Dutch Linguistics 1997 : the Dutch Language at the Millenium, Lanham, MD : University Press of America, 197-208. Westvik, O. J. (2000). Über Herkunft und Geschichte des werden-Futurs Eine Auseinandersetzung mit neuerer und neuester Forschung, in : G. Richter ; J. Riecke ; B.-M. Schuster, (eds), Raum, Zeit, Medium Sprache und ihre Determinanten. Festschrift für Hans Ramge zum 60. Geburtstag, Darmstadt : Hessische Historische Kommission, 235-261. Willett, Th. (1988). A cross-linguistic survey of the grammaticalization of evidentiality, Studies in Language 12 : 51-97. Wilmanns, W. (1906). Deutsche Grammatik. Gotisch, Alt-, Mittel- und Neuhochdeutsch. Vol. 3., Strassburg : Trübner.

Adverbs at the interface of tense, aspect and modality: evidence from Turkish * Eser E. TAYLAN Boaziçi University

Ayhan AKSU-KOÇ Boaziçi University

1. Introduction Turkish has neither differentiated aspect markers on the verb nor modal auxiliary verbs but rather a fairly complex verbal inflection system where a single affix may simultaneously express two or more of the tense, aspect or modality categories (Aksu-Koç 1995, Cinque 2001, Sezer, 2001, Slobin & Aksu-Koç 1982, Taylan 1997, Temürcü 2007, Yava 1980). This situation has been claimed to be compensated by adverbs and/or particles that specify or disambiguate the temporal, aspectual and modal distinctions (Güven 2006, Taylan 2001). The role of adverbs in the syntax and semantic structure of sentences has been investigated in terms of adverb taxonomy, syntactic position and the associated level of modification, as well as properties of event structure. Among the different classes of adverbs almost-adverbs have received a certain amount of attention in the analysis of the expression of aspectual information in languages. Turkish, with its multifunctional verbal inflections expressing temporal, aspectual and modal notions, presents an interesting case for the analysis of the interface between adverbs and morphology. The almost-adverbs az kalsın and nerdeyse ‘almost / nearly’ have been selected to explore this interface. This paper aims (i) to investigate the semantic properties of these two composite adverbs through their interaction with the related grammatical markers, (ii) to illustrate that in addition to grammatical markers on the verb, these adverbs in Turkish are also multifunctional in expressing temporal, aspectual and modal notions, and (iii) to determine the level of propositional structure the adverbs operate on. The adverb almost has been analyzed as a predominant aspectual form. In Cinque (1999 : 99) it is given as one of the adverbs, together with nearly and imminently, which is semantically related to prospective aspect. However, almost has been noted to have other meanings as well (Rapp & von *

We would like to thank the two anonymous readers for their comments and suggestions. © Cahiers Chronos 23 (2001): 101-116.


Eser E. Taylan & Ayhan Aksu-Koç

Stechow 1999, Tenny 2000). For example, Rapp & von Stechow (1999 : 189) observe that in English ‘John almost killed Harry’ with the verb in the preterite form is ambiguous ; one reading is that Harry almost died as a result of what John did to him (the inner-scalar / resultative reading), the other reading is that John almost initiated (but did not perform) an action that would have killed Harry (the outer-counterfactual reading). In German, however, fast ‘almost’ behaves differently from English ; the counterfactual fast requires a subjunctive verb form and this reading is not possible with the indicative preterite, where fast only has the inner-scalar / resultative interpretation 1. Hence the ambiguity observed in the usage of almost in English is resolved in German with the choice of different verb forms. When we turn to Turkish, where there are two distinct forms for almost, the question that arises, then, is the nature of the interface between the adverbs and verbal morphology. In section 2, a brief description of the formal properties of the two adverbs is given. Section 3 investigates the temporal / aspectual and modal notions associated with them, respectively. Section 4 discusses the interface and section 5 presents the conclusions. 2. Some formal properties Az kalsın and nerdeyse have a complex morphological structure, as (1) and (2) below illustrate 2. However, they have lost their compositional meaning and have become lexicalized 3.




Furthermore, Rapp & von Stechow (1999) claim that the outer (counterfactual) reading and the inner scalar readings of fast in German correlate with the position of the adverb in the sentence. In this paper the following abbreviations are used in morpheme glosses : ACC: accusative AOR : aorist CAUS : causative COND : conditional DAT : dative EVID : evidential FUT : future SG : singular LOC : locative NEG : negative NOM : nominalizer PAST : past PF : perfect PFV : perfective POSS : possessive PL : plural IMPFV: imperfective These forms are still used in their conventional meaning as constituents of different syntactic structures : Az kalsın – as a predicate in : (i) Ödev-im-i bitir-me-ye az kal-dı. homework-POSS:1SG-ACC finish-NOM-DAT little remain-PAST ‘Little remains for the completion of my homework.’ Neredeyse – as part of a conditional sentence :

Adverbs at the interface of tense, aspect and modality (1)



az kal-sın little remain-OPT ‘May / let little remain!’ nere-de-yse 4 where-LOC-COND ‘wherever it is/may be’

With respect to syntactic positioning the two adverbs can occur Sinitially as in (3a), after the subject NP but before the verb as in (3b-c), or post-verbally as in (3d). (3)

a. Az kalsın / Nerdeyse biz o ev-i al-ıyor-du-k. almost we that house-ACC buy-IMPFV-PAST-1PL ‘We were almost buying that house / We almost bought that house.’ b. Biz az kalsın / nerdeyse o evi alıyorduk. ‘We were almost buying that house / We almost bought that house.’ c. Biz o evi az kalsın / nerdeyse alıyorduk. ‘We were almost buying that house / We almost bought that house.’ d. Biz o evi alıyorduk az kalsın / nerdeyse. ‘We were almost buying that house / We almost bought that house.’

In the above examples, the adverbs attract stress when they are in the preverbal domain but are never stressed in postverbal position. Topicalization and focusing, which are expressed through word-order and stress in Turkish, are responsible for the particular position the adverbs occupy 5. In the presence of quantifiers, when the adverb precedes the quantifier, it can have both narrow and wide scope depending on what element gets stressed. When the quantifier is stressed as in (4b), there is a narrow-scope reading, otherwise the adverb receives stress and has scope over the whole clause, as in (4a).



(ii) Bu çocuk nere-de-yse o-nu bul-aca-ım. this child where-LOC-COND s/he-ACC find-FUT-1SG ‘Wherever this child is I will find her.’ In the lexicalization process, neredeyse has lost its second vowel becoming nerdeyse. Topicalization and focusing and their interaction with stress are separate and complex issues which will not be further dealt with here.

Eser E. Taylan & Ayhan Aksu-Koç

104 (4)

a. Az kalsın / nerdeyse

tüm çocuk-lar ıslan-ıyor-du. all child-PL get=wet-IMPFV-PAST ‘Almost all the children were going to get / got wet.’ (wide-scope: no one got wet) b. Az kalsın / nerdeyse TÜM çocuk-lar ıslanıyordu. ‘Almost all the children were going to get /got wet.’ (narrow-scope: some of the children got wet)

When there is an adverb of completion, nerdeyse has to precede it as in (5a-b), and the verb gets a partially effected / scalar reading (Rapp & von Stechow 1999). (5c) is ungrammatical because nerdeyse follows the adverb of completion (tamamen), which then falls outside the scope of the almostadverb. (5)

a. Nerdeyse

bina tamamen yan-dı. building completely burn-PFV=PAST ‘The building almost burned down completely.’ b. Bina nerdeyse tamamen yandı. ‘The building almost burned down completely.’ c. *Bina tamamen nerdeyse yandı.

3. Semantic properties In this section we explore the interaction of the two adverbs with tenseaspect-modality operators to determine the contexts they can appear in and their shared and non-shared meanings. Certain grammatical contexts will be seen to allow their interchangeable use pointing to a shared meaning while other contexts will be seen to host only one of them, yielding a different meaning. The shared meaning of the two adverbs is found to be the presentation of the situation referred to in the proposition as an unrealizedcounterfactual one, while the non-shared meaning is presenting it as an unrealized-scalar / potential one. 3.1. Temporal and aspectual features Following Smith’s (1997) two component theory of aspect, it is observed that these adverbs are subject to certain constraints on both viewpoint / grammatical aspect realized morphologically and situation type expressed by the verb or verb constellation. In Turkish the verb can usually take at most two tense-aspect-modality affixes. If there is only one affix on the verb it may carry multiple meanings ; if there are two affixes the inner affix expresses aspect, while the outer one

Adverbs at the interface of tense, aspect and modality


expresses tense or mood 6. Of the multifunctional affixes -DI expresses past tense, perfective aspect and direct experience, while -mIú is a marker for past reference, perfect and evidential mood. -Iyor, on the other hand, is a marker of imperfectivity and present time, while -(y)EcEK marks the situation as future, possible and hence prospective. 3.1.1. Az kalsın Az kalsın requires non-perfective (imperfective or prospective) viewpoint aspect in the past tense or evidential mood as illustrated in (6a-b). Example (6c), although non-perfective, is ungrammatical because it lacks past tense or evidential mood. (6d), on the other hand, though past, lacks non-perfective marking and hence is ungrammatical 7. (6)

a. Çocuk az kalsın dü-üyor-du / mu. child fall=down-IMPFV-PAST/EVID ‘The child was almost falling down.’ / ‘The child almost fell down.’


The tense-aspect-modality affixes that can immediately follow the verb are : -DI (past / perfective), -mI (perfect / inferential-evidential), -Iyor (imperfective), -(y)EcEK (future), -Ir (habitual / possible), -mElI (necessitative), -(y)E (optative), -sE (unreal condition). These affixes can be followed by a second set of affixes which comprise -(y)DI (past), -(y)mI (reportative-evidential), -(y)sE (real condition), -DIr (deductive). The verb in a finite clause, excluding imperative structures, will always be marked with one of the affixes of the inner set but not necessarily with one from the outer second set. There is, however, one affix which can precede the inner set of suffixes; it is -(y)Ebil expressing possibility, probability or capability. For recent treatments of verb inflection in Turkish see Göksel & Kerslake 2005, Taylan 2001, Kornfilt 1997). Capitals used in the forms of the suffix morphemes stand for an archiphonemic representation. Vowel-harmony rules specify the palatality and rounding features of the suffix vowels and consonant harmony rules specify the voicing features of the suffix-initial plosives. The aorist (-I/Er) which expresses habitual aspect when followed by the past / evidential morpheme would be expected to allow for the use of az kalsın but this is not possible since talking about unrealized habitual situations is a contradiction. (iii) *Çocuk az kalsın dü-er-di / mi child fall=down-AOR-PAST / EVID *‘The child used to almost fall down.’


Eser E. Taylan & Ayhan Aksu-Koç


b. Çocuk az kalsın dü-ecek-ti / mi. child fall=down-FUT-PAST / EVID ‘The child was almost about to fall.’ c. *Çocuk az kalsın dü-üyor / ecek. child fall=down-IMPFV / FUT d. *Çocuk az kalsın dü-tü/mü. child


Az kalsın selects dynamic situations (events) and hence is not compatible with statives as in (7a-b). (7)

a. *Çocuk az kalsın child b. *Çocuk az kalsın child

hasta-ydı / mı. sick-PAST / EVID sekiz yaında-ydı / mı. eight year=old-PAST / EVID

With non-telic events, namely activities, the adverb focuses on the phase prior to the initial boundary (i.e. the transition into the situation) as illustrated in (8). (8)

Ahmet az kalsın konu-uyor-du / mu (ama konu-ma-dı / mı.) Ahmet talk-IMPFV-PAST / EVID (but talk-NEG-PFV=PAST/EVID) ‘Ahmet was almost going to talk /Ahmet almost talked.’ (in a situation where he was not meant to speak)

With events which are telic and durative (i.e. accomplishments), az kalsın may focus on the phase prior to either the initial or the final boundary when the viewpoint is imperfective as in (9). Thus (9) is ambiguous as to whether the event is in progress or has not been initiated at all 8.


However, when the viewpoint is prospective, as in following example (iv), the focus is on the phase before the initial boundary, that is, the event remains at the level of intention. (iv) Az kalsın okul-a gid-ecek-ti-m. school-DAT go-FUT-PAST-1SG ‘I was almost going to go to school.’ This reading is in line with the definition of prospective aspect given in Cinque (1999 : 99) who cites Frawley’s (1992) definition which states that prospective aspect expresses ‘a point just prior to the beginning of an event’. The use of this

Adverbs at the interface of tense, aspect and modality (9)


Az kalsın

okul-a gid-iyor-du-m. school-DAT go-IMPFV-PAST-1SG ‘I was almost going to school’/’I almost went to school.’

Finally, with achievements where the event is telic but non-durative the situation can only be interpreted as not initiated. (10) Az kalsın

vazo-yu dü-ür-üyor-du-m. vase-ACC fall=down-CAUS-IMPFV-PAST-1SG ‘I was almost dropping the vase.’ / ‘I almost dropped the vase.’

In summary, the adverb az kalsın selects dynamic situations in the past (which may be telic or non-telic) and requires a non-perfective perspective with different phases that can be focused on. In other words, az kalsın is not used with statives ; when used with activities and achievements it focuses on the initial boundary indicating the transition into the situation, whereas with accomplishments either the initial or the final boundary of the situation is referred to. 3.1.2. Nerdeyse This adverb is used in all the grammatical contexts discussed above for az kalsın, namely with verbs in the non-perfective aspect followed by past tense or evidential mood. Furthermore, it is not subject to the strict tense and aspect restrictions operating on az kalsın, hence it is compatible with all viewpoint aspects (perfective as well as non-perfective) without necessitating a past tense or evidential morpheme after the viewpoint marker, as (11a-c) illustrate 9. (11) a. Çocuk nerdeyse uyu-yor. child sleep-IMPFV ‘The child is almost asleep.’


adverb in contexts of prospective aspect will not be be further dealt with in this paper. Nerdeyse is also compatible with verbs in the aorist, in which case the event has a prospective reading. (v) Ali nerdeyse ev-e gel-ir. house-DAT come-AOR ‘Ali is almost about to come.’


Eser E. Taylan & Ayhan Aksu-Koç b. Çocuk nerdeyse uyu-du / mu. child sleep-PFV=PAST/PF ‘The child has almost fallen asleep.’ c. Çocuk nerdeyse uyu-yacak. Child sleep-FUT ‘The child is almost about to sleep.’

In a non-past context like (11a) where the verb is in the imperfective aspect the situation, as pointed out in Smith (1997), is presented in terms of its phases without reference to any boundaries. Nerdeyse used with verbs in the imperfective viewpoint focuses on the phase just before the transition into the situation, whether stative as in (11a), an activity as in (12), or an inchoative as in (13). (12) Çocuk nerdeyse ko-uyor. child run-IMPFV ‘The child is almost running.’ (13) afak nerdeyse sök-üyor. Dawn break-IMPFV ‘Dawn is almost about to break.’

In (11c) which describes a non-past situation from a prospective viewpoint, the adverb, just as in the imperfective viewpoint, draws attention to the imminent transition to the initial phase of the event. In perfective, hence past contexts as in (11b), there are certain constraints brought about by the interaction of viewpoint aspect and situation type. When the verb is in perfective aspect, the terminated or completed event is presented as a whole without attention to its internal structure. Nerdeyse which induces an ‘unrealized’ meaning is then contradictory with perfective situations presented as terminated, such as the activity in (14a), or completed, such as the achievement in (14b). However, nerdeyse is felicitous with accomplishments like (14c) which include a phase the extent of which is specified. In such cases, the adverb attracts the bounded phase (sonuna kadar ‘till the end’) into its scope with the verb remaining outside it. Hence we get the scalar reading that the event is in progress but the final boundary falls short of actualization. Without a specification of the limits of the internal phase, the accomplishment gets an achievement interpretation and becomes infelicitous as can be seen in (14d). (14) a. *Çocuk nerdeyse ko-tu. child run-PFV=PAST

Adverbs at the interface of tense, aspect and modality


b. *Çocuk nerdeyse dü-tü / mü. child fall- PFV=PAST/PF c. Çocuk kitab-ı nerdeyse son-un-a kadar oku-du. Child book-ACC end-POSS-DAT till read-PFV=PAST ‘The child almost read the book till the (its) end.’ d. *Çocuk nerdeyse kitab-ı oku-du. child book-ACC read- PFV=PAST

Finally, this adverb is not compatible with statives except for those situations that can be interpreted as resulting from a process. (15) a. *Çocuk nerdeyse hasta / akıllı / burada. child sick / smart/ here b. Çocuk nerdeyse sekiz yaın-da. child eight year=old-LOC ‘The child is almost eight years old.’

In (15b), the state of being eight years old is a resultant state of the inevitable growth process. In the presence of nerdeyse the situation type undergoes a shift from stative to accomplishment, as would be predicted by the principle of adverbial override (Smith 1997). In summary, in the non-past nerdeyse focuses on the phase before the actualization of the situation. It is incompatible with statives because they are homogeneous and have no phases, and incompatible with achievements because they have no duration for any transition. As noted above, the distributions of az kalsın and nerdeyse overlap only in sentences with dynamic situations in the imperfective viewpoint followed by the past tense or evidential mood. In these situations, nerdeyse has the same aspectual features as az kalsın, in that it can focus on the phase either before the initial or before the final boundary. However, there are certain contexts where the two adverbs are not interchangeable. afak sök-üyor-du. dawn break-IMPFV-PAST ‘The dawn was about to break.’ b. *Az kalsın afak söküyordu.

(16) a. Nerdeyse

The ungrammaticality of (16b) illustrates that az kalsın is not compatible with events that are bound to happen since the factuality status of such events cannot be reversed. ‘The breaking of dawn’ cannot be blocked from its realization in any way ; hence az kalsın is infelicitous in this context. The fact that nerdeyse is felicitous here suggests that it is possible to focus on the

Eser E. Taylan & Ayhan Aksu-Koç


phase just prior to the happening of the event with this adverb. Hence nerdeyse induces an unrealized-potential reading rather than just an unrealized-counterfactual one like az kalsın. Thus, nerdeyse differs from az kalsın in being less restricted both syntactically and semantically. It can occur in a wider set of contexts and can have either an unrealized-potential or an unrealized-counterfactual reading. Table 1 summarizes the temporal and aspectual contexts for the use of az kalsın and nerdeyse. As can be seen, the shared contexts of az kalsın and nerdeyse are temporally past and aspectually imperfective. In these contexts they focus on the phase prior to the initial boundary of the situation. For accomplishments which have a natural endpoint, the adverbs may focus on either the initial or the final boundary, thus their focus in this situation type is ambiguous. One aspectual function these adverbs exhibit is to cause a shift in the situation type ; that is, change achievements, activities and statives into accomplishments, displaying an instance of adverbial override. Temporal

Aspectual viewpoint

az kalsın past


nerdeyse past


nerdeyse non-past



situation type activity, achievement (transition to initial boundary) accomplishment (ambiguous) (transition to i. initial boundary ; ii. final endpoint) activity, achievement (transition to initial boundary) accomplishment (ambiguous) (transition to i. initial boundary ; ii. final endpoint) stative, activity, inchoative (shift to accomplishment) accomplishment with specified internal phase

Table 1. Temporal and aspectual features of the semantics of az kalsın and nerdeyse

Adverbs at the interface of tense, aspect and modality


3.2. Modal features 3.2.1. Grammatical contexts that allow both adverbs Modally, both adverbs reverse the realis-irrealis value of the proposition asserted. As has been shown, the shared contexts for these adverbs are always temporally past ; a situation that is asserted as realized receives a counterfactual interpretation in the presence of the adverb. In example (17a) the situation is presented as realized, whereas in (17b) the adverb blocks the realization of the event shifting the interpretation of the situation into the irrealis mode. (17) a. Ders-te uyu-yor-du-m. lesson-LOC sleep-IMPFV-PAST-1SG ‘I was sleeping in class.’ b. Derste az kalsın / nerdeyse uyuyordum. ‘I was almost sleeping in class / I almost slept in class.’

With grammatically negated sentences where the situation is asserted as unrealized, as in (18), the presence of the adverb gives rise to the opposite modal value so that the situation is interpreted as realized, hence factual. (18) a. Ahmet bizim-le gel-mi-yor-du. Ahmet us-with come-NEG-IMPFV-PAST ‘Ahmet was not coming with us.’ b. Ahmet az kalsın / nerdeyse bizimle gelmiyordu. ‘Ahmet almost was not coming with us / Ahmet almost didn’t come with us.’

Examples (17) and (18) show that az kalsın and nerdeyse have the same modal function in temporally and aspectually similar contexts. The question then is, whether the adverbs are semantically interchangeable or not. Consider examples (19a-b). (19) a. Az kalsın o

ev-i al-ıyor-du-k, that house-ACC buy-IMPFV-PAST-1PL ama iyi ki al-ma-mı-ız / *keke al-say-mı-ız. but good that buy-NEG-PF-1PL/ wish buy-COND-PF-1PL ‘We were almost buying / bought that house but it is good that we didn’t buy it / * wish we had bought it.’ b. Nerdeyse o evi alıyorduk, iyi ki almamıız / keke alsaymıız. ‘We were almost buying/bought that house, but it is good that we didn’t buy it /wish we had bought it.’


Eser E. Taylan & Ayhan Aksu-Koç

In (19a) az kalsın implies that the event of buying the house is evaluated as an unfavourable one ; therefore, its non-realization means a close escape from the undesired situation. Hence the proposition can be followed by a clause that expresses relief (i.e. ‘it is good that we didn’t buy the house’) and not by one that expresses regret (‘wish we had bought the house’). In (19b), on the other hand, nerdeyse is evaluatively neutral in that the unactualized event may have been a favourable or an unfavourable one. Therefore, the proposition can be followed by a clause that expresses either relief or regret. It appears then that although the two adverbs have the same effect of modally reversing the factuality status of the proposition, they are felicitious in different pragmatic contexts. 3.2.2. Grammatical contexts that allow only nerdeyse In past – perfective and non-past – non-perfective contexts the presence of nerdeyse draws attention to the phase just before the realization of the event, inducing a sense of temporal immediacy. Depending on the pragmatic context, the adverb may have further modal / speaker-attitude implications, such as urgency of the actions to be taken, as in (20b) or consolation, as in (21b). (20) a. Ahmet gel-ecek. Ahmet come-FUT ‘Ahmet will come.’ b. Ahmet nerdeyse gel-ecek, sen hala sofra-yı kur-ma-dı-n. Ahmet come-FUT you still table-ACC set-NEG-PFV=PAST-2SG ‘Ahmet is almost about to come, you still haven’t set the table.’ (21) a. Ahmet gel-ir. Ahmet come-AOR ‘Ahmet will come (prediction).’ b. Ali nerdeyse gelir, merak etme. ‘Ali will come soon, don’t worry.’ (22) a. Yemek pi-ti food cook-PFV / PAST ‘The food is almost cooked.’

The significant point that emerges, then, is that in the aspectual / temporal environments which allow only nerdeyse, the adverb does not block the realization of the event, leaving it as an open condition expected to take place imminently.

Adverbs at the interface of tense, aspect and modality


4. Temporal, aspectual and modal interface The above analysis has shown that the adverbs under study express an evaluation of the content of the proposition in terms of its factuality as well as the speaker’s subjective attitude (relief, regret, urgency, etc.) with respect to it. It is well known that any evaluative qualification of a proposition concerns the category of modality. The modal functions of az kalsın and nerdeyse can be characterized as belonging to propositional modality, and event modality, respectively, the two main categories recognized in Palmer (2001). Propositional modality subsumes epistemic and evidential modalities, the former reflecting the speaker’s judgement about the factual status of the proposition and the latter the evidence for that judgment (Palmer 2001 : 24) 10. Az kalsın and nerdeyse when they function to reverse the factuality status of the proposition, then, express epistemic modality. Event modality, on the other hand, concerns the speaker’s attitude towards a non actualized but potential future event and subsumes deontic and dynamic modalities. While obligation and permission arising from external conditions fall under deontic modality, what is at issue in dynamic modality are the ability and willingness internal to the individual or to the circumstances that directly affect them (Palmer 2001 : 7-9). In past – perfective and non-past – non-perfective contexts where nerdeyse does not reverse the factuality status of the proposition but expresses the immediacy of the potential realization of the event, the modality is dynamic. On the basis of this analysis we claim that the semantics of the adverbs follows from the interaction of the temporal and aspectual features of the situation, which in turn contribute to the subjective perspective of the speaker. For both az kalsın and nerdeyse, temporally past and aspectually imperfective situations constitute the context for reversing the factuality status of the proposition. For the speaker, the factuality status of an event that remains in the past is clearly defined. The use of the adverb, by reversing this status, enables the speaker to present his evaluative stance with the desired force, hence their epistemic modal meaning. When used in temporally non-past situations where the event is yet unrealized but an open condition, nerdeyse expresses the speaker’s assessment of the potential realization of the event with a sense of immediacy, hence its dynamic sense. This meaning of temporal immediacy also holds for situations where nerdeyse is used with perfective events. The temporal, aspectual and modal parameters that interactively determine the semantics of the two adverbs are presented in Table 2.


Evidentiality is not always taken to be a subcategory of modality but is analyzed as a seperate linguistic category, as pointed out in Aikhenvald (2003).

Eser E. Taylan & Ayhan Aksu-Koç

114 Az kalsın

Neg Temp Viewpoint +/- past non-perfective

Situation type Modality activity, achievements Epistemic (transition to initial endpoint) accomplishment (ambig.) (transition to i. initial endpoint, ii. final endpoint)

Force Relief

Nerdeyse Neg Temp +/- past

Viewpoint non-perfective







Situation type -activity, achievements (transition to initial endpoint) -accomplishment (ambig.) (transition to i. initial endpoint, ii. final endpoint) -accomplishments with specified internal phase -stative, activity, inchoative Æ accomplishment thru adverbial override

Modality Epistemic

Force Neutral




Immediacy Expectancy

Table 2: Temporal, aspectual and modal features of the semantics of az kalsın and nerdeyse

5. Concluding remarks The above analysis has shown that nerdeyse and az kalsın have both aspectual and modal meanings, hence that they are multifunctional like the verbal grammatical markers. As aspectual adverbs, they focus on a phase before a boundary, either initial or final. As modal adverbs, they cause a shift in the factuality status of the proposition and impose a perspective on the situation with a marked force. In an affirmative statement the adverbs render an unactualized interpretation of the situation referred to, whereas in a negative statement they render an actualized reading. The particular aspectual and modal features of the semantics of az kalsın and nerdeyse are, then, a function of their interaction with viewpoint aspect expressed by verbal morphology, and situation type expressed by the verb constellation. Contexts where nerdeyse and az kalsın can be used interchangeably share the same temporal, aspectual and modal features ; each adverb, however, conveys a different pragmatic force. Thus, in overlapping environments where the adverbs modify the proposition, each induces a different illocutionary force. Contexts which allow only nerdeyse have a different set of temporal, aspectual and modal values. In these environments the presence of the adverb modifies the event rather than the proposition. Thus, the diverse modal functions of the two adverbs associated with their

Adverbs at the interface of tense, aspect and modality


partially different distributional patterns explain the existence of two separate forms in the language. It is hoped that this study will contribute to the understanding of how almost-adverbs carve out the semantic domain created by temporal-aspectual and modal notions interacting at the morpho-syntactic, propositional and pragmatic levels in different languages. References Aikhenvald, A. (2003). Evidentiality in typological perspectives, in : A. Aikenhenvald ; R. M. W. Dixon, (eds), Studies in Evidentiality, Amsterdam : John Benjamins, 1-31. Aksu-Koç, A. (1995). Some connections between aspect and modality in Turkish, in : P. M. Bertinetto ; V. Bianchi ; Ö. Dahl ; M. Squartini, (eds), Temporal reference, aspect and actionality: Typological perspectives Vol. 2, Torino : Rosenberg & Sellier, 271-287. Cinque, G. (1999). Adverbs and Functional Heads: A Cross-Linguistic Perspective, Oxford : Oxford University Press. Cinque, G. (2001). Tense, aspect and mood markers in Turkish, in : E. E. Taylan, (ed.), 47-59. Frawley, W. (1992). Linguistic Semantics, London : Routledge. Göksel, A. ; Kerslake, C. (2005). Turkish: A Comprehensive Grammar, London : Routledge. Güven, M. (2006). Adverbials: The Third Parameter in Aspectual Interpretation, München : LINCOM EUROPA. Kornfilt, J. (1997). Turkish, London : Routledge. Palmer, F. (2001). Mood and modality. Second edition, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press. Rapp, I. ; von Stechow, A. (1999). Fast ‘almost’ and the visibility parameter for functional adverbs, Journal of Semantics 16 : 146-204. Sezer, E. (2001). Finite inflection in Turkish, in : E. E. Taylan, (ed.), 1-45. Slobin, D. I. ; Aksu, A. (1982). Tense, aspect and modality in the use of the Turkish evidential, in : P. Hopper, (ed.), Tense-aspect: Between semantics and pragmatics, Amsterdam : John Benjamins, 185-200. Smith, C. (1997). Parameter of Aspect, Dordrecht : Kluwer Press. Taylan, E. E. (1997). Türkçede görünü, zaman ve kiplik ilikisi: -DI biçimbirimi [the relation between tense, aspect and modality in Turkish: the -DI morpheme]. In : D. Zeyrek ; S. Ruhi, (eds), XI.Dilbilim Kurultayı : Bildiriler (Proceedings of the 11th Linguistics Conference), Ankara, 1-13. Taylan, E.E., (ed.), (2001). The verb in Turkish, Amsterdam : John Benjamins.


Eser E. Taylan & Ayhan Aksu-Koç

Taylan, E. E. (2001). On the relation between temporal / aspectual adverbs and the verb form in Turkish, in : E. E. Taylan, (ed.), 97-128. Temürcü, C. (2007). A semantic framework for analyzing tense, aspect and mood : An application to the ranges of polysemy of -Xr, -Dir, -Iyor and ∅in Turkish, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Antwerp. Tenny, C. (2000). Core events and adverbial modification, in : C. L. Tenny ; D. Pustejovsky, (eds), Events as grammatical objects: the converging perspectives of lexical semantics and syntax, Stanford, Calif.: CSLI Publications, 285-329. Yava, F. (1980). On the meaning of the tense and aspect markers in Turkish, Ph.D dissertation, University of Kansas.

Epistemic modalities and evidentiality in Standard Spoken Tibetan Zuzana VOKURKOVA Charles University, Prague & University of Paris 8 1. Introduction 1 Standard Spoken Tibetan (SST) 2 is an SOV language in which the verbal categories of tense and aspect are marked at the end of an utterance after the verb by verbal endings 3. These endings also convey epistemic and evidential meanings and, in a complex and indirect way, person. The aim of this paper is to analyze and classify the verbal endings with a particular emphasis on epistemic modalities. Moreover, based on my fieldwork, the paper attempts to show that evidentiality is not limited to one group of verbal endings that




I would like to express thanks to my Ph.D. supervisors for their help, Mr N. Tournadre (University of Provence), who reviewed the article and gave me the idea to study this part of the Tibetan grammar, and Mr B. Palek (Charles University, Prague), as well as to the following Tibetan informants : Mr. Dawa (teacher at Tibet University), Ms Tsheyang (teacher at Tibet University), Mr. Tanpa Gyaltsen (PICC insurance comp., Lhasa), Ms Soyag (teacher at Tibet University), Mr. Sangda Dorje (Prof. at Tibet University), Mr. Tenzin Samphel (teacher at Inalco), Mr. Ngawang Dakpa (teacher at Inalco), Mr. Dorje Tsering (Jiangbu) (teacher at Inalco), Mr. Tenzin Jigme (teacher at Charles University), Mr. Thubten Kunga (teacher at Warsaw University), Ms Pema Yonden (teacher, India). Furthermore, I would like to thank Mrs Lélia Picabia, my first Ph.D. supervisor at the University of Paris 8 for her help. My research work in Lhasa and India between 2002 and 2005 was financed by LACITO/CNRS (PICS 2554) and the French ministry of education. I am also thankful to the Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund for the grant allowing my studies at Tibet University in 2004-2005. Last but not least, I am indebted to Anne Benson for her comments and suggestions. Standard Tibetan corresponds to the variety of central Tibetan, spoken in Lhasa and its neighbourhood and in the Tibetan communities in exile (India, Nepal). It is in the process of standardization. The Lhasa dialect and the Tibetan variety spoken in the diaspora are very similar with some minor differences in terms of lexicon, grammar and intonation. Nevertheless, these differences do not hinder full mutual comprehension. For more detail on SST, see Tournadre & Dorje (2003). In synchrony, other terms are used, e.g. verbal suffixes or inflections. © Cahiers Chronos 23 (2011): 117-139.


Zuzana Vokurková

are often called “evidential” endings 4 but is also conveyed by another group called “epistemic” endings 5. Epistemic modality designates the status of the speaker’s understanding or knowledge (Palmer 1986, Nuyts 2001, Boye 2006). It expresses his standpoint in relation to the actuality of his utterance (possibility and probability). In Tibetan, this is not expressed by modal verbs as is the case in many languages of the world (especially European languages 6) but by the above mentioned epistemic endings. They correspond to the epistemic use of some English modal verbs, such as “may” or “must”, and to the epistemic adverbs 7 “surely”, “apparently”, “likely”, “probably”, etc. There are differences among various types of epistemic endings in the degree of probability and in their pragmatic use. Evidentiality is concerned with the kind of evidence that the speaker has with respect to what he is saying, i.e. with the source of information on which he bases his utterance (Palmer 1986, DeLancey 1986, Chafe & Nichols 1986, Guentcheva 1996, Aikhenvald & Dixon 2003, Aikhenvald 2004, Guentcheva & Landaburu 2007). It is a characteristic feature of modern Tibetan (DeLancey 1986, Sun 1993, LaPolla 2000, 2001, Tournadre & Jiatso 2001, Garrett 2001). As stated above, in Tibetan, evidentials are conveyed by verbal endings. In the spoken language, they are subclassified in four evidential categories (see 3.3.). While the evidential endings have attracted the attention of some linguists, very little has been written about the epistemic endings (Hu 1989, Wang 1994, Tournadre & Dorje 2003, Zhou & Xie 2003). In consequence, I decided to focus my interest on the latter. Taking into account the fact that there is no systematic description of epistemic modalities in SST, the examples used in this paper come from my fieldwork with Tibetan informants and are listed in my Ph.D. dissertation. In section 2, I will mainly discuss the development of epistemic verbal endings in SST. The functions of verbal endings will be described in section 3. Section 4 will deal with semantic and pragmatic differences among epistemic endings.

4 5 6 7

See Tournadre & Konchok Jiatso (2001 : 72) : “evidential” markers. See Tournadre & Dorje (2003 : 175) : “epistemic” final copulas and auxiliaries. See van der Auwera (2005 : 302-313). Epistemic adverbs such as phal.cher ‘probably’, ‘maybe’ are also used in SST. In combinations of an epistemic adverb with an epistemic ending, it is usually the adverb that determines the degree of certainty.

Epistemic modalities and evidentiality in Standard Spoken Tibetan


2. Tibetan verbal endings The paradigm of verbal endings consists of 18 evidential endings 8 and 44 epistemic endings and constructions 9 commonly used in SST. While the evidential endings primarily specify the source of information (and imply the speaker’s certainty 10), the epistemic endings principally express various degrees of probability. Compare the examples below : in (1), the evidential ending song implies the sensory evidential, in (2), the epistemic ending implies a high degree of probability (EPI 2), which is however inferior to 100 % certainty : (1)

(2) - s



- song


Nyima – ERG work do (PAS) - PFV+SENS ‘Nyima worked.’ (The speaker saw Nyima working.) - s las.ka byas - Nyima – ERG work do (PAS) - PFV+EPI 2+FACT ‘Nyima most probably worked.’ (The speaker did not see Nyima working but he bases his statement on some fact e.g. it was Monday and Monday is a working day.)

2.1. The development of verbal endings 12 From a diachronic point of view, evidential and epistemic endings consist of verbal nominalizers 13 and auxiliaries. The auxiliaries have developed from lexical verbs (verbs of action, movement and state). Some auxiliaries are the same morphemes as copulas. From a synchronic point of view, however, the auxiliaries are usually bound to the verb, unstressed and toneless. In the following example, yod is a copula in (3a), and an auxiliary (more precisely a verbal ending consisting of the empty nominalizer Ø and the auxiliary yod) in (3b) :



10 11 12


Including chog, dgos and yong, see the table at the end of this paper. Tournadre & Jiatso (2001 : 69-70) also include myong. See the table at the end of this paper and Tournadre & Dorje (2003 : Appendix 6). See 3.2. Tibetan examples are given in Wylie’s transliteration of Tibetan. For more detail see Kesang Gyurme (1992), Tournadre & Jiatso (2001), Tournadre & Dorje (2003). The nominalizers are Ø, pa, gi (or its variants gyi and kyi, the use of which depends on the preceding syllable) and rgyu. They have a connective or nominalizing function.

120 (3)

Zuzana Vokurková a. nga – r dus.tshod YOD I - OBL time have (EGO) ‘I have time.’ b. nga – s ja bzos - YOD I - ERG tea make (PAS) - PERF+EGO ‘I have made some tea.’

Evidential endings can be represented in the following way : V(x) + [NOM/CONN] 14 + AUX. Concerning the epistemic endings, diachronically, many of them consist of the same nominalizers (Ø, gi, pa, rgyu) and auxiliaries (yod, red, ‘dug) as the evidential endings but they also contain other morphemes (a, ‘gro, ‘dra, sa, bzo, etc.). Most epistemic endings are formed by the process of “double suffixation 15”, i.e. they consist of two parts (formants). The first formant, which is formally identical but functionally different from an evidential ending, is followed by a second formant, e.g. the formants gi.yod and pa.‘dra form the epistemic ending‘dra. Thus most of the epistemic endings historically consist of a nominalizer (connector) and an auxiliary followed by another nominalizer (connector) and an auxiliary. Epistemic endings are thus represented as follows : V(x) + [NOM/CONN] + AUX+ [NOM/CONN] + AUX. See the examples below : (4)

a. b. c. d.

Ø + yod + Ø + ‘gro pa + yin + pa + ‘dra gi + yod + sa + red rgyu + yin + bzo + ‘dug

= = = =

yod.‘gro‘dra rgyu.yin.bzo.‘dug

There is a strong restriction on auxiliaries that can occur in the first formant of the epistemic endings. These are the auxiliaries yod and yin (and exceptionally yong). The use of other auxiliaries in this position is excluded : NOM/CONN [NOM/CONN] [NOM/CONN] * NOM/CONN * NOM/CONN * NOM/CONN * NOM/CONN 14


+ + + + + + +

yin yod yong ‘dug red song


The square brackets indicate that the nominalizer or connector is equal to Ø in some endings. The process of “double suffixation” was formulated in collaboration with N. Tournadre.

Epistemic modalities and evidentiality in Standard Spoken Tibetan


Epistemic endings have two fundamental functions : the expression of tenseaspect and of epistemic modalities (Tournadre & Dorje 2003 : 175-176). Tense-aspect is often expressed by the first formant and epistemic modalities by the second one 16, e.g. gi.yod-pa.‘dra where gi.yod corresponds to the imperfective and pa.‘dra expresses a degree of the speaker’s certainty. However, this morphemic analysis does not work for all epistemic endings e.g. mi.yong.ngas, yong.nga.yod, yod.‘gro/yod.‘gro‘o and med.‘gro/ med.‘gro’o. It is impossible to determine which part of these endings expresses tense-aspect and which one the epistemic meaning. Moreover, according to my fieldwork, epistemic endings also imply an evidential meaning (see section 3.3.1.), which is normally conveyed by the whole ending. As a result, it is better to consider the SST epistemic endings as nonanalyzable units, even though diachronically they were two independent units 17. 3. The functions of verbal endings As stated above, verbal endings have several important functions (Hu 1989, Tournadre & Jiatso 2001, Tournadre & Dorje 2003). These functions will be discussed in this section with a special interest given to epistemic endings 18. 3.1. Markers of tense-aspect In Tibetan, tenses are expressed in two ways : by an archaic verbal inflection 19 of the lexical verb and/or by verbal endings following the verb. Nowadays, unlike the inflection, the use of verbal endings is systematic in the spoken language. A synthetic expression of tenses has thus evolved into a 16




The fact that during the process of double suffixation a new modal meaning develops (epistemic modality) and is expressed by the second part of the new verbal suffix (e.g. yod.PA.‘DRA, yod.BZO.‘DUG), might confirm the hypothesis that modality is, in general, in a more distant position from the main verb than other verbal categories (see François 2003 :30). Accordingly, in this paper, epistemic endings are written with dots between syllables, not with a hyphen showing the morphemic structure. For more details on evidential endings, see Tournadre & Jiatso (2001), Tournadre & Dorje (2003). Tibetan used to have a rich system of verbal inflection. Some verbs had up to four forms : past, present, future and imperative. Nevertheless, the situation has changed in modern spoken Tibetan. Most of the verbs now have only one or two forms : the past and/or the present-future (in SST there is no difference between the present and the future stems of the verb). This is one of the main differences between the literary and spoken language. See Kesang Gyurme (1992) for more detail on literary Tibetan.


Zuzana Vokurková

periphrastic one. Below are examples of the expression of tenses by the combination of verbal inflection (bltas vs. lta for the verb ‘see’) and a verbal ending (ex. 5), and by the verbal ending alone (ex. 6): (5)

a. khong - gis deb BLTAS - song s/he+H - ERG book read (PAS) - PFV+SENS ‘S/he read a book.’ b. khong deb LTA - gi.'dug s/he+H book read (PRS) - IMPF+SENS ‘S/he is reading a book.’


a. khong - gis

s/he+H - ERG letter ‘S/he sent letters.’ b. khong BTANG s/he+H letter send ‘S/he is sending letters.’

BTANG send


- song - PFV+SENS

- gi.'dug - IMPF+SENS

3.1.1. The tense-aspect paradigm of epistemic endings There are a dozen of types of epistemic endings that are commonly used in SST. The majority of these types are paradigmatic, i.e. each type consists of four endings, each of them referring to a different tense-aspect distinction. Formally, all these endings consist of two formants (e.g. gi.yod-pa.‘dra,, gi.yod-bzo.‘dug). The first formant is always identical for those endings that express the same tense-aspect (e.g. gi.yod for all imperfective endings), the second one is different (e.g. pa.‘dra,, bzo.‘dug). The epistemic paradigm is as follows : 1. The perfective ending with the first formant pa.yin is used in the past perfective. 2. The perfect ending with the first formant yod is used in the past and for past events with current relevance. 3. The imperfective ending with the first formant gi.yod is used in the imperfective past, the long-term present and the future. 4. The ending with the first formant rgyu.yin is used in the future to convey the meaning of an action that has not yet been carried out and thus has yet to


In Classical Tibetan, this verb had four stems : btang (past), gtong (present), gtang (future), thongs (imperative). In SST only the first one is used for all tenses.

Epistemic modalities and evidentiality in Standard Spoken Tibetan


be done. It sometimes carries the deontic meaning of obligation, necessity (“probably intend to/need to/have yet to”) 21. The following table and the examples below illustrate the epistemic paradigm 22 : 1 2 3 4

Perfective past Perfect and the immediate present Imperfective (past, long-term present and future) (Deontic) future 23


a. mo.rang pe.cing - la las.ka byas - she Beijing - OBL work do (PAS) - PFV+EPI 2+FACT ‘Most probably, it is Beijing that she worked in.’ (The speaker knows that she worked somewhere but is not sure whether it was Beijing or another place. He bases himself, for example, on the fact that quite a few Tibetans work in Beijing.) b. mo.rang pe.cing - la las.ka byas - she Beijing - OBL work do (PAS) - PERF+EPI 2+FACT ‘S/he has most probably worked in Beijing.’ (The speaker may know, though not necessarily, that she worked somewhere. He bases himself, for example, on the fact that she has lived in Beijing.) c. mo.rang pe.cing - la las.ka byed - she Beijing - OBL work do (PRS) - IMPF+EPI 2+FACT ‘Most probably, she will work in Beijing.’ (The speaker knows that in Bejing there is an opportunity for her to find a job.)


It should be emphasized that these epistemic endings are quite rare in the spoken language. Similarly, the following types form the same paradigm : (i.e.,,,, yod.‘gro,‘dra, and yod.bzo.‘dug. The type yong.nga.yod only consists of three forms : yong.nga.yod, gi.yong.nga.yod, rgyu.yong.nga.yod (*pa.yong.nga.yod). The type a.yod differs in that the morpheme a is placed between the nominalizer and the auxiliary (pa.a.yin, a.yod, gi.a.yod, rgyu.a.yin). There are other epistemic endings in SST that are not part of the above paradigm. These are : ‘gro, bzo.‘dug, pa.´dug,, mi.yong.ngas, a.yong, pa.yod, pa.‘dra, yong and the construction with the epistemic suffix mdog.kha.po + auxiliary. The perfective endings are generally less frequent than the perfect endings. When both can be used, they usually differ in scope. Cf. example (7).




Zuzana Vokurková d. mo.rang pe.cing - la las.ka byed - she Beijing - OBL work do (PRS) - FUT+EPI 2+FACT+DEO ‘She most probably has (still) to work in Beijing.’ (The speaker knows that she planned to work there in summer. It is June now.)

According to the results of my research, the combination of the first formant gi.yin (corresponding to the existing evidential ending gi.yin) being followed by an epistemic formant is not grammatical, e.g. : 24 : (8)

* dus.sang slob.sbyong byed - Tanpa next year study do (PRS) - FUT+EPI 2+FACT Intended meaning: ‘Tanpa will most probably study next year.’

3.2. Markers of epistemic modalities Whereas evidential endings all express 100% certainty, the function common to all epistemic endings is the expression of probability or possibility of the situation denoted by the speaker’s utterance. There are differences among various types of epistemic endings in the degree of probability. One can distinguish three degrees, EPI 1, EPI 2 and EPI 3, corresponding, respectively, to weak (>50%), stronger (+-75%) and strongest (