Linguistics Colloquium: Lavi Wolf

06/12/2016 - 14:00 - 15:30

Lavi Wolf, Ben Gurion University

Title: Modal Concord is not Modal Concord

Abstract: When modal adverbs interact with modal auxiliaries of the same force and flavor, a curious phenomenon (cf. Halliday, 1970; Lyons, 1977) termed Modal Concord (henceforth MC) arises in which one of the modals seems to become semantically vacuous:

(1a) In light of what I know Jane might possibly be in her office.
(1b) In light of the office rules Jane must obligatorily be in her office.

The interpretation of (1a), with possibility epistemic modals and (1b) with necessity deontic modals is interestingly not the expected stacked modality but rather a single possibility/necessity. 

The theory proposed here accounts for the above-mentioned properties by the claim that the so-called MC is actually not modal concord. Instead, it reflects an interaction between use-conditional and truth-conditional modality. This type of interaction is demonstrated to be the case on the epistemic domain in the following manner: epistemic modal auxiliaries in MC correspond to truth conditional modality and epistemic modal adverbs e.g. possibly correspond to use-conditional modality. 

As a use-conditional modal, when possibly appears in a MC construction, it modifies the speech act that contains the truth conditional modal auxiliary might. Formally, this effect is represented by an account in which the speech act is composed of both propositional content and degrees of strength.

 

 

Place: Building 404, room 101