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Auteur: Aynat RUBINSTEIN

A crosslinguistic constraint on the expression of deontic modality

Abstract/Résumé: In this study, crosslinguistic data is presented that supports a grammatical constraint on the expression of deontic and teleological modalities in context. These sub-varieties of Priority Modality (Portner 2009) are usually only distinguished on conceptual grounds: the former describes possibilities in which certain rules, regulations, or laws are upheld; the latter describes possibilities in which certain goals or preferences are achieved. We show that the grammatical environment in which a priority modal occurs restricts its context dependency. The deciding factor is argued to be the type of complement in construction with the modal: when a priority modal is complemented by a nominal phrase, it can only express a teleological modality that takes into account established priorities in the conversation. The empirical focus of the study is verbal and adjectival modals that are syntactically and semantically versatile. Syntactic versatility means that the modal takes verbal (IP) as well as nominal complements (DPs, and where grammatical, also CPs). Semantic versatility requires that the modal allow both deontic and teleological interpretations in its verbal configuration. The ability to express deontic modality in a supporting context is demonstrated for modals in English, Hindi-Urdu, Hebrew, and to a certain extent also in Japanese. These findings pose a challenge to existing theories of the context dependency of modal expressions. Deontic and teleological varieties of priority modality are sometimes not distinguished at all in the literature (Palmer 2001), and if they are, the different varieties are assumed to arise from contextual factors (e.g., by employing different Ordering Sources in the framework due to Kratzer 1981, 2012). The data presented here challenge our understanding of the cognitive and linguistic basis for the expression of sub-varieties of priority modality. They also substantiate a semantic argument against the belief that transitive configurations of intensional verbs like "need" are equivalent semantically to the infinitival configuration of the same verbs.