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Conference Information

Full Title: Towards an Ontology of Modal Flavors

Location: Saarbrücken, Germany
Start Date: 08-Mar-2017 - 10-Mar-2017
Contact: Ryan Bochnak
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting Description: This workshop is part of the DGfS 2017 meeting in Saarbrücken, Germany.

Our understanding of modal meanings is crucially based on the notion of various modal flavors, which distinguish, for example, between epistemic and deontic readings. However, neither within nor across linguistic subfields is there any consensus about the exact ontology of those modal flavors. Thus, a common assumption in formal semantics is that there is a hierarchical distinction between modal meanings: there is a fundamental difference between epistemic and non-epistemic meanings, and the non-epistemic meanings can be split further into flavors such as deontic, bouletic, etc. (e.g., Hacquard, 2011). But the seminal typological study by Bybee et al. (1994) and subsequent work suggest that the distinction between participant-internal and participant-external flavors may be just as significant as the distinction between epistemic and non-epistemic ones. Moreover, current formal semantic approaches do not predict any interesting correlation between the dimensions of modal flavor and modal force, though Rubinstein (2012) has recently argued for some non-trivial correlations between force and varieties of non-epistemic modality. Meanwhile, typological research shows that the distinction between necessity and possibility may not apply to participant-internal flavors (Nauze, 2008). Insights from related disciplines likewise fail to converge. Thus, experimental research indicates that the distinction between moral and physical laws may not be as salient on a psychological level as one might expect from traditional approaches to modal flavors (Phillips, 2015).

This workshop aims to provide a forum for researchers in formal semantics, typology, syntax, language description, psycholinguistics and language acquisition to address these issues in the analysis of linguistic modality, in order to gain a better understanding of the role of modal flavors in grammar and cognition.

Invited speaker:

Aynat Rubinstein (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)


Kilu von Prince (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
Ryan Bochnak (University of Manchester)
Anne Mucha (Universität Potsdam)


Bybee, J. L, Perkins, Revere, & Pagliuca, W. 1994. The evolution of grammar: Tense, aspect, and modality in the languages of the world. The University of Chicago Press.
Cinque, Guglielmo. 1999. Adverbs and functional heads: a cross-linguistic perspective. Oxford University Press.
Hacquard, Valentine. 2011. Modality. Pages 1484–1515 of: von Heusinger, Klaus, Maienborn, Claudia, & Portner, Paul (eds), Semantics: An international handbook of contemporary research. de Gruyter.
Nauze, Fabrice. 2008. Modality in typological perspective. Amsterdam: Institute for Logic, Language and Communication.
Phillips, Jonathan Scott. 2015. The psychological representation of modality. Ph.D. thesis, Yale University.
Rubinstein, Aynat. 2012. The roots of modality. Ph.D. thesis, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Linguistic Subfield: Language Acquisition; Psycholinguistics; Semantics; Syntax; Typology
LL Issue: 27.3186

This is a session of the following meeting:
39th Annual Meeting of the DGfS (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sprachwissenschaft)

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