LINGUIST List 13.2128

Mon Aug 19 2002

Diss: Syntax: Eide "Norwegian Modals"

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  1. Kristin.Melum.Eide, Syntax: Eide "Norwegian Modals"

Message 1: Syntax: Eide "Norwegian Modals"

Date: Mon, 19 Aug 2002 05:59:30 +0000
From: Kristin.Melum.Eide <>
Subject: Syntax: Eide "Norwegian Modals"

New Dissertation Abstract

Institution: Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2002

Author: Kristin M. Eide 

Dissertation Title: Norwegian Modals

Linguistic Field: Syntax, Semantics
Subject Language: Norwegian

Dissertation Abstract: 

The subject of this dissertation is Norwegian modal verbs, though
modals in other Germanic languages (especially German, English and
Dutch) are frequently invoked for comparison. After a short
introduction (chapter 1), the dissertation's chapter 2 consists of a
'theory-neutral' description of the morphological, semantic and
syntactic properties of modals as compared to other verbs, and a new
typology of the Norwegian modals is offered. It is argued that a few
modals are transitive verbs, taking proper arguments as direct
objects, whereas others are auxiliaries. The latter class is
heterogeneous in containing epistemic and root modals.

Chapter 3 includes a survey of 11 recent proposals on the syntax and
semantics of (mainly) Germanic modals, focussing on the two main
topics of the dissertation. These two main topics are the argument
structure of Norwegian modals (chapter 4) and their possible insertion
points in a syntactic structure (chapter 5).

In discussing the argument structure of Norwegian modals, I argue
against the widely accepted analysis where a control-like structure is
assigned to root modals whereas epistemic modals are analysed as
raising verbs. It is shown that most of the alleged syntactic and
semantic differences between root and epistemic modals invoked to
support such an analysis (e.g. concerning the ability to take
non-argument subjects) simply do not hold up against closer scrutiny
(especially when we include the often-ignored 'proposition-scope
readings' of root modals). Instead, root modals and epistemic modals
in Norwegian display the same argument-taking properties, with a few
exceptions only. One of these exceptions is constituted by the
behaviour of root and epistemic modals in pseudocleft constructions;
hence modals in pseudoclefts constitute an important part of this

Chapter 5 deals with the possible insertion points of root and
epistemic modals in a syntactic structure. To deal with these
insertion points is to deal with many aspects of the semantics of
modals. Thus, chapter 5 is an investigation of how Norwegian modals
interact with some major syntactico-semantic categories such as
aspect, tense and negation. Once again the conclusion is that the
formal differences between root and epistemic modals are very few. Two
valid generalizations, however, are a) that epistemic modals always
take scope over root modals, and b) that root modals, but not
epistemic modals accept non-verbal small clauses as complements.

One important contribution of this dissertation is that it presents a
range of data and many new observations that serve as counterevidence
to a number of wide-spread myths existing in the literature on
Germanic modals, especially those concerning the alleged formal
differences between root and epistemic modals.
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