LINGUIST List 14.42

Wed Jan 8 2003

Diss: Semantics: Copley "The Semantics of..."

Editor for this issue: Karolina Owczarzak <>


  1. copley, Semantics: Copley "The Semantics of the Future"

Message 1: Semantics: Copley "The Semantics of the Future"

Date: Thu, 02 Jan 2003 02:53:48 +0000
From: copley <>
Subject: Semantics: Copley "The Semantics of the Future"

New Dissertation Abstract

Institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Program: Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2002

Author: Bridget Copley 

Dissertation Title: 
The Semantics of the Future

Linguistic Field: Semantics

Dissertation Director 1: Sabine Iatridou
Dissertation Director 2: Irene Heim
Dissertation Director 3: Kai von Fintel
Dissertation Director 4: Noam Chomsky

Dissertation Abstract: 

Natural languages use a number of different methods to refer to future
eventualities: among them are futurates, as in (1a), and futures, as
in (1b,c):

(1) a The Red Sox (are) play(ing) the Yankees tomorrow.
 b We'll change your oil in Madera.
 c We're going to change your oil in Madera.

This dissertation uses evidence primarily from English, with
additional data from Turkish and Indonesian, to argue that these
methods all involve universal quantification over subsets of
metaphysically accessible futures.

One factor in determining which worlds a modal quantifies over is the
temporal argument of the modal's accessibility relation. It is
well-known that a higher tense affects the accessibility relation of
modals. What is not well-known is that there are aspectual operators
high enough to affect the accessibility relation of modals. New data
presented in this dissertation reveal the presence of aspectual
operators located between TP and the future modal projection. The
effects of these operators on truth and assertability conditions
provide substantial information about the correct characterization of
future modality, and indeed of modality in general. Furthermore, the
very existence of such aspectual operators raises questions about how
aspect is represented in the semantics, if, as is generally assumed,
aspectual operators take event arguments, which do not occur outside
of the verb phrase.

In addition, the ordering source in futures is found to be determined
in some cases by animate entities' abilities and commitments (bouletic
ordering sources), and in other cases by more general properties of
the world (inertial ordering sources). Since other modals in other
languages seem to share this property, a unification of the two kinds
of ordering sources is proposed.
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