From: Nilufer Sener <nilufer.seneruconn.edu>
Subject: Time and Modality
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Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/19/19-2505.html
EDITORS: Guéron, Jacqueline; Lecarme, Jacqueline Laurence
TITLE: Time and Modality
SERIES: Studies in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory
Nilüfer G. Sener, Department of Linguistics, University of Connecticut, Storrs.
This book is prepared as a companion to the volume _The Syntax of Time_ by
Gueron and Lecarme (2004), and consists of eleven articles that were presented
at the International Round Table _Time and Modality_ held in 2005. The theme of
this volume is the grammatical relations between tense and modality. The
targeted audience is students and researchers with advanced background on
In the introduction of the book, the editors provide a general outlook of the
topics addressed, and present a state of the art on the variety of topics
discussed. This section involves eight main subsections which are characterized
by the concepts and notions that the individual articles focus on such as;
tense, aspect, modals and modal verbs, the role of past morphology in modal
contexts, the subjunctive, genericity, copular clauses, and a conclusion and
open problems section.
The initial contribution ''Patterns in the Semantics of Generic Sentences'' by
Carlson seeks to introduce a model that uniformly accounts for the general
characteristics of generic and habitual sentences. Carlson argues in particular,
that it is possible to unite the two existing accounts, namely the ''Inductive''
approach and the ''Rules and Regulations'' approach, since both approaches
highlight the importance of 'patterns of events', which is at the center stage
of Carlson's new proposal. The specific claim is that both generic and habitual
sentences represent a sequence of events construed as a series ordered in time.
Sequence of events occur in the real world, and the temporally circumscribed
portions of the world shows 'patterns' through which the generic and habitual
sentences get their truth value.
Comorovski discusses in her article ''Intensional Subjects and Indirect
Contextual Anchoring'' the semantic/pragmatic properties of the subjects of
copular sentences. The major claim defended in this paper is that subjects of
specificational copula clauses make reference to individual concepts in addition
to encoding a pragmatic orientation. Evidence for this claim is provided by
questions from Romanian that have the form ''Care-copula-DP?''. Comorovski
specifically argues that Romanian 'Care-questions' are the wh-interrogative
counterpart of declarative specificational clauses. She proposes an analysis for
the distributional properties of specificational clauses with indefinites by
postulating a relation between the topic of a constituent question and the
verbal forms of the conditional mood.
''Temporal Orientation in Conditionals'' by Copley is an investigation on the
interaction between temporality in conditionals, eventuality type and modality.
Copley claims that temporal orientation of conditionals and eventuality type are
correlated with modal flavor. Under this approach, metaphysical modal flavor
correlates with eventivity and epistemic modal flavor correlates with stativity.
Existing proposals on temporal orientation of conditionals account for the fact
that eventives cannot be evaluated at the present moment. In this article,
Copley argues that a separate mechanism mediates the future orientation of
future-oriented statives and future-oriented eventives, and incorporates what
she calls the 'future stative constraint'. The presence of epistemic eventives
and the same modal flavor of antecedent and consequent of conditionals stand as
a problem to this account. She argues however, that these problems can be
eliminated under the assumptions that epistemic eventives are derived statives,
and that the antecedent of a conditional has a modal flavor independently of its
In their article ''On the Temporal Syntax of Non-Root Modals'' Demirdache and
Uribe-Etxebarria investigate the temporal contribution of non-root modal verbs
to the temporal interpretation of sentences they occur in. The article
introduces a comparative study of English and Spanish and provides that these
languages display an asymmetry with respect to the temporal value of the
inflectional features of these verbs. The specific proposal is that the syntax
of non-root modals involves a time denoting argument on the specifier of the
relevant head (i.e. tense, modal, aspect or verb). The analysis for the
asymmetry between non-root modals in Spanish and English relies on the
assumption that unlike English, past morphology on the modal is temporally
interpreted in Spanish.
''How to say _Ought_ in Foreign: The Composition of Weak Necessity'' by von Fintel
and Iatridou explores the semantics of weak necessity modals. The authors
observe that what is expressed by English weak necessity modal 'ought' is
expressed in many other languages by the combination of a strong necessity modal
and the morphology that appears in the consequent of a counterfactual
conditional. Assuming the Kratzerian approach to modal interpretation, they
suggest that a strong necessity modal becomes a weak necessity modal when marked
with counterfactual morphology. The morphology marks a change in evaluation
parameters, and signals the secondary ordering source. Thus, the meaning of a
weak necessity modal can be sought in the secondary ordering source of a strong
In her article ''On the Temporal Function of Modal Verbs'', Guéron points to a
problem involving the existing 'possible worlds' analysis of modality. In
particular, she claims that the facts that relate to English modal verbs and
modal auxiliaries cannot be accounted for under the existing approach, and
proposes that an analysis of modal verbs as causal verbs can be the solution.
Under this account, causality enters the grammar as a function of tense
interpretation, in that, in order for a state to count as the cause of a new
state, all the conditions necessary for the change of state to take place must
already be present in the former state. Causality is intentional when a human
subject is a conscious entity and non-intentional, when it is not triggered by
In ''The English Perfect and the Metaphysics of Events'' Higginbotham claims that
the English perfect is an aspectual predicate, and is not at all involved in the
tense system; it shifts from a predicate of events to a predicate of events that
are results of the former. Higginbotham mainly focuses on two relevant notions
for understanding the nature of Perfect: Results and Resultants, both of which
are realized as the event described in the verbal heads, and through
modification or quantification. The rest of the article shows that restrictions
on Present Perfect extend to embedded clauses, and this is predicted by the
principles governing tense anaphora or sequence of tense.
''Tense and Modality in Nominals'' by Lecarme explores the interplay of tense and
modality in the nominal domain. The focus of discussion is the non-temporal
meanings of nominal tenses in Somali, an Afroasiatic language. In particular,
Lecarme shows how a nominal past, in addition to being a temporal item displays
properties of a modal or evidential item. Non-temporal meanings of nominal
tenses share the abstract feature of exclusion/dissociation. The modal meaning
associated with past morphology is accounted for by Kratzer's modal theory. More
precisely, through the choices of modal base and the ordering source.
Smith addresses the question of how is temporal information conveyed in language
in her article ''Time With and Without Tense''. Her proposal is that both in
languages with tense and without tense pragmatic principles constrain direct
temporal interpretation and guide indirect temporal interpretation. The syntax
of fully-tensed languages includes a Tense Phrase, conveying information about
temporal location. Other types of languages project an Aspect Phrase, but no
Tense Phrase. Aspectual information allows the inference of temporal location.
In particular, temporal information is provided when aspectual information about
boundedness and information about internal temporal properties such as
static/dynamic, telic/atelic, durative/punctual, are supplemented with pragmatic
''The English Konjuktiv II'' by Stowell examines the syntax and semantics of the
so-called English Konjuktiv II (K2) construction. Stowell shows that K2 occurs
only in a subset of the syntactic environments in which the past perfect occurs,
and its interpretation is associated with strong counterfactuality. It is
syntactically a subjunctive form. The author, however notes that the type of
subjunctive mood that occurs in K2 is distinct from the subjunctive mood that
occurs in the complements of demand/ask class verbs. Unlike the subjunctive in
French where it is licensed by negation, subjunctive in English is licensed
locally. Stowell argues that this has to do with the modal force of the
subjunctive in these contexts.
In the article ''Phasing in Modals: Phases and the Epistemic/Root Distinction'',
Zagona aims to account for the observation that root and epistemic readings of
modal verbs differ from epistemic readings with respect to subject/non-subject
orientation, interaction with finite tense, and effects of perfective aspect on
veridicality. She gives an explanation to these differences by exploring the
division of clauses into phases. For finite modals in English she proposes a
feature based approach where the uninterpretability of the tense feature of the
modal plays a role, and affects the grammatical relationship between the modal
and other clausal constituents. The position for finite modals is the head of
Tense Phrase, and this, she claims, can derive the distinction between root and
epistemic modals. Modals can have a valued or an unvalued tense feature. While a
modal with interpretable tense feature results in the root reading, a modal with
uninterpretable tense feature results in epistemic reading.
The syntactic and semantic interaction of tense and modality is inevitably at
the center of most linguistic research. As the editors of this volume also duly
note, the question of what syntactic and semantic mechanisms account for the
close relation of tense and modality is a significant one.
This book succeeds in bringing together a set of thematically related articles
on this issue. Although most of the articles directly address the issue of
'grammatical relations between tense and modality' and their formal
representation, not all of them do so directly. Particularly, Carlson's and
Comorovski's articles relates to the central question investigated in this
volume somewhat indirectly.
The book makes a significant contribution in the theoretical representation of
modality through evaluating the existing modal theories against new observations
made in individual articles. For instance, von Fintel and Iatridou propose to
refine the existing Kratzerian modal theory to account for the semantics of weak
necessity modals by introducing a pair of ordering sources into the system. More
precisely, the proposed modification involves a promotion of secondary ordering
source of a strong necessity modal. Lecarme proposes to supplement Kratzer's
theory with a perceptual component to account for fact that Past morphology
gives rise to modal meanings in Somali. Specifically, she derives the modal
meaning of nominal tenses in this language through the choices of modal base and
ordering source. Guéron claims that the grammatical function of modal verbs is
not to introduce alternative worlds; hence rather than assuming the possible
worlds analysis, she proposes to situate modal verbs as causal verbs in English,
and derives causality as a function of tense interpretation. Copley points out
the necessity of a new modal theory to capture the facts related to conditionals.
As de Haan (2006) notes, the area of modality has not received sufficient
attention within the typology literature. Certain articles in this volume
significantly contribute to this area as they specifically concentrate on the
cross-linguistic realization of tense and modality. The articles by Demirdache
and Uribe-Extebarria, Smith, Zagona, Lecarme, von Fintel and Iatridou,
Comorovski, and Guéron engage data from different language families.
Nevertheless, I should note that the remaining articles also cite
cross-linguistic data, particularly when cross-linguistic predictions of the
proposals are clear, with the exception of Carlson and Copley's articles.
Copley's paper is a case in point as it makes cross-linguistic predictions
concerning the temporal relations between the antecedent and the consequent of
conditionals, which may vary across languages. A discussion of a few different
languages in this respect would be helpful in convincing the readers on how the
proposal would extend to other languages.
It is equally important to have a cross-linguistic perspective on the issue of
how the category of tense is grammaticalized in individual languages, especially
in light of the close-knit relation between tense and modality. Smith's attempt
at predicting the typological differences with respect to reference to time in
languages is worth noting on this point. The unifying factor in her account is
that pragmatic principles constrain direct and indirect temporal interpretation
both in languages with tense and without tense. Although Smith proposes an
account in the framework of Discourse Representation Theory (Kamp and
Reyle,1993), her approach is compatible with approaches that allow context to
play a certain role in tense interpretation (cf. Partee 1973, Heim 1994, Kratzer
1991, a.o., who all assume semantic tenses as free variables whose value is
determined by an assignment delivered by the context).
NOTES ON INDIVIDUAL ARTICLES
The Perfect puzzle has received considerable attention in the literature (cf.
Giorgi and Pianesi 1998, Katz 2003, Pancheva and von Stechow 2004, among
others). Higginbotham in his article, puts forth an alternative analysis for the
Present Perfect puzzle. He basis his account on the event structure indicated in
the verbal head; and assumes that in English the sentence 'John is here
yesterday' constitutes a clash between tense and the modifying adverbial.
Higginbotham claims that this can be explained by appealing to an old
observation, which is that every event must be past, present or future, but no
event can be more than one at the same time (McTaggart 1908). For Higginbotham,
the sentence 'John is here yesterday' creates a 'category mistake' in the same
vein as the phrase ''sleep furiously'' does. He argues that the unacceptability of
the sentence ''*I have visited the museum yesterday'' is a result of the same
category mistake. An immediate question arises as to how the category mistake
approach accounts for a sentence such as ''John was here today''. This sentence
should also be predicted as producing a clash between tense and the modifying
adverbial due to a category mistake, if the offered explanation is on the right
As for evidential meanings in the nominal domain that Lecarme conscientiously
discusses, I would like to note that the contribution of evidentiality is
twofold in the sentential level; In addition to the linguistic encoding of the
source of information for a given statement, evidentiality gives information
about speaker's belief, disbelief, agnosticism for the statements made (Chafe
and Nichols 1986, Palmer 1986, Izvorski 1997, a.o.). Lecarme's discussion of
evidential meanings in the nominal domain raises the following question given
the point above: Is there a correlate for indicating '(dis)belief' in the
nominal domain? More precisely, in addition to the non-actual, unknown or
invisible modal meanings on Past-DP Lecarme observes, is it also possible to
indicate speaker's (dis)belief on what the DP expresses in Somali? This issue
remains unaddressed in her paper, and it would be interesting to see if this is
the case in this language.
On a separate note, in several environments modal meanings realize as 'pure
modality' as in the case of modal verbs and modal auxiliaries. In other cases
however, certain linguistic expressions bear modal flavor (cf. Izvorski 1997,
among many others, for an analysis of expressions exhibiting modal flavor). It
is therefore essential to identify the true nature of the domain of modality
through observations on individual constructions, as Copley does in her paper,
where she argues that modal flavor is at play. Specifically, Copley highlights
the modality involved in the antecedent and consequent of conditionals, and
proposes that it is the modal flavor that correlates with the temporal
orientation of conditionals and eventuality type
Overall, my impression is that because of its thematic nature, the book helps to
develop a perspective on tense and modality and their grammaticalization
cross-linguistically. The individual articles of this book present the most
current advances in research on these topics. Thus, I believe students and
researchers who look for detailed analyses on the syntax and semantics of
modality and tense will very much benefit from this book.
The book is edited and published in almost perfect quality, the volume displays
very rare typos such as the one on page 39 ''contain'' rather than ''contains'' and
''futur'' rather than ''future'' on page 5, but these typos do not affect the
reading at all.
Chafe, Wallace & Johanna Nichols, eds. (1986). _Evidentiality: the Linguistic
Coding of Epistemology_. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
de Haan, Ferdinand (2006) Typological Approaches to Modality. In _The Expression
of Modality_, 27-69. Mouton de Gruyter.
Giorgi, Alessandra & Pianesi, Fabio (1998) _Tense and Aspect: From Semantics to
Morphosyntax_. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Heim, Irene (1994) Comments on Abusch's theory of tense, available at Semantics
Izvorski, Roumyana. (1997) The Present Perfect as an Epistemic Modal. In A.
Lawson and E. Cho (eds.), _Proceedings of SALT VII_.
Katz, Graham (2003) A Modal Account of the Present Perfect Puzzle. In
_Proceedings of SALT 13_.
Kratzer, Angelika (1991) Modality. In _Semantics: An international handbook of
contemporary research_, eds. Arnim von Stechow and Dieter Wunderlich, 639-650.
Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
Palmer, Frank (1986) _Mood and Modality_. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Pancheva, Roumyana. & von Stechow (2004) On the Present Perfect Puzzle, In K.
Moulton & M. Wolf (eds.) _Proceedings of NELS 34_.
Partee, Barbara (1973) Some structural analogies between tenses and pronouns in
English. _Journal of Philosophy_ 70:601-609.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Nilüfer G. Sener is a PhD. candidate at the Department of Linguistics,
University of Connecticut, Storrs. She mainly works on the semantic analysis of
tense and modality, and evidentiality in Turkish.
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