Modal particles in causal clauses

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It is well-known that modal particles are not only licensed in root clauses, but also in a proper subset of embedded clauses. However, most existing accounts are primarily concerned with syntactic licensing conditions of modal particles in embedded clauses, while their semantic aspects remain relatively unexplored. This article focuses on a particularly intriguing set of cases in which the commitment-weakening German modal particle <i>wohl</i> occurs in veridical contexts created by the causal connective <i>weil</i>, as in <i>Er hat ein schlechtes Gewissen, weil er wohl gelogen hat</i>. We argue that this combination gives rise to a rather complex interpretation that is unexpected given standard assumptions about modal particles and causal clauses, schematically &#8216;<i>p</i> and assume(speaker)(<i>q</i>) and (if <i>q</i> then cause(<i>q</i>)(<i>p</i>))&#8217; for sentences of the form &#8216;<i>p weil wohl q</i>&#8217;, and we sketch a possible route for compositional interpretation of these constructions in a dynamic framework based on speaker commitments.


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