A rare case of covert modality
Our point of departure is a twofold observation. There is, first, a new periphrastic past in spoken Polish using a Slavic newcomer in this temporal construction, namely <i>mieć</i> “have”+P(ast) P(articiple) of a lexical verb. The Polish temporal paradigm is thus enriched by an analytic past form similar to Modern German ‒ which, by itself, raises the question whether the Polish temporal paradigm is subject to linguistic areal contact. And there is, second, the observation that Polish <i>mieć</i> “have” +PP triggers epistemic and evidential readings. The latter phenomenon militates against the cross-linguistic insight that non-finite forms of modality, at least as long as they are in covert construal of the form <i>have </i>(<i>to</i>)+PP, never trigger epistemic readings. The simple logical reason for the expectation that non-finite forms do not trigger non-root modality readings is that epistemics are bound to appear under finiteness, s=t (i.e. speech act time is co-temporal with event time). As for the explanation of this unexpected phenomenon we take viewpoint aspect as the puzzle-solver. The central hypothesis that the predicative aspect of the embedded non-finite lexical drives the modal decision between root and epistemic modality (Abraham 1989) can be maintained once also adverbial material is adduced for a viewpoint aspectual evaluation: viewpoint perfectivity overwrites predicative telicity to yield root modality of the entire construal, <i>mieć</i>+non-finitival/PP, whereas viewpoint imperfectivity results in epistemicity or evidentiality. More generally yet, this result, at the same time, overwrites all previous conclusions in the literature on Polish covert modality.