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Imperfective aspect and epistemic modality

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Abstract

As is well known, the epistemic reading of modal verbs typically arises with imperfective complements. It is argued that this is related to a more general connection between imperfective aspect and subjectivity: imperfective forms express simultaneity of a situation with an independently provided point of reference. This may be a point of perspective, an epistemic evaluation time, or the point of speech itself. Data from Russian, however, suggest that this particular link between imperfective aspect and epistemic modality is restricted to imperfective aspect of the Germanic, and Romance, kind.

References

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