Communicating about the past through modality in English and Thai

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The chapter concerns semantic representation of past-time reference. It begins with the proposal that temporality be subsumed under the category of epistemic modality, understood as a degree of detachment from the content of the expressed proposition. We present arguments in support of this stance and refer to other arguments already aired in the linguistic and philosophical literature. We briefly summarise the contextualist theory of Default Semantics and apply it to the analysis of past-time expressions in Thai and English. We point out that the semantic representation of temporal expressions requires a perspective that combines the insights of cognitive approaches to meaning with a formal account of &#8216;pragmatic compositionality&#8217;. We focus on the Simple Past and Narrative Present in English and on the modal auxiliary <i>d1ay1II</i> in Thai that frequently assumes past-time reference.


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