Morphosyntactic variation in the temporal construals of non-root modals

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We provide a principled account of the morphosyntax-semantics interface of non-root modals in two Romance languages (Spanish/French) <i>vs.</i> English. While English modals are morphologically impoverished, Romance modals are fully inflected for tense and aspect and the possible combinations of tense and aspect constrain the range of construals available: epistemic <i>vs.</i> metaphysical. We uniformly derive the range of possible construals from a restricted set of assumptions: (i) Tense/t&#176;, Modal/m&#176;, Aspect/asp&#176; and v&#176; each contribute to the temporal calculus of the clause in which they occur a time argument projected in the syntax as a <i>Zeit</i>-P; (ii) <i>zeit</i>-ps can enter into anaphoric and scopal dependencies. This proposal derives the temporal construals of non-root modals from a single phrase-structure (Tense-P &#62; Modal-P &#62; Aspect-P) without appealing to dedicated hierarchies of functional projections. Syntactic movement of time arguments (<i>Zeit</i>-Ps) and/or temporal heads (t&#176;/asp&#176;) ultimately accounts for cross-linguistic variation in the morphosyntax of these construals.


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