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Jack Hoeksema University of Groningen Tindag, Utrecht February 6 2010 GRADING MODAL EXPRESSIONS.

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Presentatie over: "Jack Hoeksema University of Groningen Tindag, Utrecht February 6 2010 GRADING MODAL EXPRESSIONS."— Transcript van de presentatie:

1 Jack Hoeksema University of Groningen Tindag, Utrecht February GRADING MODAL EXPRESSIONS

2 2 Overview Modal adjectives: possible, mogelijk Modal phrases: in staat, modal infinitives Modal auxiliaries: can, kunnen 2

3 TIN-dag Utrecht, Possible – impossible: gradable or not? (1) # Extraterrestial life is neither possible nor impossible (2)My thumb is neither big nor small (3)Freds cooking is neither good nor bad No grey area or “truth value gap” for the antonym pair possible-impossible Possible/impossible are absolute predicates 3

4 TIN-dag Utrecht, Comparatives and superlatives # Global warming is more possible than global cooling # The most possible scenario is war # Opwarming van de aarde is mogelijker/meer mogelijk dan afkoeling van de aarde # Het meest mogelijke scenario is oorlog 4

5 TIN-dag Utrecht, How-questions #How possible is a nuclear war? #Hoe mogelijk is een kernoorlog ? 5

6 TIN-dag Utrecht, Intermediate conclusion Weak modals of the possible-type are absolute predicates, not allowing any kind of gradability, according to several tests 6

7 TIN-dag Utrecht, Adverbs of degree That is very possible *Dat is zeer mogelijk That is quite possible Dat is goed mogelijk *That is rather possible *Dat is nogal mogelijk That is absolutely impossible *That is absolutely possible 7

8 TIN-dag Utrecht, New conclusions Possible/mogelijk are not gradable, according to several tests Yet they permit a limited number of degree modifiers And so: the permitted combinations must involve a different sense of possible/mogelijk that IS gradable 8

9 TIN-dag Utrecht, Proposal Possible/mogelijk with degree adverbs are interpreted on a scale of likelihood Possible world semantics a la Lewis (1973) already makes use of a notion of similarity ordering among possible worlds (for the analysis of counterfactuals) This ordering can easily be interpreted as a likelihood ranking for propositions: p is more likely than q if the closest world in which p holds is more similar to ours than any world in which q holds 9

10 TIN-dag Utrecht, Very possible is weaker than probable It is very possible that it will rain and it is very possible that it will not rain. #It is likely that it will rain and it is likely that it won’t rain. Although there is a 50% chance the baby will be a boy, it is entirely possible/#probable that it will be girl. Probable: subjective estimation of chance >> 50% (Very) possible: subjective estimation of chance being “significant” (non-negligable) Possible uses the same scale as likely, but covers a wider area of the scale, much like warm and hot share a temperature scale 10

11 Modifiers of mogelijk in %, diachronically 11

12 examples 12 Zeer mogelijk, Walson! hernam Perrol (1834) Het is zeer mogelijk, dat die, door u voorgesteld, de voorkeur verdienen (1846) Combinations of mogelijk with degree adverbs first show up in the second half of the 18th century Nowadays, zeer is impossible (for most people), unlike its counterpart very in English During the 19th century, zeer gets replaced by goed, and the combinations heel goed/zeer goed / zeer wel / heel wel

13 In staat "capable" /buiten staat "incapable" In staat Heel/zeer goed6 Zeer/heel wel5 Volkomen3 Goed1 Buiten staat (old-fashioned) Ten enenmale2 Gans1 Geheel1 13

14 -baar "able" adjectives, modal infinitives denkbaar 'imaginable' goed denkbaar/prima denkbaar/heel wel denkbaar *erg denkbaar *zeer denkbaar te doen 'to do = doable' goed te doen prima/zeer wel te doen *erg te doen *zeer te doen 14

15 Kunnen "can" Dat zou heel goed/heel wel/uitstekend kunnen "That might very well be the case" Notice prosody: Het kan heel góed zijn dat hij komt. "That he is coming may be a good thing" Het kan heel goed zijn dat hij kómt "It is entirely possible that he is coming" 15

16 Kunnen "can" Modification possible for several readings: Ability Epistemic possibility But not: Deontic modality U kunt wel gaan "You may go" #U kunt zeer wel gaan 16

17 Goed vs best (cf. Hoeksema 2008 on best) Dat kan heel goed het geval zijn. Dat kan best het geval zijn. "That may very well be the case" #U mag heel goed meekomen. "You may very well come along" U mag best meekomen "You may (perfectly well) come along" 17

18 wellmuchvery  **acquainted *  *needed **  surprised 18 Kennedy and McNally 2005 Degree modifiers of deverbal adjectives: "roughly complementary distribution"

19 Four types of scale 19 (0;1)open scale: no endpoints oE.g. the scale for cold/hot (0;1]upper-closed scale: oE.g. the scale for uncertain/certain [0;1)lower-closed scale: oE.g. the scale for straight/bent [0;1]closed scale: oE.g. the scale for empty - full

20 Test for endpoints %, partially, absolutely, fully: 1. #The tea is 100% cold/hot 2. Sherlock Holmes is 100% certain/ #uncertain 3. The pipe is fully straight / # bent 4. The glass is 100% full/empty

21 Well as degree adverb 21 used for adjectives that have totally closed scales (Kennedy and McNally 2005: 375): 1. We are well aware of the difficulties 2. They are well able to solve their own problems 3. The bud was well open

22 however 22 There is a difference between the two endpoints: Well able / *well unable Goed mogelijk / *goed onmogelijk Heel wel mogelijk / *heel wel onmogelijk

23 Corpus data show different profiles Modifiers of possible Very8 Quite5 Perfectly3 Entirely 1 Highly1 23 Modifiers of impossible Almost17 Utterly10 Nearly6 Quite4 Wellnigh2 All but2 Virtually1 Absolutely1

24 suggestion 24 The pair possible-impossible is of the scale type [0;1) (lower bound, no upper bound) whenever possible is modified by a degree adverb, and receives the special interpretation of "(somewhat) likely" This will rule out *completely possible, while allowing completely impossible

25 Resultative and Nonresultative 25 Ik acht dat (heel goed) mogelijk: scalar mogelijk Piet maakte dat (*heel goed) mogelijk nonscalar mogelijk

26 Further issues 26 Low degree adverbs: enigszins mogelijk 'in the least possible' Special case: the combination is (by and large) a polarity item, occurring frequently in conditional clauses, as soon as clauses, restrictions of universals (but oddly, not in negative clauses) Other low-degree adverbs not found: een beetje mogelijk, ietwat mogelijk, een tikje mogelijk Midlevel degree adverbs do not occur: *nogal mogelijk, *tamelijk mogelijk, *vrij mogelijk (same in English)

27 Interaction with negation 27 Jan kan goed tegen zijn verlies Jan can well against his loss "Jan is a gracious loser" (high ability in dealing with losing) Jan kan slecht tegen zijn verlies Jan kan niet goed tegen zijn verlies Dat kan heel goed zijn *Dat kan slecht zijn (* for epistemic reading) *Dat kan niet goed zijn

28 References Hoeksema, Jack, 'The emergence of particle clusters in Dutch: Grammaticalization under adverse conditions,' in: Elena Seoane and Maria José Lopez-Couso (eds.), Theoretical and Empirical Issues in Grammaticalization, John Benjamins, Amsterdam and Philadelphia, Kennedy, Christopher and Louise McNally, 'Scale structure and the semantic typology of gradable predicates', Language 81-2, Lewis, David, Counterfactuals. Blackwell.


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