Language 87 (3):559-585 (2011)

Amy Rose Deal
University of California, Santa Cruz
Some natural languages do not lexically distinguish between modals of possibility and modals of necessity. From the perspective of languages like English, modals in such languages appear to do double duty: they are used both where possibility modals are expected and where necessity modals are expected. The Nez Perce modal suffix o’qa offers an example of this behavior. I offer a simple account of the flexibility of the o’qa modal centered on the absence of scalar implicatures. O’qa is a possibility modal that does not belong to a Horn scale; its use is never associated with a scalar implicature. Accordingly, in an upward entailing environment, φ-o’qa is appropriate whenever there are accessible φ-worlds, even if indeed all accessible worlds are φ-worlds. In a downward entailing environment, the flexibility of the o’qa modal is seen no more. Here, neither o’qa nor English possibility modals are associated with scalar implicatures, and the use of o’qa exactly parallels the use of English modals of possibility. Given that o’qa is a possibility modal that does not contrast with a modal of necessity, just how do you talk about necessities in Nez Perce? Speakers translating into Nez Perce rely on a variety of techniques to paraphrase expressions of simple necessity away. Their strategies highlight an area where Nez Perce and English plausibly differ in the range of propositions they convey. The data cast doubt on any strong form of effability as a language universal.
Keywords modality  scalar implicature  effability  translatability  language variation  counterfactuals  epistemic modality  circumstantial modality  semantics  semantic variation
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Translate to english
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

On Necessity and Comparison.Aynat Rubinstein - 2014 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 95 (4):512-554.
Bare Conditionals in the Red.Elena Herburger - 2019 - Linguistics and Philosophy 42 (2):131-175.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

On the Interaction of Aspect and Modal Auxiliaries.Valentine Hacquard - 2009 - Linguistics and Philosophy 32 (3):279-315.
Circumstantial and Temporal Dependence in Counterfactual Modals.Dorit Abusch - 2012 - Natural Language Semantics 20 (3):273-297.
Fallibilism and the Flexibility of Epistemic Modals.Charity Anderson - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 167 (3):597-606.
An Invariantist Theory of 'Might' Might Be Right.David Braun - 2012 - Linguistics and Philosophy 35 (6):461-489.
Lukasiewicz's Many-Valued Logic and Neoplatonic Scalar Modality.John N. Martin - 2002 - History and Philosophy of Logic 23 (2):95-120.
Time and Modality Without Tenses or Modals.Maria Bittner - 2011 - In Renate Musan & Monika Rathert (eds.), Tense across Languages. Niemeyer. pp. 147--188.
God and Necessity.Brian Leftow - 2012 - Oxford University Press.
Expressivism Concerning Epistemic Modals.Benjamin Schnieder - 2010 - Philosophical Quarterly 60 (240):601-615.
'Might' Made Right.Kai von Fintel & Anthony Gillies - 2011 - In Andy Egan & Brian Weatherson (eds.), Epistemic Modality. Oxford University Press. pp. 108–130.


Added to PP index

Total views
867 ( #7,609 of 2,497,797 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
40 ( #21,295 of 2,497,797 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes