Linguistics and Philosophy 44 (3):551-586 (2021)

Authors
Malte Willer
University of Chicago
Abstract
The received wisdom on ability modals is that they differ from their epistemic and deontic cousins in what inferences they license and better receive a universal or conditional analysis instead of an existential one. The goal of this paper is to sharpen the empirical picture about the semantics of ability modals, and to propose an analysis that explains what makes the can of ability so special but that also preserves the crucial idea that all uses of can share a common lexical semantics. The resulting framework combines tools and techniques from dynamic and inquisitive semantics with insights from the literature of the role of agency in deontic logic. It explains not only why the can of ability, while essentially being an existential modal operator, sometimes resists distribution over disjunction and interacts with its duals in particular and hitherto unnoticed ways, but also has a tendency to license free choice inferences.
Keywords Ability modals  Epistemic Modals  Deontic Modals  Free Choice  Dynamic Semantics
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DOI 10.1007/s10988-020-09296-6
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References found in this work BETA

The Nature of Normativity.Ralph Wedgwood - 2007 - Oxford University Press.
Change in View: Principles of Reasoning.Gilbert H. Harman - 1986 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
Past, Present, and Future.Arthur Norman Prior - 1967 - Oxford, England: Clarendon Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Abilities.John Maier - 2010 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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