There is an intuition that the past does not ever change. In their paper ‘The puzzle of the changing past,’ Luca Barlassina and Fabio Del Prete argue that in 2012 the past changed. I show that we are not in a position to accept their argument.
We offer an analysis of future morphemes as epistemic operators. The main empirical motivation comes from the fact that future morphemes have systematic purely epistemic readings—not only in Greek and Italian, but also in Dutch, German, and English will. The existence of epistemic readings suggests that the future expressions quantify over epistemic, not metaphysical alternatives. We provide a unified analysis for epistemic and predictive readings as epistemic necessity, and the shift between the two is determined compositionally by the lower tense. (...) Our account thus acknowledges a systematic interaction between modality and tense—but the future itself is a pure modal, not a mixed temporal/modal operator. We show that the modal base of the future is nonveridical, i.e. it includes p and ¬p worlds, parallel to epistemic modals such as must, and present arguments that future morphemes are a category that stands in between epistemic modals and predicates of personal taste. We identify, finally, a subclass of epistemic futures which are ratificational, and argue that will is a member of this class. (shrink)
Reciprocal sentences display a variety of interpretations, ranging from ‘strong reciprocity’ to ‘inclusive alternative orderings’. In this interpretation, every element in the reference set participates with some other member in the relation provided by the predicate either as the first or second argument. Current reciprocal theories cannot fully explain why some sentences that satisfy these truth conditions are in fact false and unacceptable, such as ‘#the boys are taller than each other’ or ‘#my mother and I procreated each other.’ The (...) core insight of the paper is that reciprocal sentences are true if they describe a relation that is either actually or possibly strong reciprocal over the reference set, insofar as the possibilities are reasonable. A branching time framework is used, in which a notion of reasonability is defined. We focus on permanent relations, for which we provide a new definition in modal terms. We show that whenever the relation is asymmetric and permanent, each other-sentences are unacceptable. We consider cases in which the relation is asymmetric and non-permanent and the each other-sentences are also unacceptable. We introduce a new modal notion of decidedness, and prove that for asymmetric relations, permanency entails decidedness. Showing how (a)symmetry, (non-)decidedness and (non-)permanency interact and proving that the truth of each other-sentences requires the relation to be either non-asymmetric or non-decided, we ensure a large and previously unattained empirical coverage. (shrink)
We defend the view of epistemic `must' as weak and claim that `must p' is used when the speaker does not know p. Novel arguments for this well-known account are provided. The theory is extended to epistemic future.
We show that actuality entailments arise with goal-oriented modality only and endorse Belnap’s view of that goal-oriented modals use historical accessibility with a fixed past and an open future. This modal-theoretic assumption allows us to spell out the precise modal-temporal configuration in which the actuality entailment arises and our predictions are borne out by the data, cross-linguistically. We also show that, when any assumption about the identity of worlds at branching point is leveled - which appears to be the case (...) with generic deontic and opportunity modals, the actuality entailments disappear. We also predict that the entailment disappears with prospectivity. Finally, we argue that modal sentences giving rise to actuality entailments are informative, insofar as the contribution of the modality survives as a presupposition that the modal base is non-homogeneous. (shrink)
Epistemic modal verbs and adverbs of necessity are claimed to be positive polarity items. We study their behavior by examining modal spread, a phenomenon that appears redundant or even anomalous, since it involves two apparent modal operators being interpreted as a single modality. We propose an analysis in which the modal adverb is an argument of the MUST modal, providing a meta-evaluation \ which ranks the Ideal, stereotypical worlds in the modal base as better possibilities than the Non-Ideal worlds in (...) it. MUST and possibility modals differ in that the latter have an empty \, a default that can be negotiated. Languages vary in the malleability of this parameter. Positive polarity is derived as a conflict between the ranking imposed by \—which requires that the Ideal worlds be better possibilities than Non-Ideal worlds—and the effect of higher negation which renders the Ideal set non-homogenous. Applying the ordering over such a non-homogeneous set would express preference towards both p and \ worlds thus rendering the sentence uninformative. Negative polarity MUST and possibility modals, on the other hand, contain an empty \, application of higher negation therefore poses no problem. This account is the first to connect modal spread to positive polarity of necessity modals, and captures the properties of both in a unified analysis. (shrink)
Ce texte a déjà paru dans Tradurre. Pratiche, teorie, strumenti, n° 10, Primavera 2016. F. Scotto, Il senso del suono. Traduzione poetica e ritmo, Roma, Donzelli, 2013, 224 p. Ce mot « rythme » ne m'est pas clair. Je ne l'emploie jamais. Paul Valéry Nel suo vastissimo trattato Critique du rythme. Anthropologie historique du langage, Henri Meschonnic si sofferma sulla scorretta etimologia che fonda il mito del ritmo, ossia quella che ricollega il ῥυθμός al movimento del mare : seguendo - (...) Recensions. (shrink)
This paper focuses on the interpretation of the Italian approximative adverb quasi 'almost' by primarily looking at cases in which it modifies temporal connectives, a domain which, to our knowledge, has been largely unexplored thus far. Consideration of this domain supports the need for a scalar account of the semantics of quasi (close in spirit to Hitzeman's semantic analysis of almost, in: Canakis et al. (eds) Papers from the 28th regional meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, 1992). When paired with (...) suitable analyses of temporal connectives, such an account can provide a simple explanation of the patterns of implication that are observed when quasi modifies locational (e. g. quando 'when'), directional (e. g. fino 'until' and da 'since'), and event-sequencing temporal connectives (e. g. prima 'before' and dopo ' after'). A challenging empirical phenomenon that is observed is a contrast between the modification of fino and da by quasi, on the one hand, and the modification of prima and dopo by the same adverb, on the other. While quasi fino and quasi da behave symmetrically, a puzzling asymmetry is observed between quasi prima and quasi dopo. To explain the asymmetry, we propose an analysis of prima and dopo on which the former has the meaning of the temporal comparative più presto 'earlier', while the latter is seen as an atomic predicate denoting temporal succession between events (Del Prete, Nat Lang Semantics 16: 157-203, 2008). We show that the same pattern of implication observed for quasi prima is attested when quasi modifies overt comparatives, and propose a pragmatic analysis of this pattern that uniformly applies to both cases, thus providing new evidence for the claim that prima is underlyingly a comparative. A major point of this paper is a discussion of the notion of scale which is relevant for the semantics of quasi', in particular, we show that the notion of Horn (entailment-based) scale is not well-suited for handling modification of temporal connectives, and that a more general notion of scale is required in order to provide a uniform analysis of quasi as a cross-categorial modifier. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that the temporal connective prima (‘before’) is a comparative adverb. The argument is based on a number of grammatical facts from Italian, showing that there is an asymmetry between prima and dopo (‘after’). On the ground of their divergent behaviour, I suggest that dopo has a different grammatical status from prima. I propose a semantic treatment for prima that is based on an independently motivated analysis of comparatives which can be traced back to Seuren (in: (...) Kiefer and Ruwet (eds.) Generative grammar in Europe, 1973). Dopo is analyzed instead as an atomic two-place predicate which contributes a binary relation over events to the sentence meaning. The different semantic treatments of the two connectives provide an explanation for the grammatical asymmetries considered at the outset; interestingly, they also shed some light on other asymmetries between prima and dopo, which are known to hold for the English temporal connectives before and after as well: these asymmetries are related to the veridicality properties, the distribution of NPIs, and the logical properties of these connectives first described in Anscombe (Philos Rev 73:3–24, 1964). (shrink)
If you utter sentence ‘Obama was born in 1961’ now, you say something true about the past. Since the past will always be such that the year 1961 has the property of being a time in which Obama was born, it seems impossible that could ever be false in a future context of utterance. We shall consider the case of a sentence about the past exactly like , but which was true when uttered a few years ago and is no (...) longer true now. On this basis, we shall conclude that the past has changed. (shrink)
Luca Barlassina and Fabio del Prete argue that the past has changed by appealing to a sentence whose truth value changes after the time to which it refers. We consider various interpretations of the sentence at issue and show that there is no interpretation under which their argument goes through. We suggest a possible source of the confusion and consider what implications the discussion may have for the analysis of tense.
We propose a semantic analysis of the particles afinal (European Portuguese) and alla fine (Italian) in terms of the notion of truth unpersistence, which combines both epistemic modality and constraints on discourse structure. We argue that the felicitous use of these modal particles requires that the truth of a proposition p* fail to persist through a temporal succession of epistemic states, where p* is incompatible with the proposition modified by afinal/alla fine, and that the interlocutors share knowledge of a previous (...) epistemic attitude toward p*. We analyze two main cases, that of plan-related propositions and that of propositions without plans. We also discuss the connections between truth unpersistence and evidentiality. (shrink)
There are sentences that express the same temporally fully specified proposition at all contexts--call them 'context-insensitive, temporally specific sentences.' Sentence (1) 'Obama was born in 1961' is a case in point: at all contexts, it expresses the proposition ascribing to the year 1961 the property of being a time in which Obama was born. Suppose that someone uttered (1) in a context located on Christmas 2000 in our world. In this context, (1) is a true sentence about the past. Moreover, (...) it seems impossible that (1) will be false in a successive context (one located, say, on Christmas 2020 in our world). More generally, one might be tempted to endorse the following principle: if a context-insensitive, temporally specific sentence is uttered in a context and takes a certain truth value in this context, it cannot be the case that it takes a different truth value in a successive context located in the same world. In this paper, we present linguistic evidence that shows that this principle fails. On this basis, we draw an apparently crazy conclusion: the past can change. We then explain why this conclusion is not that crazy, after all. (shrink)
The chapter considers two semantic issues concerning will-sentences: Stalnaker’s Asymmetry and modal subordination in Karttunen-type discourses. The former points to a distinction between will and modal verbs, seeming to show that will does not license non-specific indefinites. The latter, conversely, suggests that will-sentences involve some kind of modality. To account for the data, the chapter proposes that will is semantically a tense, hence it doesn’t contribute a quantifier over modal alternatives; a modal feature, however, is introduced in the interpretation of (...) a will-sentence through a supervaluational strategy universally quantifying over possible futures. That this is not part of will’s lexical semantics is shown to have consequences that ultimately contribute to explain Stalnaker’s Asymmetry. Furthermore, that a modal quantification is present in the interpretation of a will-sentence is shown to imply the availability of modal subordination in Karttunen-type discourses. (shrink)