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Article

Mood in Morphology  

Daria Mordashova and Vladimir Plungian

The category of mood is closely related to modality, though specifically involves grammatical (inflectional) means for expressing core modal meanings (most notably, those of possibility and necessity). In other words, mood is defined as modality that is grammaticalized in the verbal system as an inflectional category. The category of mood is found in nearly all full-fledged inflectional verbal systems, along with the categories of aspect and tense. The typical opposition expected within the system of moods is the division into “indicative” and “non-indicative” moods, dependent on the real vs. irreal (or, more precisely, asserted vs. non-asserted) status of the proposition. There is no “preferable” morphological device for the expression of mood in the world’s languages—all the existing grammatical means are in demand, both synthetic and periphrastic. Among the segmental markers of mood affixal marking prevails, involving both prefixes and suffixes and various combinations thereof (yielding circumfixal marking). Non-segmental and suprasegmental marking of mood is less frequent, but also quite common. Another strategy for mood marking in the languages of the world is suppletion, when inflectional modal meanings require a different stem feeding into the verbal paradigm. Along with dedicated morphological markers of mood, there exists a plethora of cumulative types of marking, when mood is expressed simultaneously with other verbal categories, such as tense, aspect, voice, person, number, and possibly some others. The structure of mood as a grammatical category poses a challenge for universal typological descriptions, as the diversity of all its guises in the world’s languages is notoriously high. Imperative and subjunctive are regarded as the two core non-indicative members of mood domain attested cross-linguistically. A kind of terminological complication may arise with respect to the terms indicative vs. subjunctive and realis vs. irrealis. Still, there exist some points that reveal the differences between subjunctive and irrealis, syntactic distribution being one of the most essential (given that subjunctive is to be considered primarily as a morphological device for expressing syntactic subordination). Of course, the systems of mood in the world’s languages often display a greater diversity within the domain of non-indicative moods, and specifically epistemic and volitive values grammaticalize to separate inflectional forms, comprising various epistemic and optative moods respectively.

Article

Nominal Reference  

Donka Farkas

Nominal reference is central to both linguistic semantics and philosophy of language. On the theoretical side, both philosophers and linguists wrestle with the problem of how the link between nominal expressions and their referents is to be characterized, and what formal tools are most appropriate to deal with this issue. The problem is complex because nominal expression come in a large variety of forms, from simple proper names, pronouns, or bare nouns (Jennifer, they, books) to complex expressions involving determiners and various quantifiers (the/every/no/their answer). While the reference of such expressions is varied, their basic syntactic distribution as subjects or objects of various types, for instance, is homogeneous. Important advances in understanding this tension were made with the advent of the work of R. Montague and that of his successors. The problems involved in understanding the relationship between pronouns and their antecedents in discourse have led to another fundamental theoretical development, namely that of dynamic semantics. On the empirical side, issues at the center of both linguistic and philosophical investigations concern how to best characterize the difference between definite and indefinite nominals, and, more generally, how to understand the large variety of determiner types found both within a language and cross-linguistically. These considerations led to refining the definite/indefinite contrast to include fine-grained specificity distinctions that have been shown to be relevant to various morphosyntactic phenomena across the world’s languages. Considerations concerning nominal reference are thus relevant not only to semantics but also to morphology and syntax. Some questions within the domain of nominal reference have grown into rich subfields of inquiry. This is the case with generic reference, the study of pronominal reference, the study of quantifiers, and the study of the semantics of nominal number marking.

Article

The Semantics of Chinese Wh-Phrases  

Qianqian Ren and Haihua Pan

In formal semantics, a wh-phrase is traditionally assigned the semantics of an existential quantifier phrase, an abstraction operator, or a set of alternatives. Such semantics per se, however, is not sufficient to account for the behaviors of Chinese wh-phrases. A wh-phrase in Chinese may be used in a variety of contexts and express a variety of meanings. Apart from interrogative meaning, it may also give rise to existential or universal meaning. More specifically, it can be licensed in typical contexts that license negative polarity items like the c-command domain of negation, the antecedent clause of a conditional, and a yes–no question. It can also be licensed in modal contexts, including epistemic modality and deontic modality. Finally, it can produce a universal reading by being quantified by the adverb dōu ‘all’ or forming the so-called bare conditionals/wh-conditionals, which are composed by two clauses containing matched wh-forms without overt connectives. In order to achieve explanatory adequacy, it is necessary to consider whether and how the different functions of wh-phrases can be unified and whether they can be derived from more general principles or mechanisms. To maintain descriptive adequacy, variations in licensing and interpretation possibilities across wh-items and contexts must also be taken into consideration. Another feature of Chinese wh-phrases is that sometimes they seem to extend their scope beyond domains within which they otherwise take scope (e.g., a Chinese wh-phrase may take existential scope within the antecedent of a conditional, though it may also co-vary with another wh-phrase in the consequent of that conditional). In this respect, they behave like indefinites. As some evidence suggests that some cases where they display this feature may in fact involve the interrogative use, it remains to be seen whether the locus of explanation lies in the wh-phrase itself or in the question meaning. There are other big questions to consider: For instance, how do prosody, syntax and semantics interact with one another in licensing and interpreting a Chinese wh-phrase? Do the theoretical devices and mechanisms postulated have psychological reality? There is also much space for empirical research, which hopefully will help settle debates over the grammaticality of certain structures or the availability of certain readings.