This article explores the interaction of Tense, Aspect and Modality in French, Italian and Spanish, languages in which Modals are inflected as main verbs. Imperfective modals are a-averidical, as modals are expected to be, but when they appear in a perfective tense, unexpected entailments and implicatures appear. For example, the following example is three-way ambiguous in Spanish; the corresponding example is two way-ambiguous in Italian and French: P. may have won, could have won, managed to win the race The three readings, epistemic, counterfactual and implicative, are derived from the alternative orderings of three heads, Tense, Aspect and Modal; any ordering in which Modal scopes over Tense is out on semantic grounds; these leaves three possible orderings which result in the three readings. In the epistemic construal, Modal has scope over Tense and Aspect, which are read on the infinitive. As a result, Modal Evaluation Time is at Utterance Time and the lower infinitive is Past and Perfective. There is no interaction between Modal and the other two heads and averidicality is the result. In the counterfactual reading,Tense scopes over Modal, which in turn scopes over Aspect: the result is a past Modal Evaluation; Perfective Aspect makes the interval in which verifying instances of the lower event are sought bounded, which contributes settledness. These are the crucial ingredients for counterfactuality. When Tense and Aspect are both read on the modal, the lower event is entailed and an implicative reading ensues. Italian and French do not have the counterfactual reading because their only surviving perfective past is a morphological perfect which, since it involves a resulting state, is incompatible with counterfactuality. Spanish perfecto also lacks this reading.
Keywords: modality, perfectivity, implicative, counterfactuality, aspect, epistemic
Published online: 06 January 2012
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