Edited by Werner Abraham and Elisabeth Leiss
[Typological Studies in Language 79] 2008
► pp. 279–307
The aspect-modality link in the Japanese verbal complex and beyond
This contribution investigates the aspectual and modal marking in the Japanese verbal complex, and as a result offers support for the hypothesis of a link between aspect and deontic vs. epistemic interpretation of modal markers. Since Japanese is structurally largely different from the Germanic and the Slavic languages and is genetically unrelated, the aspect-modality link must be motivated by general cognitive principles. On the other hand, I suggest that with respect to some points in Abraham’s and Leiss’s (in this volume) theory of the aspect-modality link a revision might be called for. Concretely, I propose the following: (1) The temporality of deontic modal sentences differs from epistemic modal sentences in that deontic modal sentences require [S ≠ E] (E standing for the event time in the complement) while there are no such restrictions on sentences with epistemic modals. (2) The crucial factor in modal interpretation is temporal rather than aspectual. Aspectuality mediates between modality and temporality rather than motivating or entailing modality directly. (3) Grammatical aspect only provides a cue to modal interpretation, but cannot determine it. The ultimate determining factor is context, which provides either a volitive or non-volitive background to the utterance.
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