Linguistik online 10, 1/02

Scope and semimodal verbs: two approaches

Michael Richter (Kleve)


In this paper I focus on scope phenomena connected with semimodal (and modal) verbs and mainly on the syntactic behaviour of these groups of verbs. One important question is: why can semimodal verbs (and modal verbs in epistemic use) not have perfect and future tense forms? Taking among other things Reichenbach’s tense system as a starting point I try to point out that the interpretation of a semimodal or a modal in epistemic use is problematic 1. if there is more than one reference time/if the reference time is indefinite or 2. if the verb in question stands together with an auxiliary of future which has a certain modal meaning itself.

The comparison of the treatment of these phenomena in the framework of the Semantic Syntax with a non transformational approach (fragment of a categorial grammar) shows, that some important transformational rules and principles easily and economically can be represented in a non transformational grammar. The transformational approach needs rules like RAISING and LOWERING (or at least one of the two, and in addition to this a rather extended set of rules) for the generation of sentences, while in the categorial system we need only two reduction laws. It has to be investigated whether and to what extent the formation and transformation rules in a transformational grammar on the one hand and the dominance / linear precedence rules together with the lexical entries on the other hand are equivalent.


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