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In modal subordination, a modal sentence is interpreted relative to a hypothetical scenario introduced in an earlier sentence. In this paper, I argue that this phenomenon reflects the fact that the interpretation of modals is an ANAPHORIC process, precisely analogous to the anaphoric interpretation of tense. Modal morphemes introduce alternative scenarios as entities into the discourse model; their interpretation depends on evoking scenarios for described, reference and speech points, and relating them to one another. Although this account formalizes anaphoric connections using dynamic semantics, it invokes a novel and direct encoding of scenarios as ordinary, static objects (competing analyses take modal referents to be inherently dynamic objects, unlike the referents of pronouns and tenses). The result is a simpler proposal with better empirical coverage.
Date Posted: 26 August 2006