Modality in English Syntax

L. Jenkins, 1972

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This study of the English modal system centers around three problems for English and general syntactic theory: 1. Conditions on the form of grammar – surface structure interpretation.  2.  Interpretation of modality in complement constructions; e.g., as in John expects to know the answer tomorrow (future: John will know the answer tomorrow).  3.  Conditions on the functioning of grammars – the control problem and the By Phrase Constraint.

Evidence is first given for the postulation fo a syntactic category M(odal).

Next it is shown that rules of interpretation on surface structures are needed to account for the correct semantic interpretation of a number of constructions involving modals.

We then demonstrate that for a variety of constructions in English such as John expects to know the answer tomorrow, syntactic considerations show that a rule of future interpretation (will-interpretation) rather than a transformational rule of deletion (will-deletion) is required.

Finally it is argued that modals play an essential role in the statement of the “control problem”.

Thesis Supervisor:         Noam Chomsky

Title:                             Professor of Linguistics

Table of Contents

Introduction                                                                                                                  7

Chapter One    The Modal as a Syntactic Category

            Part A  A syntactic analysis                                                                               23

            Part B  A semantic analysis                                                                               24

            Part C  Alternative analyses of the English M(odal)                                            29

Footnotes                                                                                                                     30

Chapter Two    Modals and Surface Structure Interpretation

            Part A  Introduction                                                                                          35

            Part B  Surface structure interpretation                                                  37

            Part C  Surface structure interpretation with modals                                           43

            Part D  The modal as main verb proposal                                                          49

            Part E   Modals as transitive/intransitive verbs                                        52

            Part F   Modals as main verbs                                                                           65

            Part G  Root vs. epistemic modals                                                                     72

            Part H  Modals and cognate verbs                                                                    75

            Part I    The modal as semi-modal                                                                     81

            Part J   Other auxiliaries as main verbs                                                  97

Footnotes                                                                                                                     139

Chapter Three  (Implicit) Modality in English Complement Constructions

            Part A  Introduction                                                                                          165

            Part B  Will-interpretation vs. will-deletion                                                        169

                        I.          Declaratives                                                                              169

                        II.         If-clauses                                                                                  172

                                    a.         The future time adverbial argument                                174

                                    b.         The two wills argument                                     176

                                    c.         The idioms argument                                                     178

                        III.       That-complements                                                                    180

                        IV.       To-infinitives                                                                             181

Footnotes                                                                                                                     186

Chapter Four    Modals and Language Universals

                        The Control Problem and the By Phrase Constraint

            Part A  Introduction                                                                                          192

            Part B  The control problem                                                                             192

            Part C  Modal constraints in the control problem                                               194

            Part D  Semantics and the control problem                                                        196

            Part E   The by phrase constraint                                                                       199

Footnotes                                                                                                                     206