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Modal determiners (MODALDET)
Start date: Sep 15, 2014, End date: Sep 14, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"Modal expressions allow us to talk about unrealized possibilities and uncertain scenarios. For instance, the sentence in (1), with the modal ""might"", describes a possible scenario compatible with the speaker's evidence.1) (Given what I know), Jones might be the murderer.The ability to construct discourses about the non-actual is a fundamental cognitive skill and one of the design features of human language (Hockett 1960). Accordingly, modality has been extensively studied in linguistics and philosophy (see Frawley 2006 and Portner 2009 for recent overviews). Until recently, work on modality had focused primarily on verbal elements (e.g., modal auxiliaries). Over the last few years, however, the semantics literature has begun to recognize the existence of a class of functional nominal items - modal determiners- that introduce modal contents akin to the ones we see in the verbal domain. For example, the Spanish indefinite “algún” in (3) contributes information about the speaker’s epistemic state (that she does not know what book Juan bought), like ""might"" in (1).2) Juan compró algún libroJuan bought algún book‘Juan bought some book or other’This project will improve our understanding of natural language modality through a cross-linguistic description and analysis of modal determiners, thereby bringing together two classic domains of research (modality and determiners) that have had very limited overlap until now. The study will gather data from Catalan, Spanish and English, using two complementary methodologies (extraction of corpus data and written questionnaires), analyze these data using the methods of formal semantics and pragmatics, and examine the consequences of this research for the theory of modality. The last phase of the investigation will involve designing a follow-up project on Catalan Sign Language, a language for which there exists strong expertise in the host group, but where modal determiners have never been investigated."

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