A modal ambiguity in for-infinitival relative clauses
Author(s)Hackl, Martin; Nissenbaum, Jon
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This squib presents two puzzles related to an ambiguity found in for-infinitival relative clauses (FIRs). FIRs invariably receive a modal interpretation even in the absence of any overt modal verb. The modal interpretation seems to come in two distinct types, which can be paraphrased by finite relative clauses employing the modal auxiliaries should and could. The two puzzles presented here arise because the availability of the two readings is constrained by factors that are not otherwise known to affect the interpretation of a relative clause. Specifically, we show, first, that “strong” determiners require the FIR to be interpreted as a SHOULD-relative while “weak” determiners allow both interpretations (the Determiner-Modal Generalization). Secondly, we observe that the COULD-interpretation requires a raising (internally headed) structure for the FIR, while the SHOULD-interpretation is compatible with either a raising or a more standard matching (externally headed) structure (the Raising/Matching Generalization).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
Natural Language Semantics
Hackl, Martin, and Jon Nissenbaum. “A Modal Ambiguity in For-infinitival Relative Clauses.” Natural Language Semantics 20.1 (2011): 59–81. Web. 27 June 2012. © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011
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