Modals and Tense

  • Kristin M. Eide


Several recent works on modals and tense argue that epistemic modals and similar types of predicates are deprived of temporal properties. This article takes a different stand. Although epistemic modals typically express what may be dubbed “unchanging truths”, there exist examples to demonstrate that these types of predicates are still able to express a shift in temporal reference. This being the case, epistemic modals cannot be “outside the scope of tense altogether”, as claimed by Cinque (1999) and many others. This is as expected on the tense system I outline here, since I defend the idea that any verb is inherently temporal; specifically, that every verb contains a tense element, partaking in a temporal chain where only the topmost member is finite; the remaining members are non-finite. By means of this system, I investigate the temporal construal of root and epistemic modal constructions.
How to Cite
Eide, K. M. (2019). Modals and Tense. Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung, 7, 120-135.