Tense and modality in the nominal domain

Negin Ilkhanipour


It is well discussed in the literature that epistemic modals (Mod epis) are base-generated higher than Tense (T), while non-epistemic/root modals (Mod root) are base-generated lower than T, and that high modals are evaluated in the context of the speech event (i.e., with regard to the speaker at the speech time), whereas low modals are evaluated in the context of the VP event (with regard to an argument at the event time). In this study, looking with favour upon the presence of tense and modal functional projections in the nominal domain, and following the idea that adjectives are basegenerated in the specifiers of distinct functional projections, I argue that, similar to the structure of CPs, epistemic and root modal elements have different positions in DPs; epistemic adjectives appear in the specifier of Mod epis.NP above nominal tense (TNP), while root adjectives appear in the specifier of Mod root.NP below TNP, where nominal tense is the time of the existence or occurrence of the modified noun. With this aim in view, first, I show that the ambiguity of the adjective qæbli ‘previous’ is due to the two positions this adjective can occupy: the specifier of TNP and the specifier of ordinalP, where the adjective receives temporal and ordinal interpretations, respectively. Next, I explain that this structural ambiguity is observed when qæbli ‘previous’ cooccurs with root adjectives, such as qabel-e-ɁeɁtemad ‘reliable’. This suggests that the position of root adjectives is lower than TN, where it is interpreted with respect to the modified noun at the event time. With epistemic adjectives, such as Ɂehtemali ‘probable’, the adjective qæbli ‘previous’ is not ambiguous; it can be interpreted only as an ordinal modifier. This implies that the epistemic modal is higher than TN, where it is evaluated with regard to the speaker’s knowledge at the speech time. Thus, we see that the interaction of temporal and modal adjectives in DPs provides evidence for a structural hierarchy in the nominal domain parallel to its counterpart at the clausal level.


adjectives, modality, nominals, Persian, tense

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4312/linguistica.56.1.143-160


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Ljubljana University Press, Faculty of Arts
(Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani) 

Print ISSN: 0024-3922
Online ISSN: 2350-420X