The acquisition of modality: Implications for theories of semantic representation

Mind and Language 13 (3):370–399 (1998)
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Abstract

The set of English modal verbs is widely recognized to communicate two broad clusters of meanings: epistemic and root modal meanings. A number of researchers have claimed that root meanings are acquired earlier than epistemic ones; this claim has subsequently been employed in the linguistics literature as an argument for the position that English modal verbs are polysemous (Sweetser, 1990). In this paper I offer an alternative explanation for the later emergence of epistemic interpretations by linking them to the development of the child’s theory of mind (Wellman, 1990); if correct, this hypothesis might have important implications for the shape of the semantics of modal verbs.

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Citations of this work

Relevance theory.Deirdre Wilson & Dan Sperber - 2002 - In Deirdre Wilson & Dan Sperber (eds.), Relevance theory. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 607-632.
Norms and necessity: replies to critics.Amie L. Thomasson - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
Norms and Necessity.Amie L. Thomasson - 2013 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 51 (2):143-160.
On the event relativity of modal auxiliaries.Valentine Hacquard - 2010 - Natural Language Semantics 18 (1):79-114.

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