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Jéssica on tense and modality at Romance semantics conference

September 21, 2020 Linguistics

PhD student Jessica Mendes, standing on a bridge over a busy highway in Brazil

"John might miss his appointment." What makes this a claim about the future?

September 26-27, UMass hosts Sensus, a conference on the study of meaning in Romance languages. Among the presenters is Jéssica Mendes, who is giving a talk on Future orientation in modal sentences. A sentence like "John might miss his appointment" can be used to make a claim about what is possible in the future, but not to make a claim about what is possible in the present. Why? The source may be a covert future tense morpheme, argues Jéssica on the basis of how overtly tensed modals are interpreted in Brazilian Portugese, which differs in this way from other Romance languages.