Print

Print


On Wed, 27 Aug 2014 18:46:20 -0600, Logan Kearsley <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>On 27 August 2014 17:39, Alex Fink <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> I mean to read your later description of WSL (with words!) at some point, but for now just a tangential question:
>>
>> Are you aware of any formal semantic models (say, developed in a non-English tradition) that have a different suite of modal concepts?  I'd be interested in such.
>
>I am not. Different sources come at it with slightly different
>approaches, but everything I've read about modality eventually comes
>around to the possible-worlds interpretation.
>
>The interesting bit is the expression of modal bases- i.e., what is
>the domain over which quantification occurs, which defines the type of
>modality (alethic, deontic, epistemic, etc.). Although every analysis
>of modality seems to come around to possible world semantics, how the
>modal base is expressed varies greatly both between and within
>languages- it can be left to discourse context, or lexicalized in a
>bunch of different places (modal verbs, matrix verbs, adverbs, special
>particles like evidentials, etc.). I could get a compromise between
>including expressions of feeling or opinion as part of the grammatical
>mood system vs. lexicalizing them by introducing a role marker (or
>some other construct) that says "this group of predicates / WSL Noun
>phrase constrains the modal base of this proposition". Which
>essentially allows for inventing arbitrary new kinds of modality
>on-the-fly. No restriction gets you default alethic modality,
>restriction with a predicate indicating the set of all things you
>believe creates epistemic or doxastic modality, restriction with a
>predicate indicating the set of all things you are OK with gets you
>deontic modality, etc.

Ah, interesting.  We'd only used the alethic version so far, although the phonological forms of "be good" and "be expected" are of an easily combinable sort, so that it's compelling to find a way to work them in and get, respectively, deontic modality and, um, further alethic or maybe epistemic modality?

On the other hand... mentioning this to Sai just now, he doesn't appear to really be happy with deontic modality as a category at all.  He wants to cast deontic "X must Y" as '[explicitly mentioned deemer] only finds the situation good in which X does Y', or maybe 'X will only achieve [explicitly mentioned goal] if they do Y', and regarding "X may Y" his immediate reaction was "who are you to give permission?!" and his suggestion '[explicitly mentioned deemer] will avoid visiting retribution on X if they do Y' (which to me is redolent of his very legalistic mindset), though he concedes that perhaps these should have abbreviations or allow "common default" values of the modal restriction vel sim.  And the 'if' in these constructions hides an alethic modal construction in your sense, so perhaps via the abbreviation we'll end up with more than just alethic modality after all.  

>> In UNLWS, [...] we do though have quantifiers for unspecified small and large proportions, and one for "greater proportion than for the [implicit] super-category of the restrictum", attempting therein to remedy the way natlangs are usually bad at stating statistical claims.  Other modals in UNLWS are underdeveloped.
>
>I am aware of the idea of improving statistical language, but it's
>been a while since I read or thought about that subject specifically,
>so I'm having trouble wrapping my head around that last example. Could
>you perhaps explain differently what "greater proportion than for the
>[implicit] super-category of the restrictum" means and how that helps
>with making statistical claims?

Well, it's only the first step towards such an improvement, and we haven't thought very much about its systematic deployment or its congeners; perhaps you'll give us some other ideas.  But it's meant to be used for reporting e.g. results like those graphed in http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/004965.html -- using this quantifier, glossed CORR (for "correlate"), one can say "women CORR are happy" meaning 'a greater proportion of women are happy than [implicitly] people are', which is marked by contrast to "women GEN are happy" ("generic"), read as 'women are happy' with the generic plural, or "women many are happy" read as expected, or others.  

Alex