Predicting the end: Epistemic change in Romance

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Patricia Amaral

Abstract

This paper analyzes a verbal periphrasis in European Portuguese (EP) and Italian (I), formed by a verb meaning ‘to end’, a ‘by’-preposition and a verb in the infinitive form (V). We show that this periphrasis—for short, [end by V]—behaves differently from the aspectual terminative periphrasis formed with the verb end, by focusing on three semantic criteria. We argue that the meaning of [end by V] involves a specific type of epistemic modality related to expectation. We compare the periphrasis with the discourse particles afinal (EP) and alla fine (I), both etymologically related to a form meaning ‘end’, which can also express expectation-related modality and have been analyzed as epistemic modal operators sensitive to a temporal succession of epistemic states (Amaral and Del Prete 2016, 2017). To account for the semantic properties of [end by V], we propose a formal analysis of this periphrasis in which the ‘end’-verb, combined with the ‘by’-preposition, selects a property of eventualities P as argument and presupposes the existence of a sequence of events s→. The periphrasis makes a twofold semantic contribution: (i) it asserts that a P-eventuality occurs at the end of the sequence s→, and (ii) it implies that the occurrence of the P-eventuality at the end of s→ is ranked below some alternative outcome on a likelihood/preference scale. We discuss the implications of our analysis for the study of epistemic modality.


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Author Biography

Fabio Del Prete, CNRS

Researcher in linguistics