A semantic universal for modality

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Shane Steinert-Threlkeld
Nathaniel Imel
Qingxia Guo


This paper articulates a new semantic universal for modal expressions in natural language, dubbed the Independence of Force and Flavor (IFF). This property accommodates counterexamples to Nauze 2008’s proposed universal from variable-force variable-flavor modals (Bochnak 2015a,b) and attitude verbs (Močnik & Abramovitz 2019), while still ruling out unattested modals. It may also be seen as a form of convexity applied to modals.

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