The interaction of temporal-aspectual features in modal polysemy: a case-study from Sicilian

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Abstract

THE INTERACTION OF TEMPORAL-ASPECTUAL FEATURES IN MODAL POLYSEMY: A CASE-STUDY FROM SICILIAN. We intend to analyse a number of Sicilian constructions involving the modal vuliri “want” and the modal periphrasis aviri a “have to+ infinitive”. They are used to express both modal values and futurity (Sicilian, but not Italian, lacks a synthetic future). Our analysis is largely based on Cognitive Grammar, according to which modality is a strategy of grounding, involving different kinds of subjectification (Langacker 1991; Traugott 1989), variously grammaticalised in languages. The scalar nature of grammaticalisation processes (Heine et al. 1991) also accounts for the polysemous behaviour of modals, as well as their intralinguistic overlapping. Modal meanings are frequently activated by other coordinates, concerning both the features of Transitivity (animacy of the subject, coded or implied agentivity, punctuality, telicity of the predicates, cf. Hopper-Thompson 1980; 2001) and the degree of grammaticalisation of the modal means. Although vuliri and aviri a converge in the expression of two semantic cores, i.e. (1) Necessity and (2) Prediction, they express a different degree of grammaticalisation. In particular, vuliri is only partially grammaticalised and coexists with a lexical counterpart: 1. A pasta voli cociri /a (a) cociri The pasta want.PRS.3SG cook.INF/have.PRS.3SG (to) cook.INF “The pasta needs to be cooked” 2. Voli chioviri /a (a) chioviri want.PRS.3SG rain.INF / have.PRS.3SG (to) rain.INF “It will rain/It is going to rain” 3. Iddu voli i puma / manciari / a (a) manciari/ He want.PRS.3SG the apple.PL/ eat.INF/ have PRS.3SG (to) eat.INF/ *Iddu a (a) puma He have.PRS.3SG (to) apple “He wants the apples/He wants to eat/He has to eat/ *He has to apple” We hypothesize that the grammaticalised uses of vuliri do not completely opacify the original semantics of volition and the metaphor which allows its extension from animate subjects to inanimate ones. Thus, the inanimacy of the subject plays a crucial role in determining the modal reading. Moreover, the basic “verbiness” of vuliri accounts for the almost exclusive connection with deontic (less grammaticalised, Sweetser 1990; Bybee et al. 1994) values,while an epistemic interpretation only arises under specific contextual constraints, i.e. when an agentive, human implication is radically excluded (as in 2, where a meteorological predicate is involved). On the contrary, aviri a is a fully grammaticalised means of modal expression, not sensitive to the animacy of the subject. Even if the general conditions of agentivity contribute in orienting the modal reading in a deontic or epistemic direction, they crucially interact with the temporal-aspectual patterns, which are a trivial variation for vuliri: 4 Tu a (a) ffari comu dici iddu (deontic) You have.PRS.2SG (to) do.INF as sayPRS.3SG. he “You must do as he says” 5. Tu avisti a ffari comu dissi iddu (epistemic) You have.PST.2SG (to) do.INF as say.PST.3SG. he “You must have had to do as he sayd” The deontic value is commonly expressed with the present tense, while a past tense inflection moves the modal meaning towards an epistemic interpretation. This pattern is consistent with Langacker (1991) analysis of distal morphemes, as
Lingua originaleEnglish
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2009

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