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Bookmark and Share Paper 3589

When if or when Specify Modals
Jos Tellings
450-460 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This paper studies a construction in which specificational 'namely' takes a modal expression as antecedent, and an if- or when-clause as argument (example: Working as a filmmaker can be taxing, namely if you're required to get sleek product shots). Such cases do not satisfy previously claimed generalizations about the behavior of 'namely' in Anderbois & Jacobson (2018) and Onea (2016). Moreover, these cases show that modal expressions can raise an implicit question that gets answered by an if/when-clause. Not all types of modals allow this -- the paper argues that it is restricted to Portner's (2009) category of "quantificational modals". Following Portner's (2009) idea that quantificational modals are quantifiers over situations, the central proposal is that a modal or adverbial operator is licensed as antecedent of 'namely' only when the formal objects that are existentially quantified over can be singled out and identified. This leads to a difference in inquisitiveness between situation-quantifiers and world-quantifiers. This account gives insights into the inquisitive character of modal operators, and elucidates the difference between modal restriction by if-clauses (in regular conditionals) and modal specification by if-clauses (in the construction studied here). Finally, it provides a better view of the role of if- and when-clauses in a question-answer framework of discourse.

Published in

Proceedings of the 38th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Rachel Soo, Una Y. Chow, and Sander Nederveen
Table of contents
Printed edition: $425.00