ASP(ECT) in english modal complements

Elly Van Gelderen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


In this paper, I argue in favor of a structure for modal complements making crucial use of the M(ood) and ASP(ect) Phrases. Deontic modals in English originate in ASP whereas epistemic modals are in M and select ASP Phrases as their complements. There are several arguments which I mention here briefly and then work out in later sections in more detail. The phrase structures used are Minimalist, and so are the underlying assumptions about features (even though the latter are not worked out). First, starting with the weakest argument, which I'll only briefly mention in section 1, present tense deontic modals derive historically from perfective verb forms and the class is therefore called 'preterite-present'.1 This suggests an 'affinity' with aspect. Second, deontic and epistemic predicates differ in that the latter but not the former can have auxiliaries and stative complements. This is accounted for if epistemics select an ASPP, but if deontics are in ASP in complementary distribution with other aspectuals. Third, double modal varieties of English typically have at most two modals with the epistemic preceding the deontic. This fits in if one modal is in ASP and the other in higher in the structure. Finally, I'll look at the position of to, but will start with a note on terminology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-43
Number of pages17
JournalStudia Linguistica
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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