Institut Jean Nicod

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Modalizing a sentence e.g. Joan is obviously smart makes, at a very fundamental level, a comment by the speaker on the proposition Joan be smart. Modality thus affects the truthiness of the sentence. Using the label ‘modality’ in a broad sense, Alda Mari has been targeting an empirical domain that encompasses those expressions that account for the attitude of an epistemic agent toward the truth of a proposition and has understood modality as ‘evaluation’ of the propositional content. Alda Mari has studied a variety of expressions of modality cross-linguistically focusing on (i) universal epistemic modals, (ii) future as a manifestation of epistemic modality and (iii) modal adverbs in a variety of languages including Italian, French, Greek and English. She has developed a model based on non-veridicality, where universal modals are biased and convey preferences. She has studied how these preferences determine the meanings and the distributions of modal expressions, also in relation with predicates of personal taste and time. Her work is now moving to the relation between epistemic modals and epistemic attitudes.

Newly considering the relations between phrasal and verbal mood as a unified phenomenon, she intends to understand verbal mood in the light of interactional dimensions through which phrasal mood has been analyzed. Existing studies of propositional attitudes building on possible world semantics have been faithful to the foundational concepts inherited from Hintikka (1962) and Bolinger (1968), leading to consider mood as a polarity item. At the semantic/pragmatic interface, studies on non-assertive utterances have instead provided a more diverse set of solutions, which, around a core notion of modality, have considered non at-issue components and have allowed disentangling different levels of semantic representation. Extending these results, Alda Mari will integrate commitments, expectations and more broadly non at-issue components besides the more monolithical traditional analysis of propositional attitudes. Alda Mari intends to develop a a multilayered approach to reconsider verbal mood, by focusing not exclusively on possible worlds, but also on the notions of agent, perspective and interaction.