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Unformatted text preview: Anatomy of a Modal Construction * Kai von Fintel Sabine Iatridou October 3 , 2006 . To appear in Linguistic Inquiry . Languages can express the existence of an easy way of achieving a goal in a construction we call the Sufficiency Modal Construction ( smc ), which combines a minimizing/exclusive operator like only or ne . . . que and a goal-oriented necessity modal like have to or need to , as in To get good cheese, you only have to go to the North End . We show that the morpho-syntactic make-up of the smc is cross- linguistically quite stable. We show that the semantics of the con- struction constitutes a severe compositionality problem. We solve the problem by giving the negation and the exclusive operator differ- ential scope. For only , this means decomposing it into negation and an exclusive other than component. Keywords: modality, necessity, sufficiency, exclusive operators, min- imizers, only , scope, intervention, negative polarity Conceived: 2002 . Submitted: October 26 , 2005 . Accepted: May 17 , 2006 . Final version submitted: October 1 , 2006 . * The authors appear in alphabetical order. We would like to thank the participants in our Spring 2004 seminar and all our very patient informants. We thank the audience at a UConn colloquium, especially Jonathan Bobaljik, Uli Sauerland, Yael Sharvit, and Susi Wurmbrand. We thank the au- dience at GLOW in Thessaloniki, especially Sigrid Beck, Matthew Whelpton, and Tarald Taraldsen. We thank the audience at SALT in Evanston, especially Anastasia Giannakidou and Barbara Par- tee. We would like to thank Noam Chomsky, Irene Heim, Janneke Huitink, Richard Kayne, Fabrice Nauze, Roger Schwarzschild, and Arnim von Stechow for helpful comments and discussion. Many colleagues and informants have helped us with the cross-linguistic data collection. We thank them all and credit them at the appropriate places in the paper. Last but not least, we thank an anony- mous reviewer for Linguistic Inquiry for insightful comments and advice. A more exploratory and thus lengthier version of this paper appeared as a working paper with a shorter title (von Fintel and Iatridou 2005 ). 1 1 Introduction Imagine that you come to visit us in Boston. You want to make some tiramisu for us but you complain that you cannot find good mascarpone, nor for that matter any other good cheese in Boston. Incensed, we exclaim “What do you mean you can’t find good cheese in Boston??!!”, followed by ( 1 ). ( 1 ) To find good cheese, you only have to go to the North End! What do we convey with ( 1 )? We somehow manage to say at least the following: going to the North End is (part of) a way of finding good cheese and going to the North End is relatively easy. Furthermore, we are leaving it open whether there are other places (in Boston) to get good cheese, that is, with ( 1 ) we are not claiming that the North End is the only place to find good cheese....
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