, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 467-522
Date: 13 Jan 2009

Mood and gradability: an investigation of the subjunctive mood in Spanish

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Abstract

In Spanish (and other Romance languages) certain predicates select the subjunctive mood in the embedded clause, while others select the indicative mood. In this paper, I present a new analysis for the predicates that select the subjunctive mood in Spanish that is based on a semantics of comparison. The main generalization proposed here is the following: in Spanish, a predicate selects the subjunctive mood in its embedded proposition if the proposition is compared to its contextual alternatives on a scale introduced by the predicate. In this proposal, predicates that select the subjunctive mood are thus analyzed as gradable predicates. Furthermore, the subjunctive mood morpheme is claimed to make a semantic contribution, namely to evaluate the contextual alternatives that are compared by the predicate. In comparing this proposal to other approaches, I show that it can more straightforwardly account for a number of properties of these predicates (entailment relations, practical inferences, and contexts with more than two alternatives). New empirical evidence for two crucial properties of the predicates that select the subjunctive mood is provided: these predicates are focus sensitive and they are gradable, two properties that follow directly from the proposal developed here. In the vast literature on mood, the link between the appearance of the subjunctive mood and these important properties has never been made before.