Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 71-124

First online:

Sublexical Modality And The Structure Of Lexical Semantic Representations

  • Jean-Pierre KoenigAffiliated withUniversity at Buffalo, State University of New York
  • , Anthony R DavisAffiliated withAnswerLogic, Inc

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This paper argues for a largely unnoted distinction between relational and modal components in the lexical semantics of verbs. Wehypothesize that many verbs encode two kinds of semantic information:a relationship among participants in a situation and a subset ofcircumstances or time indices at which this relationship isevaluated. The latter we term sublexical modality.

We show that linking regularities between semantic arguments andsyntactic functions provide corroborating evidence in favor of thissemantic distinction, noting cases in which the semantic groundingof linking through participant-role properties apparently fails. Thissemantic grounding can be preserved, however, once we abstractaway from sublexical modality in lexical semantic representations.Semantically-based linking constraints are insensitive to the sublexicalmodality component of lexical entries and depend only on informationin a predicator's “situational core”.