We claim that the meaning of the adverbial almost contains both a scalar proximity measure and a modal that allows it to work sometimes when proximity fails, what we call the at-a-distance reading. Essentially, almost can hold if the proposition follows from the normal uninterrupted outcomes of adding a small enough number of premises to a selection of relevant facts. Almost at-a-distance is blocked when the temporal properties of the topic time and Davidsonian event prevent normal outcomes from coming true when they need to. This approach to almost differs from the two general approaches that have emerged in the literature, by replacing the negative polar condition (not p) with a positive antecedent condition that entails not p while avoiding the numerous well-documented complications of employing a polar condition. Since this approach to almost involves a circumstantial base with a non-interrupting ordering source, almost behaves in certain ways like the progressive, and shows contextual variability of the same kinds that we see with premise sets.
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We thank various audiences at the University of Kansas, including the Research in Field and Formal Linguistics seminar, as well as the Rutgers SURGE reading group. Parts of this research have been presented at WCCFL 36 and at the Modality Across Categories workshop, and the discussion from audiences there was very productive. We also appreciate direct feedback and assistance from Matt Menzenski, Aynat Rubinstein, Eric Wenski, and Samuel and Carol Newkirk. Thanks also to our editor, Paul Portner, for precise helpful commentary, and to almost all our anonymous reviewers for their insight, at every step along the way.
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