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The epistemic and the counterfactual interpretations of present perfect 'pouvoir' in French

Abstract : Existential modal pouvoir (can) in the present perfect in French has an abilitative and an epistemic interpretation. The abilitative reading can be associated with an actuality entailment. Our goal is to propose a semantic/pragmatic view of the systematic ambiguity, exploiting the aspectual and temporal makeup of the present perfect, which, we analyze as a perfect rather than an aorist. Our account builds on the common view that the present perfect introduces a result state whose running time is the utterance time. On the pragmatic side, we subscribe to the view that the present perfect is used inferentially, thai is to say, that the past event is not presented per se but it is inferred from some less direct result state. Knowledge of the present result state plays a key role in the account. With these ingredients in place, the paper also redesigns the spectrum of interpretations of a pu- sentences, distinguishing between epistemic and counterfactual interpretations. It thus sheds a new light on the previously unanswered question of the competition between the present perfect modal and the modal in the past conditional.
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Contributor : Alda Mari <>
Submitted on : Thursday, June 27, 2013 - 9:06:27 PM
Last modification on : Friday, July 2, 2021 - 9:58:02 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Wednesday, April 5, 2017 - 4:48:46 AM


  • HAL Id : ijn_00839362, version 1



Alda Mari. The epistemic and the counterfactual interpretations of present perfect 'pouvoir' in French. 2013. ⟨ijn_00839362⟩



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