modal constraints on temporal reference
Klecha, Peter. 2014. Modal constraints on temporal reference. In Hsin-Lun Huang, Ethan Poole, and Amanda Rysling (eds.), Proceedings of NELS 43: Volume 1, pp. 239-252. GLSA. (The pdf below is a pre-publication draft.)

Keywords. modality, tense, embedded tense

Abstract. This paper seeks to explain the role of modal expressions in constraining the temporal orientation of their prejacents, motivated by two pieces of yet unobserved, seemingly unrelated data. The first is an exception to the so-called Upper Limit Constraint. The second is a constraint on the possible range of temporal anaphors in temporal comparatives. I propose that both of these phenomena can be accounted for by enriching the typical Lewis-Kratzer model of modality (Lewis, 1973, Kratzer, 1981, 2012) to include partial histories, slices of worlds which include only certain intervals of time. As quantifiers over these partial histories, modals impart constraints on the range of possible values for temporal pronouns in their prejacents. Since modals may vary in terms of what kind of partial histories they quantify over, they may also vary in terms of how they temporally constrain their prejacents, which I show accounts for the two observations mentioned above.