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Future obligations

  • PABLO FUENTES (a1)

Abstract

This article reflects on a double interpretation of English constructions containing the combined expression will have to. As I will show, illocutions involving sentences of the type ‘NP will have to VP’ can be interpreted as either (i) predicting future enforcing circumstances that trigger a future obligation or (ii) reporting such circumstances as currently in force at speech time. Once I sketch the different semantic elements at play in a Kratzerian framework, I cast doubt on some current views on the so-called modal–tense interaction. As I will show, one way to fully account for the availability of both readings is by assuming a semantic temporal underspecification as to when the triggering circumstances in the conversational background are initially in force. This raises important theoretical caveats for semantic analyses in the field, particularly for those that equate the semantics of the future with prediction. As the article shows, such a widespread assumption can be contended by a dynamic account of obligational ascriptions, according to which their different illocutionary forces can be derived from the contextual change potential of its primitive (and admittedly underspecified) future semantics. Ultimately, the paper voices support for the view that future semantics must not be equated with prediction.

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Corresponding author

Author’s address: The University of Manchester, School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UKpablo.fuentesopazo@manchester.ac.uk

Footnotes

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I thank three anonymous reviewers whose helpful comments greatly improved several aspects of this article. I am especially grateful to Martina Faller for numerous revisions of previous versions. Her insightful comments were crucial for pursuing an analysis despite the difficulties one inevitably faces when addressing these issues. I am also grateful to Graham Stevens, Delia Bentley, Eva Schultze-Berndt, Norman Yeo and to the audience of the Semantic Lab at the University of Manchester for helpful comments and feedback. All errors are my own.

Footnotes

References

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Journal of Linguistics
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  • EISSN: 1469-7742
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