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Posted By: just the truth on 04-23-2005 02:00 AM
Subject: Re: Past Perfect
Message: Paco:
What you are (or the book is) saying is just about epistemic modals. Some root modals like 'will' (futurity) or 'can' (ability) have tense finiteness. So your saying cannot be generalized for all modals.

JTT: These aren't separate modals. They are modals with varying meanings. It is precisely because all modals can operate in all time situations that it is highly misleading to call them present/past tense.

Paco:
I agree most epistemic modals are free from 'tense', though still we cannot use some modals such as 'will' and 'can' for talking about the event that happened in the past even when they are used as epistemic modals.

JTT: This is not true, Paco. Every modal can be used "for talking about the event that happened in the past". Here's two examples that I've just made up.

That can't have happened.

That will have been Bob that said that.

Now, just for one collocation, "can't have been", googled, we see,

53,400 English pages for "can't have been".

Another search for will used in the past;

44,400 English pages for "will have already been".

Another search using shall

623 English pages for "shall have already".

Another search for the last "present tense" modal, may reveals

670,000 English pages for "may have already".

Paco:
Anyway what epistemic modals connote is only the feeling/though the speaker has NOW, or more precisely speaking, during the time the speaker is uttering the sentence.

JTT: That's right, Paco, speaker feeling or modality, not tense.

Paco:
What I argued against in the previous messages is about your assertion that "I would save some dollars" contains a future meaning. Suppose a boy utter; 'I would save 50 cents if I didn't buy this popsicle now'. This means 'NOW I think that I can save 50 cents in the case I don't spend the 50 cents on this popsicle NOW'. This boy is not saying anything about future. It would be possible to suppose a situation he spends that 50 cents a few minutes later to buy some other sweet after he abandoned the idea of buying that popsicle. So I can't agree with your assertive saying that "I would save some dollars" contains a future meaning.

JTT: You're right, Paco. The popsicle is in the boy's hand, the money has just passed into the clerk's hand and the though is running thru the boy's mind NOW. "I would save 50 cents if I didn't buy this popsicle.

"Excuse me, Sir. I don't want this popsicle."

"Okay, son, here's your money back." {the popsicle and the money change hands}

BUT there could also be any number of scenarios where it is a future. The crucial point of all this is that is NOT a past tense here, it can't even have a past tense meaning.

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Paco replied to the posting above:

By the way I did a google survey myself. As I thought the absolute number of hits will not be significant in this case, I surveyed relative values of can/could and will/would. Here I confined sites into EDU domain because it seems many grammatically illiterate people (including children and foreigners) are contributing to pages of COM domain.
can have done / could have done 153/69,200
will have done / would have done 984/78,300

JTT: I'm not familiar with COM domain, Paco. What do you feel is the significance of these results and why have you avoided mine, found in the posting above?
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Adding "have" puts the proposition (residue) in the past, not the modality.
The only exception I've ever seen is in this sort of pattern: "You shouldn't have climbed that tree. You might have fallen!" The "might"ness (possibility) existed in the past, not at the time of the utterance.
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CJ:
Adding "have" puts the proposition (residue) in the past, not the modality.
The only exception I've ever seen is in this sort of pattern: "You shouldn't have climbed that tree. You might have fallen!" The "might"ness (possibility) existed in the past, not at the time of the utterance.

JTT: Could you expand on this, Jim? I'm not completely sure what it is that you're trying to say. Is the first sentence, starting with "Adding" yours or is it a quote?
The whole thing is mine. No quotes.

To expand: According to many linguists, a sentence with a modal actually splits into two parts - the modality and the proposition. Sometimes the word "residue" is used instead of "proposition".

"The neighbors may want this old refrigerator."

The modality is "may" (naturally). This is a stative idea meaning, more or less, "it is possible that".
The proposition (residue) is what's left after removing the modal: "The neighbors want this old refrigerator".

Together, the paraphrase is "It is possible that the neighbors want this old refrigerator".

According to the linguists again, the modality and the proposition operate independently under certain transformations. Under negation, for example, sometimes the modality and sometimes the proposition take the negation. "The neighbors may not want this old refrigerator" is a case where the modality remains affirmative while the proposition is negated: "It is possible that the neighbors do not want this old refrigerator".

With temporal relations we know that in English it is not possible grammatically to inflect a verb after a modal as in "*The neighbors may wanted this old refrigerator". So to put the proposition in the past, the word "have" is used: "The neighbors may have wanted this old refrigerator". Thus, after a modal, the difference between the past and the present perfect is neutralized.

In almost every case, with very few exceptions, the "have" puts the proposition in the past while leaving the modal itself untouched.

"The neighbors may have wanted this old refrigerator" then breaks down into: "It is possible that" (the modality) and "The neighbors wanted this old refrigerator" (the proposition). As a consequence of this analysis, the modality remains "in the present", so to speak. ("It is now possible that") But the proposition is put in the past ("The neighbors wanted [then] this old refrigerator.")

By this logic, "The neighbors may have wanted this old refrigerator" is not a case of a modal in the past, nor would this be true of 99% of the modal + have structures.
Restated, the addition of "have" does nothing to modify the tense/time of the modality and everything to modify the tense/time of the proposition.

CJ
CJ:
By this logic, "The neighbors may have wanted this old refrigerator" is not a case of a modal in the past, nor would this be true of 99% of the modal + have structures.
Restated, the addition of "have" does nothing to modify the tense/time of the modality and everything to modify the tense/time of the proposition.

JTT: You seem to be dealing with this in a detached sort of way, Jim, sort of a foot in each camp.Emotion: smile I for one, and I say this honestly, am really happy to see such progress.

Why just 99%? What would be different about the other 1%? Is your example, copied below, part of that 1%?

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The only exception I've ever seen is in this sort of pattern: "You shouldn't have climbed that tree. You might have fallen!" The "might"ness (possibility) existed in the past, not at the time of the utterance.

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Isn't this exactly the same as the examples in your last post? What exists is the separate modality 'might' which expresses a lower degree of certainty than say, 'may' or 'probably would', and the 'have' structure which sets the "tense/time of the proposition".

Also, what of, "You shouldn't have climbed that tree. You might fall.", where the climber is still in the tree.
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Yes, the "example copied below" in your post is part of the (estimated) 1%.

Here the modalities are thrown into the past, not the residues.

In the case of "You shouldn't have climbed that tree", unlike in the '99%' cases, the meaning is "It WAS not advisable to do this: You climb that tree." The advisability of "should" has past. The sentence doesn't mean "It IS not advisable to do this: You climbeD that tree." So in this case the "have" throws the modality into the past, not the residue.

Likewise, on the relevant reading, "You might have fallen" doesn't mean "It IS possible that you DID fall". It means, "It WAS possible for you to fall." The addition of "have" puts the possibility in the past, not the falling. (It couldn't put 'falling' in the past. As this is a counterfactual, the falling never happened.)

In both cases the effect of adding "have" is contrary to its effect in the majority of cases.

A case of "might have" where the residue (not the modality) is in the past is one like this more typical case: " -- George is all scratched up. I wonder what happened. -- He might have fallen" (It IS possible that he DID fall. Not It WAS possible for him to fall.)

As for your variant:

Before the climb begins: "You should not climb that tree. You might fall."
The climb is complete, not the descent: "You shouldn't have climbed that tree. You might fall."
Both climb and descent complete: "You shouldn't have climbed that tree. You might have fallen."

Note that the "have" is used when the advisability ("should") is past, when it's too late to give advice anymore, i.e., when the climb is already complete.
The "have" is also used when the possibility (of falling) is past, when the consequences are known, i.e., when the (safe) descent is already complete.

(I think you may be unnecessarily confusing yourself with the addition of matters of "may" and "might", and their relative strength. That is best thought of as a separate issue having nothing to do with the action of "have" in modal sentences.)

CJ

Addendum: I didn't make it clear. Because this thread focused on epistemic modality, my remarks apply to epistemic modals.