Eventive modal projection: the case of Spanish subjunctive relative clauses

Luis Alonso-Ovalle, Paula Menéndez-Benito*, Aynat Rubinstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How do modal expressions determine which possibilities they range over? According to the Modal Anchor Hypothesis (Kratzer in The language-cognition interface: Actes du 19econgrès international des linguistes, Libraire Droz, Genève, 179–199, 2013), modal expressions determine their domain of quantification from particulars (events, situations, or individuals). This paper presents novel evidence for this hypothesis, focusing on a class of Spanish relative clauses that host verbs inflected in the subjunctive. Subjunctive in Romance is standardly taken to be licensed only in a subset of intensional contexts. However, in our relative clauses, subjunctive is exceptionally licensed in extensional contexts. At the same time, the interpretation of these relative clauses still involves modality, a type of modality that targets the goals of the agent of the main event. We argue that the pattern displayed by these relative clauses follows straightforwardly if subjunctive is associated with a modal operator that, like modal indefinites (Alonso-Ovalle and Menéndez-Benito in Journal of Semantics 35(1):1–41, 2017), can project its domain from a volitional event. Overall, our proposal supports the event-based analysis of mood (Kratzer in Evidential mood in attitude and speech reports. Talk delivered at the 1st Syncart Workshop, Siena, July 13, 2016; Portner and Rubinstein in Natural Language Semantics 28:343–393, 2020) and extends its application beyond attitudinal and modal complements.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalNatural Language Semantics
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.


  • Event relativity
  • Modality
  • Mood
  • Relative clauses
  • Spanish
  • Subjunctive


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