Next week I will present my "Two Puzzles about Agentive Can" at the Central APA in Chicago (Thursday February 22, 12:10-2:10). David Boylan and Paul Portner have kindly agreed to comment. Here is the abstract:
I discuss two puzzling observations about how agentive can differs from other existential modals, most prominently epistemic might and deontic may: (i) the former, but not the latter, exhibit a tendency to resist distribution over disjunction; (ii) the negation of the latter, but not of the former, brings in its wake a commitment to the corresponding necessity of a negation. These observations call for an explanation by a modal analysis that satisfies two methodological constraints: (i) existential modals of all flavors (deontic, epistemic, agentive, telic, and so on) should receive a uniform semantic analysis; (ii) features that all existential modals have in common, such as their tendency to license free choice effects, should receive a uniform semantic or pragmatic explanation. I provide such an analysis in a framework that combines tools and techniques from dynamic and inquisitive semantics with insights from the literature on the role of agency in deontic logic.