Modality

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  • Topic: Modal logic, Modal verb, Sentence
  • Pages : 13 (4253 words )
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  • Published : May 15, 2013
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CHAPTER ONE

1. What is modality?

Modality is concerned with expressing opinions and attitudes. Modality in general is defined similarly in many reference books. For example Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech and Svartvik (1985) claim, that “at its most general, modality may be defined as the manner in which the meaning of a clause is qualified so as to reflect the speaker’s judgment of the likelihood of the proposition it expresses being true” (p. 219). However, the authors deal with the term modality mainly in connection with the category of modal auxiliary verbs and the topic is not considered in wider view. Similarly Huddleston (1984) introduces modality briefly as a broad term for the kind of meaning characteristically expressed by the modals. On the other hand he gives a good distinction between mood as a category of grammar and modality as a category of meaning. He says: “The distinction is analogous to that between tense and time and it would be useful if we had similar pair of terms for talking about aspect” (pp. 165 - 166).

Mood refers to a grammatical category of the verb which has a modal function and is expressed inflectionally (distinct sets of verbal paradigms). Modality is a semantic category belonging to elements of meaning that language expresses (Bybee, & Fleischman, 1995). Neither Palmer (2001) gives a general definition but also associates modality with categories of tense and aspect, because all three are “concerned with the event or situation that is reported by the utterance (…). Tense is concerned with the time of the event, while aspect is concerned with the nature of the event. Modality is concerned with the status of the proposition that describes the event” (p. 1).

2. Types of modality

Most linguists accept the existence of at least three types of modality: epistemic, deontic and dynamic [Huddlston 2002: 6.5.(d)] English grammars often refer to epistemic and deontic modality as belief and action modality, respectively. In this research the terms epistemic and belief, and action and deontic respectively, are used interchangeably. One can find many different opinions dealing with how to divide modality into subcategories. Most authors whose books contain wider view on English grammar present rather simple distinction, but this thesis focuses also on authors dealing exclusively with modality and considers more or less minor opinions from journal articles. The following paragraphs investigate throughout reference sources and offer several solutions. Huddleston (1984) sees two central branches in modal logic and these are possibility and necessity. Both of these notions have two kinds – epistemic and deontic. The difference is visible from the following Table 1:

| |Epistemic |Deontic | |Possibility |A: You may be under a misapprehension. |B: You may take as many as you like. | |Necessity |C: You must be out of your mind. |D: You must work harder. |

Table 1: Examples of epistemic and deontic modality according to Huddleston (1984, p. 166).

Epistemic modality in A and C applies to the proposition that you are under a misapprehension (A) or that you are out of your mind (C) and the issue is whether or not the proposition is true (p. 167). By contrast, deontic modality in B and D has the character of an action and the issue is whether something is going to be done (p. 168). When talking about modals, terms extrinsic and intrinsic modality are used in Quirk et al. (1985). These terms do, in fact, mark epistemic and deontic modality respectively. The authors’ distinction is based on semantic meaning of the modal verbs which may be divided into two types: (a) “Those such as permission, obligation, and volition which involve some kind of intrinsic human...
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