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Chapter 24 - Modality in Germanic

from Part IV - Semantics and Pragmatics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 March 2020

Michael T. Putnam
Pennsylvania State University
B. Richard Page
Pennsylvania State University
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Modality is a category encompassing many different aspects of language use, and the literature concerned with this topic extends from antiquity to the modern age. This chapter provides an introduction to the notion of modality, discusses how it relates to other major categories such as tense, aspect and mood, and illustrates how modalities are instantiated morphosyntactically in the Germanic languages. We are specifically addressing cross-linguistic differences and similarities; for instance, only a few of the Germanic languages employ subjunctive moods productively, whereas all use modal auxiliaries. The discussion revolves around types of modality and their typical exponents with a particular emphasis on the deontic (root, event) v. epistemic (evidential, propositional) modalities and potential commonalities between them. Other central topics addressed are the notions of authority and controllability. Finally, we investigate some recent trends in the literature on speech act modality in the Germanic languages, including the potential role of complementizers.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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