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ERIC Number: ED175239
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1979-Feb
Pages: 61
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
On Modality in English and Other Languages.
Hofmann, Thomas R.
The descriptive contents (cognitive meanings) of the modals "can,""may,""could,""might,""must,""need,""ought,""should," compared with paraphrastic verbs and adjectives, motivate two cross-classifying dimensions: logical modality (possibility, impossibility, necessity) and linguistic modality (alethic, probability, authority, obligation, capability, ability, threat). Morphological suppletions and syntactic behavior of these modals verify this 7 x 3 matrix of English modals. The validity of these dimensions and of the terms in them is shown by a high degree of separation: few formatives are ambiguous by this analysis. Other languages such as Chinese and French have similar structures, but differ in the terms of linguistic modality. Logical modality, found in all languages with the same three terms, is based on a semantic atom /Imp/ in combinations with /Neg/. Some exploration of this object is pursued, into the realm of non-truth-functional connectives and the logic qoverning them. This element accounts for the sentence-connective nature of modals, and is the semantic basis of "if" and "because." A semantic definition of modality is proposed to account for the common perception of a class of modal verbs in languages where there is no syntactic or morphological motivation. (Author)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A