Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mood (grammatical!)

Although most languages have an identifiable linguistic structure designed to express modality, the elements in the system may have more than one function; they may extend their meanings to more than one semantic domain. Through her study of modal auxiliaries in English, A. Wierzbicka demonstrates that linguistic economy in most languages dictates that markers serve multiple functions [A.Wierzbicka,“The Semantics of Modality,” Folia Linguistica: Acta Societatis Linguisticae Europaeae 21 (1987) 25–43]. For example, the word can is used to express ability (e.g., “Our team can beat your team”) and permission (e.g., “You can go now!”). The word shall also carries several meanings or expresses several moods, depending on the context in which it is found. For example, shall expresses strong vo- lition in the following statement: “You shall obey my orders!” In the sentence: “I shall write a letter tomorrow,” it expresses “intermediate volition,” while in: “Good dog, you shall have a bone later,” shall expresses “weak volition.” Thus, in English, one modal element can carry several meanings. I expect this to be true in other languages as well, where one verbal form marked for modality or one independent morpheme can express various degrees of modality depending on the context in which it it found.—The Syntax of Volitives in Biblical Hebrew and Amarna Canaanite Prose, pages 11–12

No comments: