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lexical modality



The expression of modal meanings through nouns, adjectives, verbs, or adverbs used in a modal context.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "One aspect of modality highly relevant for ideological analysis . . . is lexical modality. [C.J.] Fillmore (["Verbs of Judging" in Studies in Linguistic Semantics] 1971) was the first to point out the 'evaluative' implications of lexical items such as accuse, criticise, praise. Thus, for example, the sentence:
    The teacher accused Linda of copying.
    implies that the teacher thinks that copying is bad."
    (Jean Jacques Weber, "Dickens's Social Semiotic: The Modal Analysis of Ideological Structure." Language, Discourse and Literature: An Introductory Reader in Discourse Stylistics, ed. by Ronald Carter and Paul Simpson. Routledge, 1995)

  • "[Hugh] Hefner's insistence that the 'deciding factor' should be what is in 'the best interests of the girls themselves' may have been a bit disingenuous."
    (Elaine Tyler May, America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation. Basic Books, 2010)

  • "It is therefore important to avoid medical jargon, make language simple, check for understanding or hire a trained interpreter."
    (Palliative Care Nursing, 3rd ed., ed. by Marianne LaPorte Matzo and Deborah Witt Sherman. Springer, 2010)

  • We propose that there should be three separate debates.

  • This new policy is going to come back to haunt us.

  • Implementing electronic health records is probably the best thing that can happen to health care.

  • In English, modality may be expressed lexically in a number of different ways. This can be illustrated by examples like the following:
    (1) Hopefully this is enough. (deontic adverb)
    (2) She is likely to lose. (epistemic adjective)
    (3) I permit you to smoke. (deontic verb)
    (Carl Bache, Essentials of Mastering English: A Concise Grammar. Walter de Gruyter, 2000)

  • Types and Examples of Lexical Modals
    "Examples of modal nouns include condition, decree, demand, necessity, order, requirement, request, resolution, and wish. In the example below the modal noun intention creates a modal context which contains the modal verb should.
    (176) So I drew the inference that the intention was that the media should reproduce the programme.
    Notice that should in this example is mandative should . . ..

    "Examples of modal adjectives include able, advisable, anxious, bound, concerned, crucial, desirable, essential, fitting, imperative, important, likely, necessary, possible, supposed, sure, vital, and willing. These create modal contexts to varying degrees, often depending on how the speaker or writer views the situation expressed by the complement. . . .

    "[E]xamples of modal lexical verbs . . . include advise, intend, propose, recommend, require, suggest, and wish. These verbs can license mandative should clauses or mandative subjunctive clauses. . . .

    "Among the modal adverbs in English we find arguably, probably, maybe, possibly, perhaps, and surely."
    (Bas Aarts, Oxford Modern English Grammar. Oxford University Press, 2011)
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