DS-2008-08: Modality in Typological Perspective

DS-2008-08: Nauze, Fabrice (2008) Modality in Typological Perspective. Doctoral thesis, University of Amsterdam.

[thumbnail of Full Text] Text (Full Text)

Download (1MB)
[thumbnail of Samenvatting] Text (Samenvatting)

Download (4kB)


Modality is a broad linguistic concept. It is an umbrella term for all
sorts of meanings and can be expressed by many different grammatical
categories. Look for example at the following sentences.
(34) a. The door must be locked.
b. Maybe Jan is at home.

The meaning of the verb should in sentence (34-a) is called deontic. The
sentence expresses an obligation: that the door must be locked. The
meaning of the adverb maybe in sense (34-b) is called epistemic. It is
about conclusions to be made on the basis of knowledge/information. For
example if we walk by Jan's house walk and we can see the light on we
then can conclude (34-b). Other important meanings labeled as modality
are capability (about the ability to perform certain actions) and
goal-oriented modality (about possible or necessary actions to achieve a
goal). Additionally, not only verbs and adverbs are used to express
modality but also adjectives, lexical constructions, suffixes and
enclitics (although the latter option is not present in the Dutch).

The goal of this dissertation is to study modality from both a
typological as well as a formal semantic point of view. The typological
perspective includes the study of modal systems in different languages
and aims at unraveling universal structures from those particular
languages. I will for instance show that there is a universal
restriction applying to combinations of modal elements. The results of
this typological research will the be used as input to the formal
semantic models.

The dissertation is composed as follows. I start in the first chapter
with a brief introduction of the main concepts and methods from the
Typology. The second part of this chapter is dedicated to the main topic
of this thesis, modality. I present a number of typologies of modality
developed by (Palmer 2001), (Hakim 2004) and (van der Auwera and
Plungian 1998) and choose in the end for the last typology as starting
point for the study of modality in the second Chapter.

The second chapter includes research on the modal systems of six
languages: Dutch, Gbe (cluster), Korean, Lillooet, Turkish and
Tuvaluan. I present for each language separately, first an overview of
the modal elements and then tackle the problem of the modal
combinations. In the last part of this chapter I summarize the results
and come to the formulation of a semantic universal about the
combinations of modal elements.

The third chapter is about formal theories of modality. I mainly discuss
the theory of Angelika Kratzer as published in (Kratzer 1976) to
(Kratzer 1991). In this series of articles Kratzer present a
context-dependent analysis of modality. This analysis still forms the
backbone of most works in the semantic field on modality. With a view to
some interesting examples I will also review some extensions of this
theory formulated by (Brennan 1993) and (von Fintel and Iatridou 2004).

In the fourth chapter I discuss some problematic examples for the
analysis of Kratzer and its extensions with respect to modal

In the fifth chapter I construct an update semantics framework for
modality. I implement the basic principles of the typology of modality
from the second chapter with the restriction from the semantic universal
about the combinations of modal elements. The different types of
modality operate at different levels in this semantic framework
(admittedly behaving in very similar ways). The presented framework
makes it possible to explain the limitation on combinations of modals
and most of the problems of the standard framework in an elegant
way. Another important point, finally, is that an explicit connection is
made between goal-oriented modality and capability.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Report Nr: DS-2008-08
Series Name: ILLC Dissertation (DS) Series
Year: 2008
Subjects: Language
Depositing User: Dr Marco Vervoort
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2022 15:16
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2022 15:16
URI: https://eprints.illc.uva.nl/id/eprint/2068

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item