49 The role of constructions in the assignment of

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					The role of constructions in the
assignment of modal meanings

   Ferdinand de Haan & Sheila Dooley

            University of Arizona
• Investigation into the correlation between modal
  interpretation (epistemic vs. deontic) and various
  constructions and complement types.
• We have used two corpora (Brown and
  Switchboard) and coded each occurrence of must
  in both corpora for various types of
  complements, meanings, number/person, tense,
• The aim is to investigate how people arrive at
  modal interpretations.
• In this presentation we look at a number of
  such types:

•   First person singular
•   Impersonals
•   Verbal complements
•   A note on progressives
                         Switchboard                   Brown
                      Tokens Percentage           Tokens Percentage
Deontic                    66         12.7             762      77.1
Epistemic                412          79.2             159      16.1
Indeterminate              31           6.0             60       6.1
Ungrammatical or           11           2.1              7       0.7

Total                    520         100.0             988     100.0

  Distribution of modal meanings across both corpora
   Correlation of person and modality in the Brown corpus

                                Deontic          Epistemic       % Epistemic
1 SG                                  23                     2           7.4
2 SG/PL                               26                     9          22.5
3 SG                                 393                102             19.1
1 PL                                 101                     0           0.0
3 PL                                 151                    22          12.2
No overt subject                      27                     7          20.0
Impersonal subject                    42                    16          27.2
Total                                762                159             16.2
  Correlation of person and modality in the Switchboard corpus

                                Deontic          Epistemic       % Epistemic
1 SG                                  39                14              25.9
2 SG/PL                               10                67              81.7
3 SG                                   6               166              89.7
1 PL                                   2                13              81.3
3 PL                                   7                59              77.6
No overt subject                       1                29              96.7
Impersonal subject                     1                64              97.0
Total                                 66               412              80.9
     Constructions with first person
• Constructions with a first person singular
  subject is the only person/number that occurs
  more with deontic than epistemic modality in
  both corpora.
• Two occurrences of epistemic must in Brown,
  14 in Switchboard (still 21% in total).
• What are the verbal complements with which
  the 1SG subject combines?
               Epistemic must
• Of the 14 examples of E must in [S], 8 had the
  complement (must) have V-ed.
  – And I mean, I did stuff but, to me it feels like I
    must have done nothing.              [S157]
  – Sure, but, uh, I had the car, it’s an eighty-one
    Toyota Corona. I must have worked on it, like
    every third day …                    [S391]
  – And I fished until three o’clock in the morning, and
    I must have caught twenty salmon.          [S427]
      Other verbal complements
• must be V-ing (2)
  – That’s the only place I was sore, and I thought, well, I
    must not be doing them right …              [S272]
• must have         (2)
• must be           (1)
• must get          (1)
  – But, you know, people, it’s like your name must be on
    a list or something, because I know at my office, I get
    calls, I mean, I must get at least, I probably average at
    least a call a day, …                         [S407]
      Epistemic I must in Brown
• must be V-ing (1)
  – “But I have no permission to re-enter France, and I
    have just left”, I told him. “I must then be standing
    on the line between France and Germany.” [B462]
• must have V-ed (1)
  – I must have written to say how much I had
    enjoyed his fine book “The Building of Eternal
    Rome”, and I found he had not regretted giving
    me the highest mark in his old course on the later
    Latin poets, …                          [B502]
      Epistemic I must in Archer
• Out of 81 examples with I must, only 4 were
  unambiguously epistemic. The earliest
  example is from 1832:
  – As I'm a sworn appraiser, its almost daylight! -
    why, I must have been asleep these seven or
    eight hours, and nobody knew it. This all comes
    of the steward's wine.
        Deontic I must in Archer
• Almost exclusively I must V in nature.
  – : Some female devil, old and damned to
    ugliness, And past all hopes of courtship and
    address, Full of another devil called desire, Has
    seen this face, this shape, this youth, And thinks
    it's worth her hire. It [[must]] be so. I must moil
    on in the damned dirty road, and sure, such pay
    will make the journey easy, … [1686]
              Deontic I must
• The deontic interpretation of I must is
  overwhelmingly found in the construction I
  must V.
  – 36 of 39 examples in Switchboard
  – 23 of 23 examples in Brown

• There are big differences between the uses of
  the main verb in both corpora.
   Deontic I must in Switchboard
• The use of Deontic I must is essentially limited
  to tag-material with three verbs:
• Admit (19)
• Say (14)
• Confess (1)
  – That’s great. But, um, those things are rare, I must
    say.                 [S250]
  – Yeah, I do some of that and I, I must admit that I
    do a certain amount of it. [S311]
        Deontic I must in Brown
• In Brown, a wider range of verbs is found, but
  most only once.
  – Admit (1)
  – Say (2)
  – Tell [you] (3)
• I must plead guilty to a special sympathy for
  nomias.                [B649]
• All these occurrences concern a self-imposed,
  subjective obligation.
• They are the majority of cases in both corpora.
         “objective” obligation
• There are a few instances of an inevitable
  – Miriam Noel Wright said, “Here I am at my own
    home, locked out, so I must stand in the road!!”
      Impersonal constructions
• Impersonal constructions have a preferred
  epistemic interpretation in Switchboard (64 -
  1), but a preferred deontic one in Brown (42-
• One deontic example in Switchboard:
  – I think there ought to be a unanimous, uh, vote
    because by law and by constitution there must be
    proven beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt
    that the person in question did this.
   Deontic impersonals in Brown
• Three groups of constructions:
• It must be + passive (20)
  – But, with all due respects and allowances, it must
    truthfully be said that what they heard was more
    syrupy than sweet, more mannered than musical.
• There must be + N (13)
  – For an experiment to qualify as a binomial
    experiment, it must have four properties: (1) there
    must be a fixed number of trials, (2) each trial must
    result in a “success” or a “failure” (a binomial trial), (3)
    all trials must have identical probabilities of success,
    (4) the trials must be independent of each other.
• One must + V (9)
  – Statistically this has represented a loss to the
    nation, although one must admit that in an
    individual case the decision in retrospect may
    have been a wise one.
  – On the whole, however, one must wonder at just
    what it is that forces a beloved artist to besmirch
    her own reputation as time marches inexorably
  Impersonal sentences with an epistemic meaning

          Construction             Switchboard     Brown
There must be + N/Adj                         24       4
It must be + N/Adj                            24       3
It must have been                              7       3
There must have been                           5       2
It must + V                                    1       0
It must have V-ed                              1       2
It must be V-ing                               1       1
That must be                                   1       0
Somewhere must be                              0       1
Total                                         64      16
       Epistemic impersonals
– … Uh-huh. It’s in, in an area that’s within, you
  know, four or five blocks. There must be forty
  restaurants. I’m not kidding.              [S266]
– … or, uh, inferior quality when the people involved
  really aren’t inferior, so it must be the way we’re
  managing the process …                     [S396]
– It must have hurt her even to walk, for the sole
  was completely off her left foot and Morgan saw
  that it was bruised and bleeding .         [B924]
    Occurrences of must with verbal complements in Switchboard

                                           Deontic         Epistemic
Be + V-part.                                      4               1
V                                               54               55
Have                                              3              34
Have been                                                        70
Be                                                2              194
Be + V-ing                                                        9
Have got + V-part.                                                2
No V                                              3               5
Have + V-part.                                                   41
Have been +V-ing                                                  1
Total                                           66               412
    Occurrences of must with verbal complements in Brown

                                            Deontic        Epistemic
Be + V-part.                                   236                 2
V                                              392                14
Have                                            34                 3
Have been                                                         36
Be                                                92              37
Be + V-ing                                         1              12
Have got + V-part.
No V                                               5              1
Have + V-part.                                                   50
Have been +V-ing                                                  4
Needs + V                                         1
Get + V-part.                                     1
Total                                           762             159
  Progressive and modal meaning
• There is a strong correlation between the
  progressive and epistemic modality. All but
  one occurrence of must + progressive are

  – The article also said that a person had to be 18
    years old or over, and must not be going to high
    school to attend these classes.          [B79]
Progressive and epistemic modality
• The preliminary hypothesis is that progressive
  aspect is becoming (or has become) a marker
  of epistemic modality.
• This seems true even when there is not really
  any ‘action in progress’ being reported on:
  – That’s the only place I was sore, and I thought,
    well, I must not be doing them right … [S272]
• Conversely, any occurrence of deontic must
  plus progressive must be a true progressive.
           Progressives in Archer
• Early cases of progressives can be deontic in
   – But how must he prove his faith and truth? {=f
     SOPHIA.} Why, first he must love me very dearly!
     With all his heart and soul! And then he must be
     willing to wait till I am one-and-twenty. [1792]
   – A wool-gathering ? A whore-gathering by your
     story of love-powder, you saucy, debauch'd fop you.
     When your father condescends to talk wisely to you
     of State-affairs, must your brains be a rambling after
     wenches?                                   [1688]

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