; Meaning and usage of modal auxiliary verbs in grammar
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Meaning and usage of modal auxiliary verbs in grammar


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									Meaning and usage of modal auxiliary verbs in grammar books in the Late Modern English period: a network approach Hiroshi Obara The University of Edinburgh hirobauk@yahoo.co.jp English grammar books published in the Late Modern English period (particularly in the 18th and the 19th centuries) provide a variety of meanings for modal auxiliary verbs. Each of the meanings is related to one another in a network. The aim of this presentation is to provide an account of this network structure of the modal meanings and usage. We can see that this is also relevant and applicable to issues of the use of modals as politeness marker in the period. In the grammar books (e.g. Greenwood 1711, Webster 1784, Walker 1805) several words used to indicate the meanings of each modal can be linked to each other to form a network of modal meaning. For example, the ‘obligation’ sense of should implies and relates to things of ‘necessity’ and ‘futurity’, and the ‘contingency’ sense of might also concerns ‘futurity’ and ‘conditionality’, etc. Words such as ‘necessity’ and ‘possibility’ are usually considered within the domain of modal semantics (Lyons 1977: 787). On the other hand, ‘conditionality’ and ‘hypotheticality’ seem rather to be the issues which deal with the use of modals in context. Therefore, issues of both semantic and pragmatic meaning are introduced at the same time, and certain links made transparent. This results in the possibility of conceptualizing the existence of a network which connects semantic and pragmatic factors. The network of modal meaning extends to usage in terms of social context. In the LModE period, books which introduce and codify social manners and etiquette had seen an increase in popularity after the Industrial Revolution and the resulting urbanization (Cf. Urquhart 1870, Clark 2000). Implications which are associated with the use of modals such as ‘modesty’ and ‘elegancy’ (e.g. Murray 1808: 136-7) in grammar books are the same as qualities which are described in manner and etiquette books at that time. As a result, it is recognized that social factors like these are also connected to the use of modal terms, and this suggests that there is a wider network which links social units to the semantic and pragmatic domains. This way of conceptualization - recognising modal meanings as networks – is compatible with ideas of core – peripheral theory (Coates 1983) and some other theories which consider the fuzziness of the category ‘modal’ (e.g. Cort and Denison 2005). References Clark, C. J. D. (2000). English Society 1660 – 1832. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Coates, J. (1983). The Semantics of the Modal Auxiliaries. London: Croom Helm. Cort, A. and Denison, D. (2005). The category Modal: a moving target?. Paper presented at the First International Conference on the Linguistics of Contemporary English, University of Edinburgh 23 – 26 June 2005. Greenwood, J. (1711). An Essay Towards A Practical English Grammar. Menston: The Scolar Press. Lyons, J. (1977). Semantics vol. 2. Cambridge / New York: Cambridge University Press. Murray, L. (1808). An English Grammar. Vol. 1. York: Thomas Wilson & Son. Urquhart, D. (1870). Fragments on politeness. London: Diplomatic review office. Walker, J. (1805). Outlines of English Grammar. London: S. Gosnell. Webster, N. (1784). A Grammatical Institute of the English Language Part . Menston: The Scolar Press.

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