This paper presents the results of a corpus-based diachronic investigation into the semantic evolution of the Dutch modals kunnen “can”, mogen “may” and moeten “must”, revealing an interaction between processes of (inter)subjectification and of semantic competition (‘no synonymy’). Mogen and kunnen do, but moeten does not, show an evolution in terms of (inter)subjectification. But developments in mogen and kunnen also show an effect of the fact that historically they have been competing for the same semantic ground. There is no comparable competition for semantic ground in moeten. This strongly suggests an interaction between the ‘no synonymy’ principle and (inter)subjectification, whereby the former may actually trigger the latter.
Keywords: modal auxiliaries, principle of ‘no synonymy’, (inter)subjectification, Dutch, (inter)subjective meanings, modality, semantic change
Published online: 30 March 2015
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