Edited by Kristin Davidse and Anne-Marie Simon-Vandenbergen
[Functions of Language 8:2] 2001
► pp. 183–215
Possibly alternative modality
Despite the recognition of secondary ‘modal’ resources such as modal adjectives and adverbs, there has been relatively little discussion of the full extent of their contribution to the expression of modal meaning in general. In this corpus-based study, I focus exclusively on the adverb possibly and describe the range of environments that are revealed by a data set of 2000 randomly selected citations. On the basis of the observed data, I argue for a single core sense of possibly that distinguishes it both from modal operators, such as may/might and from closely related adverbs such as perhaps and maybe. I also argue that, beyond the stereotypical function of possibly as a modal adjunct, there is massive evidence to suggest that it functions additionally as a modalising element in units at the lower rank of group. I therefore propose a revision to the structure of these units to incorporate the expression of modal meaning.
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