Publication details [#54356]

Hill, Virginia. 2011. Modal grammaticalization and the pragmatic field: A case study. Diachronica 28 (1) : 25–53.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Language as a subject
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


This paper proposes a diachronic syntactic analysis of the Romanian verb putea “can“. It is argued that the grammaticalization of putea consists of several upward reanalyses, and the gradual stripping of semantic features set off its reclassification as control verb pragmatic marker. This analysis accounts for ambiguous epistemic/deontic readings on the modal, which were considered mysterious under lexical/semantic approaches; it also explains why infinitive verbs are so productive as complements to the modal; and it points out that conversational pragmatic features must be factored in as triggers of syntactic reanalysis.