Ferenc Kiefer
Table of contents

Modality is a central notion in logic and it has attracted considerable attention in linguistics. Logical definitions of modality are based on the notions of necessity and possibility and modal notions must all be traceable to the logical notions of necessity and possibility. Logical treatments of modality are restricted to properties of propositions and exclude all nonpropositional features of sentences. In linguistics, normally a broader view of modality is espoused. Three major approaches can be distinguished. (i) Modality is related to necessity and possibility, it is used to relativize the validity of propositions to a set of possible worlds. On this view, modality is not necessarily propositional, it may also include nonpropositional aspects of the sentence. (ii) Any modification of a proposition comes under the heading of modality. According to this view, volitional, emotive, evaluative modifications, too, belong to modality, in spite of the fact that these modifications are not related to necessity and possibility. (iii) Modality is what the speaker is doing with a proposition. This notion of modality includes (i) and (ii); in addition, it also covers illocution, in particular, the speech acts of imposing obligation and granting permission. On this approach, there is no dividing line between semantics and pragmatics, or, at least much of what has traditionally been considered to be pragmatics belongs to semantics.

Full-text access is restricted to subscribers. Log in to obtain additional credentials. For subscription information see Subscription & Price.


Aksu-Koç, A.
1988The acquisition of Aspect and Modality: The Case of Past Reference in Turkish. Cambridge University Press. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Anderson, L.
1986Evidentials, paths of change, and mental maps: typologically regular asymmetries. In W. Chafe & J. Nichols (eds.) Evidentiality: The Coding of Epistemology in Language. Ablex.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Bally, C.
1932Linguistique générale et linguistique française. E. Leroux.Google Scholar
1942Syntaxe de la modalité explicite. Cahiers Ferdinand de Saussure II: 3–13.Google Scholar
Brown, P. & S. Levinson
1978Universals in language usage: politeness phenomena. In E.N. Goody (ed.) Questions and Politeness: 56–289. Cambridge University Press.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Bybee, J.
1985Morphology: A Study of the Relation Between Meaning and Form. John Benjamins. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Bybee, J. & W. Pagliuca
1985Cross-linguistic comparison and the development of grammatical meaning. In J. Fisiak (ed.) Historical Semantics, Historical Word Formation: 59–83. Mouton.DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Bybee, J.W. Pagliuca
1994The Evolution of Grammar. Tense, Aspect, and Modality in the Languages of the World. The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Calbert, J.
1975Toward the semantics of modality. In J.P. Calbert & H. Vater (eds.): 2–70.Google Scholar
Calbert, J.P. & H. Vater
(eds.) 1975Aspekte der Modalität. Gunter Narr.Google Scholar
Dahl, Ö.
1985Tense and Aspect Systems. Blackwell.Google Scholar
Givón, T.
1993English Grammar. A Function-Based Introduction. John Benjamins. DOI logo  BoPGoogle Scholar
Halliday, M.A.K.
1970Functional diversity of language, as seen from a consideration of modality and mood in English. Foundations of Language 6: 322–361.Google Scholar
Hintikka, J.
1962Knowledge and Belief. Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
Horn, L.R.
1989A Natural History of Negation. The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Kiefer, F.
1983What is possible in Hungarian? Acta Linguistica Hungarica 33: 149–187.Google Scholar
1986Epistemic possibility and focus. In W. Abraham & S. De Meij (eds.) Topic, Focus, and Configurationality: 161–179. John Benjamins. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
1987On defining modality. Folia Linguistica XXI(1): 67–94.  BoPGoogle Scholar
1988Ability and possibility. The Hungarian verb tud ‘to be able to’. Studies in Language 12(2): 393–423. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
1992Modality. International Encyclopedia of Linguistics: 2515–2520. Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
1995Bound utterances. Language Sciences 18(2): 575–587. DOI logo  BoPGoogle Scholar
1997Modality and pragmatics. Folia Linguistica XXXI(3–4): 241–253.Google Scholar
Kratzer, A.
1978Semantik der Rede. Kontexttheorie – Modalwörter – Konditionalsätze. Scriptor.  BoPGoogle Scholar
1981The notional category of modality. In H.-J. Eikmeyer & H. Rieser (eds.) Words, Worlds, and Contexts. New Approaches to Word Semantics: 38–74. de Gruyter.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Lyons, J.
1977Semantics. Cambridge University Press.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Miller, G.A. & D.M. Kwilosz
1981Interaction of modality and negation in English. In A.K. Joshi, B.L. Webber & I.A. Sag (eds.) Elements of Discourse Understanding: 201–216. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Oswalt, R.
1964Kashaya Texts. University of California Press.Google Scholar
Öhlschläger, G.
1989Zur Syntax und Semantik der Modalverben im Deutschen. Linguistische Arbeiten 144. Niemeyer.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Palmer, F.R.
1979Modality and the English Modals. Longman.  BoPGoogle Scholar
1986Mood and Modality. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Perkins, M.R.
1983Modal Expressions in English. Pinter.Google Scholar
Quirk, R., S. Greenbaum, G. Leech & J. Svartvik
1985A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. Longman.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Redder, A.
1984Modalverben im Unterrichtsdiskurs. Pragmatik der Modalverben am Beispiel eines institutionellen Diskurses. Niemeyer. DOI logo  BoPGoogle Scholar
Von Stechow, A. & W. Sternefeld
1988Bausteine syntaktischen Wissens. Ein Lehrbuch der generativen Grammatik. Westdeutscher Verlag. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Stephany, U.
1986Modality. In P. Fletcher & M. Garman (eds.) Language Acquisition: 375–400. Cambridge University Press. DOI logo  BoPGoogle Scholar
Sweetser, E.
1990From Etymology to Pragmatics: Metaphorical and Cultural Aspects of Semantic Structure. Cambridge University Press. DOI logo  BoPGoogle Scholar
Thurmair, M.
1989Modalpartikeln und ihre Kombinationen. Niemeyer. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Traugott, E.C.
1989On the rise of epistemic meaning: An example of subjectification in semantic change. Language 65(1): 31–55. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Van Der Auwera, J.
1996Modality: the three-layered scalar square. Journal of Semantics 13: 181–195. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Vater, H.
1975Werden als Modalverb. In J.P. Calbert & H. Vater (eds.): 71–148.Google Scholar
Wells, G.
1985Language Development in the Preschool Years. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Willett, T.
1988A cross-linguistic survey of the grammaticalization of evidentiality. Studies in Language 12(1): 51–97. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Von Wright, G.H.
1971Explanation and Understanding. Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
Wunderlich, D.
1981Modalverben im Diskurs und im System. In I. Rosengren (ed.) Sprache und Pragmatik: 11–53. Gleerup.  BoPGoogle Scholar