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Evidentiality and Modality in European Languages

Discourse-pragmatic perspectives


Edited By Juana I. Marín-Arrese, Julia Lavid-López, Marta Carretero, Elena Domínguez Romero, Mª Victoria Martín de la Rosa and María Pérez Blanco

Evidentiality and Modality in European Languages focuses on discourse-pragmatic studies on the domains of evidentiality and epistemic modality, and also includes studies on deontic modality. The book presents ground-breaking research on the functions and the discourse-pragmatic variation of evidential expressions and modals in diverse discourses and genres, applying corpus-based methodologies. It offers unique features regarding content, usage and methodology, and comparative studies. The comparative viewpoint is addressed in contributions which provide a usage-based cross-linguistic account of the expression of evidentiality and modality in various European languages (English, French, Italian, Romanian and Spanish). The contributions are representative of the work on evidentiality and modality in European languages carried out in a substantial number of countries, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Romania, Spain and Sweden.

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The Covert Modality of “Letting” in the English Middle Construction (Pilar Guerrero)


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The Covert Modality of “Letting” in the English Middle Construction1

Abstract: The main aim of this paper is to explore the connection between generic aspect and “covert modality” in the English middle, where the notion of modality is not “reliably associated with any overt lexical items” (Bhatt 2006: 1). Following Davidse and Heyvaert (2007: 39), middle constructions are regarded as structures “expressing a modal letting value”. Along the lines of Yoshimura and Taylor (2004), I discuss the qualia structure of nominal referents in middles (Pustejovsky 1991, 1995), identifying the semantic components that are essential in the interpretation of middles as intrinsically modal generic sentences. I also argue that contextualization and high-level metonymy may contribute to enhance the “letting” modality of middles, foregrounding some intrinsic and nonintrinsic “conducive” properties of the subject entity.

Keywords: “letting” modality – metonymy – middle construction – qualia


Modality and genericity are presented as typical features of the English middle construction in the linguistic literature. According to Keyser and Roeper (1984: 384), middles, “sometimes called generic sentences, state propositions that are held to be generally true.” In the words of O’Grady (1980: 66), they typically denote “general tendencies and potential uses” rather than “specific actualized events.”

Authors like Fagan (1992) and Massam (1992) have proposed a modal analysis of the middle construction. Massam defines the English ← 219 | 220 → middle as a “sentence which contains a certain modality […] which lends a...

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