Verbal Constructions in Prescriptive Texts
III. Tense, Aspect and Modality in Prescriptive Legal Texts in English 75
III. Tense, Aspect and Modality in Prescriptive Legal Texts in English 1. Tense, aspect and modality: introduction Having analysed some of the main features of the language of the law in English, the specificities of prescriptive legal texts, and some of their principal communicative and pragmatic functions, we can now proceed to look at some of the features characterizing verbal constructions within such texts, starting with a general overview of the situation of tense, aspect and modality in English before concentrating our attention on the peculiarities of the various verbal constructions and the ways they are used in prescriptive texts. Clearly, in a volume dealing predominantly with verbal constructions in prescriptive legal texts, it would be impossible to deal exhaustively with questions relating to tense, aspect or modality in English in general. At the same time it might be worth saying a few words about each of these features of the English language so as to provide a framework within which to analyse such constructions in a more coherent way. First of all, it should be pointed out that verbal situations can be classified as either: i) processes, where there is a change of state or a transition into a state, e.g. to thicken, to reduce; ii) actions, which usually involve a conscious ‘human’ element carrying out the action, e.g. to draft, to ride; iii) events, where something happens without any agentive force necessarily intervening,1 e.g. to happen, to collapse; and iv) states, which exist without any energy being...
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