Studies in Language Variation, Meaning and Learning
Edited By David Tizón Couto, Beatriz Tizon-Couto, Iria Pastor-Gomez and Maurizio Gotti
GABRIELA DIACONU - Assessing Subjectivity and Objectivityin Modal Expressions from New Englishes: A Multivariate Analysis 37
GABRIELA DIACONU Assessing Subjectivity and Objectivity in Modal Expressions from New Englishes: A Multivariate Analysis1 1. Introduction One of the most dynamic areas in present-day English grammar is the modality system where there has been lively competition among the modals and semi-modals. Recent research suggests a rather divergent use of expressions in different varieties of present-day English, namely that expressions encoding root modality using core modals are decreasing quantitatively, whereas semi-modals are rapidly increasing. Real-time corpus-based studies have shown that the most salient con- trasts can be observed in the relative distribution of root2 vs. epistemic obligation or necessity when using modal must, semi-modal have to or (have) got to. Possible explanations for these changes have been sought both at the level of discourse and at the level of structural change. Three discourse trends which have been identified are: ‘Americanization’, ‘colloquialization’ (Leech 2003; Mair/Leech 2006); ‘Democratization of discourse’ (Fairclough 1992; Myhill 1995; Smith 2003). The structural change commonly assumed to be at work is grammaticalisation, which links morphosyntactic change to seman- tic developments (Traugott 1989; Krug 2000) or to the shifts in dis- 1 I would like to thank my supervisor Prof. Christian Mair and Dr. Nicholas Smith for their insightful comments on earlier drafts of this chapter. I am grateful also to the participants and the organisers of the ELC2 Postgraduate Conference held in Vigo (Spain), October 30-31, 2009. 2 For the sake of clarity, root modality (in the field of obligation/necessity) is equivalent to deontic or non-epistemic modality...
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