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Authors

Kelli Slimp

Abstract

The current study seeks to apply Construction Grammar to the phenomenon of modality. To facilitate a thorough application and analysis, examples of both epistemic and root modal verbs of English are considered. Specifically, those verbs of English chosen for the current study are CAN/MAY and MUST/SHOULD. Motivation for these choices is provided as well as a brief look at the other types of modal verbs existent in the language. In applying Construction Grammar to modality, the research poses the following hypotheses: 1) there are varying types of modality in English; 2) these modal variations are realized uniquely and; 3) an accurate and effective account of these unique modalities and corresponding marking systems can be provided within the Construction Grammar (CxG) framework. In order to ascertain these hypotheses, the current study asks the questions: 1) what are the modal variations of English; 2) how are these variations realized and; 3) what would a Construction Grammar analysis of modality in English look like? To answer these questions, various examples of modality are analysed and the differences and similarities between the expressions gauged. A schema similar to that of RRG is then applied while assuming the postulates of Construction Grammar. Bearing these goals in mind, the phenomenon of modality itself as well as an overview of the salient points of Construction Grammar are examined. Construction Grammar is then applied to the examples and visually represented in a Role and Reference Grammar-style schema. The successes of both the application of Construction Grammar as well as the proposed schema are examined. It is found that, in keeping with the hypotheses presented, expressions of modality in English offer as many ambiguous interpretations and unique realizations as there are conversational situations in which they could be uttered. The modality of English is shown to be heavily context and in some cases subject dependant. It is also found that, as hypothesised, Construction Grammar is a suitable framework within which to analyse modality in both languages. In addition, the proposed schema proves adequate in visually representing the relationship between the pragmatic, semantic, morphological and syntactic levels of the modal expression. These findings are significant in that they promote the increasing acceptance of Construction Grammar as an appropriate and sufficient grammar theory as well as advancing the understanding of linguistic modality.

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