Modality, Subjectivity, and Semantic Change: A Cross-Linguistic Perspective

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A higher percentage of answers contains an intensifying MP, whereas a very low percenta- ge of learners did not supply an answer at all.

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An even lower percentage of answers contains an element that is either a non-intensifying MP or not an MP at all. Table 1. Students either supplied no an- swer or used pronouns instead of modalizing elements. The english answers support our hypothesis of a lower tendency to use marked linguistic elements among language learners. The data used in this part of the study consists of an- swers given by the participants in 9 tasks; missing MPs and modal elements had to be supplied in sentences in which their use is obligatory in a pragmatic sense. The results have not confirmed our hypothesis that learners of german tend to use MPs with an intensifying function less often.

Moreover, we observed that the investigated fourth year students of german in particular use intensifying MPs to a slightly higher extent than the first year students of german.


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The question arises whether learn- ers of german as a foreign language tend to produce intensifiers as marked elements at a later stage of learning. The results of these corpus analyses are discussed in detail in this sec- tion. An intensification scale with respect to the inventory of german and croa- tian MPs and equivalent english expressions is suggested.

The main hypothesis is that some MPs in german and croatian and corresponding modal elements in english express different degrees and types of intensity which represents an ad- ditional aspect of meaning extending their basic function of relating the respecti- ve utterance to a verbalized or unverbalized pragmatic context. The different de- grees and types of intensity can be expressed on a scale which takes into account the distribution of MPs with respect to different sentence types.

Cross-Linguistic Influence and Code-Switching

The intensifying function of MPs: intensification types The modal function of each MP in german and croatian consists in relating the utterance to the pragmatic context in a specific way, i. We argue that these lexical means of expressing modality can have an inten- sifying function as an additional aspect of their meaning.

MPs can express diffe- rent degrees of intensity just like other lexical intensifiers.

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However, in order to classify MPs on a scale of intensification, the following crucial question must be taken into consideration: Which linguistic units are intensified by MPs? A closer look at the following minimal pairs of sentences in german, croa- tian and english can illustrate the difference between an intensifying adverb b and an intensifying MP c : 8 german croatian english a.

Voda je topla. The water is warm. Voda je jako topla. The water is really warm. Al je voda topla! Oh, the water is really warm! Sentence b. A closer look at the two different types of intensifiers b. Whereas a non-modal intensifier intensifies another lexical element in a phrase in which it occurs in the example above, the head adjective of the adjective phrase is intensified , intensifying MPs have sentence scope. The meaning of most MPs can be graded with respect to the degree of inten- sity they can express.

MPs express different degrees of intensity which is ad- ded to the content of the whole sentence. The sentence type influences the way in which an MP intensifies the content of a sentence. More specifically, the sentence type determines the type of intensity which an intensifying MP expresses in a certain sentence. There are three different types of intensification that can be accomplished by MPs, depending on their occurrence in different sentence types. If an MP expresses a higher degree of one of the above listed intensification types, it can be considered an amplifying in- tensifier and is therefore classified on the upper part of the intensification sca- le.

Difficulties in determining the position of a certain MP on the scale i.

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MPs can be clas- sified into two groups: a. MPs that are stable with respect to the degree of in- tensity they express, showing the same degree of intensity regardless of the sen- tence type they occur in, and b. MPs whose intensity degree is sentence type sensitive, with a varying intensification type according to the sentence type they are used in.

Most MPs are classified on the amplifying, i. An MP in a declarative sentence is placed rather low on the amplifying part of the intensification scale, due to the representative function of a declarative sentence, i. An MP expresses a higher de- gree of intensity in an interrogative or imperative sentence, since these senten- ce types entail an expectation that a certain course of action will be performed. An even higher grade of intensity is expressed by an MP in an exclamative, and therefore emotionally marked sentence.

Accordingly, if a certain MP e. MPs have sentence scope, hence their intensifying function also operates on the sentence level, i. Intensification scale We suggest the following intensification scale. The distribution of MPs on the intensification scale in the present study is based on a detailed corpus analysis of MPs and equivalent expressions and on the re- sults of the experiment presented in Section 4. The scale representing the intensifying function of MPs has an upward and a downward direction.

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Values are determined by the norm, i. The following german and croatian imperative sentences illu- strate the intensifying function of MPs and will serve to explain how the inten- sifying values are determined: 9 german croatian english a. Think about it! Daj, razmisli!

The grammatical category of modality ∗ Valentine Hacquard

Do think about it! Daj malo razmisli! Think about it for a minute! In a simple imperative sentence like a. Because sen- tence a. The aim of the analysis is to identi- fy the intensifying degree expressed by individual MPs and to determine their po- sition on the intensification scale.


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  7. By adding an MP to an imperative sentence, the speaker can intensify the necessity of following the requested course of action b. Alternatively, the spea- ker can tone down the necessity of following the requested course of action c. MP group daj malo, eng.

    The amplifying or the upper part of the scale consists of more grades than its diminishing or lower part, since only few MPs display lower intensity in re- lation to the norm. However, if it does, its intensification scope depends on the sentence type figure 1 , as discussed in Section 5. The basic meaning of the MP wohl is tentative, indicating that it is possi- ble or probable that the state of affairs is true.

    In a declarative and exclamati- ve sentence, the state of affairs is evaluated as fairly certain. This MP is there- fore placed on the upper part of the grading scale, representing the first ampli- fying degree. The second intensity degree is expressed by the particles einfach regard- less of the sentence type, i. The basic meaning of einfach is evidential-plausible. The MP ja with its basic affirmative meaning is used to confirm the expressed state of af- fairs and to evaluate it as evident and indisputable. The MP ja in a declarative sentence therefore expresses the same degree of intensity as the stating partic- les eben, halt and einfach.

    The MP eigentlich fulfills a focusing and topic- initiating function. How- ever, only when used in the function of focusing the discourse on an essential as- pect of the topic both in the declarative and in the interrogative sentence is it considered to be an intensifier. Thus, it is placed on the upper part of the gra- ding scale as a partially intensifying MP. The MP ja used in an imperative sentence points out the unquestionable ne- cessity of following a certain course of action.

    It is placed on the upper part of the scale above the MPs ja in a declarative sentence , eben, halt, einfach and eigentlich. Therefore, ja in an exclamative sentence is pla- ced on the same level as ja in an imperative sentence. Among these particles, only doch can be used in a declarative sentence7, emphasizing that the speaker holds his or her opinion despite possible contrary views, which is why it expresses a high degree of intensity.

    Although the basic meaning of wohl is tentative and the speaker, by using it, evaluates the state of affairs as fairly certain8, if used in an imperative sentence, it indicates that the request needs to be fulfilled by all means. Because the demand is emphasized as very strong and urgent, wohl in an imperative sentence expresses a very high degree of intensity.

    With their basic focusing function, they indicate a strong emotional involvement and the focus of the speaker on a certain state of affairs. Among all MPs, these three elements are positioned on the highest possible level of the ampli- fying part of the intensification scale. On the diminishing part of the intensification scale, we can place only the two MPs schon and mal which express a lower degree of intensity with respect to the norm.

    The particle schon functions as a highly intensifying MP in interro- gative or imperative sentences. However, when used in a declarative sentence, its intensity degree varies. The basic meaning of schon has three different vari- ants in the declarative sentence. In this manner mal tones down the encourage- ment for an action, i. As it is used in both an interrogative and an imperative senten- ce to tone down a request, it is placed on the lower part of the intensification scale.