Aspects of a reconstruction of form and function of modal verbs in Germanic and other languages

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Genuine modal verbs in the Germanic languages classify as preterit presents. Since the Germanic preterit derives genetically from the Indo-European perfect and since there is no trace of the original Indo-European present stems of the modal verbs, one generally assumes that these verbal classes were <i>perfecta tantum</i>, i.e., a morphological paradigm of the proto-language lacking any imperfectivepresent corresponding forms. The reconstruction shows that the root modality derives directly from the perfective and, respectively, the perfective-medial function. This boils down to the temporal reconstruction of the aspectual function. Comparing the Slavic aspect languages confirms the hypothesis offered by Abraham (1987, 1991, 2001, 2005) and Leiss (1992, 2000, 2002a–d) about the categorial affinity between root modality and perfective aspectuality.


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