Modal Verbs in Germanic and Romance Languages
  • ISSN 0774-5141
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9676
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Abstract. In this paper we have tried to establish which paths the Old English modal *motan followed from Old English central meaning of permission to Modern English central meaning of obligation, by looking at peripheral meanings of *motan. The data presented here were drawn from The Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records. They tell us that *motan was never used in an epistemic sense; so, diachronically, deontic *motan came first. Moreover, it becomes quite clear that the core meaning was permission, that this could be slightly amended to include ability or wish, and that obligation was only a peripheral meaning in (late?) Old English.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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