Volume 11, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1876-1933
  • E-ISSN: 1876-1941
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When an ambiguous lexical item appears within a familiar string of words, it can instantly receive an appropriate interpretation from this context, thus being saturated by it. Such a context may also short-circuit illocutionary and other pragmatic aspects of interpretation. We here extract from the British National Corpus over 500 internally highly collocating and high-frequency lexical n-grams up to 5 words containing , , , and/or . These contexts-as-constructions go some way toward allowing us to group these four necessity modals into clusters with similar semantic and pragmatic properties and to determine which of them is semantico-pragmatically most unlike the others. It appears that and cluster most closely together thanks to their shared environments (e.g., , expressing contingent, mitigated necessity), while has the largest share of unique n-grams (e.g., rhetorical , used as a defiant self-exhortation).


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