Modal Meaning in Construction Grammar
  • ISSN 1876-1933
  • E-ISSN: 1876-1941
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When speakers are confronted with modal expressions in their native language, specifically those that contain a modal verb, they are able to interpret these expressions as epistemic or non-epistemic, for example. But what enables the speakers to interpret these modal expressions instantly and accurately despite the inevitably complex explanation any linguistic theory needs to evoke to account for this? Modality, modals, and modal interpretations are among those universal tension points where the explanatory value of any theoretical construct is sorely tested.

This paper raises some questions about the adequacy of applying Construction Grammar (Goldberg 1995, 2006) as a method of analysis of expressions containing modal verbs. In particular, the following issues are discussed: (i) the necessity to postulate a great number of constructions to account for a modal utterance, (ii) the theoretically unrestricted scope of a construction, and (iii) the ever-present problem of indeterminate modal utterances.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): context; indeterminacy; modals; scope
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