Volume 11, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1384-6655
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9811
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This paper explores the various meanings/uses of NEED TO, a semi-modal of obligation and necessity, in two spoken and two written corpora of British English from the 1950s to the 1990s. Previous corpus-based studies indicate that its overall usage has increased, but there is clearly a gap in research on its semantics. This corpus-driven inductive investigation applies the traditional semantic concepts of root and epistemic meaning to the corpus data. The results suggest that NEED TO covers all the possible meanings/uses, both root and epistemic, of a modal of obligation and necessity. Consequently, it is a possible rival of MUST and HAVE TO in affirmative contexts. However, the traditional analysis leaves out the instances where NEED TO expresses internally motivated compulsion. This is accounted for in recent cross-linguistic studies which rearrange the non-epistemic field. Their insights are taken into consideration, and a synthesis concerning the semantic profile of NEED TO is suggested.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): auxiliaries; British English; corpora; modality; semantic change; semantics; semi-modals
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