Volume 17, Issue 1
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  • E-ISSN: 2211-6842
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This paper proposes an account of the morphosyntactic and semantic changes involved in the historical development of the English modals as a distinct category. Adopting a neoparametric approach, in which a language’s inventory of grammatical features may change over time, we show that a cluster of related surface changes can be accounted for by positing that the feature was added to English tense/mood system. While the most immediate manifestation of this change was the grammaticalization of the modals themselves, this in turn altered the system of contrasts in the language: in clauses without modal verbs, the absence of the modal became contrastive, narrowing the range of possible interpretations.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): English; features; functional categories; modality; modals; parameters; syntactic change; tense
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