Volume 12, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1877-9751
  • E-ISSN: 1877-976X
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The complexities of the interaction of modality and negation are well-known. They mainly arise from different scopes of negation. Thus, the negation in You mustn’t go has narrow scope while the negation in You can’t go has wide scope. This study adopts a cognitive approach to the issue of scope in negated modality. It examines negated modals within a conceptual matrix developed on the basis of conceptual distinctions that are crucial to modality. The distribution of negated modal verbs within the conceptual matrix reveals which modal concepts are coded in a given language and which ones are not. The study focuses on the system of English negated modals but also compares it to the systems of German, Dutch and Norwegian. In all four languages, the predominant way of negating modals is by using wide-scope negation. German, in fact, wholly relies on wide-scope negation, while English makes use of both scopes of negation. Its mixed nature leads to a number of “irregularities” in the use of modals, which, however, can still be shown to be motivated.


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