Volume 2, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2542-9477
  • E-ISSN: 2542-9485
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



Variation has been demonstrated in modal use between written and spoken registers and between disciplines. This article investigates variation within a discipline by comparing modals of obligation and necessity used in three science genres. Obligation modals project strong authoritative stance, thus contrasting with the tendency in academic writing towards tentativeness. The modal auxiliaries and and quasi-modals and are investigated using student writing from the BAWE (British Academic Written English) corpus and a corpus of published research articles. Findings include a dearth of obligation modals in the empirical genres (research articles and laboratory reports). Also a greater prominence was found of dynamic modal meaning (where necessity arises from circumstances) rather than deontic meaning (where the necessity arises from human authority or rules). A further finding is the prominence of objective meaning in the science register compared with the International Corpus of English (Collins 2009a).


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Aull, L. L., & Lancaster, Z.
    (2014) Linguistic markers of stance in early and advanced academic writing: A corpus-based comparison. Written Communication, 31(2), 151–183. 10.1177/0741088314527055
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0741088314527055 [Google Scholar]
  2. Biber, D.
    (2006) University language: A corpus-based study of spoken and written registers. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/scl.23
    https://doi.org/10.1075/scl.23 [Google Scholar]
  3. Biber, D., & Conrad, S.
    (2019) Register, genre, and style. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/9781108686136
    https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108686136 [Google Scholar]
  4. Biber, D., Johansson, S., Leech, G., Conrad, S., Finegan, E., & Quirk, R.
    (1999) Longman grammar of spoken and written English. London: Longman.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Collins, P.
    (2009a) Modals and quasi-modals in English. Amsterdam: Rodopi. 10.1163/9789042029095
    https://doi.org/10.1163/9789042029095 [Google Scholar]
  6. (2009b) Modals and quasi-modals in world Englishes. World Englishes, 28(3), 281–292. 10.1111/j.1467‑971X.2009.01593.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-971X.2009.01593.x [Google Scholar]
  7. Depraetere, I., & Verhulst, A.
    (2008) Source of modality: A reassessment. English Language & Linguistics, 12(1), 1–25. 10.1017/S1360674307002481
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S1360674307002481 [Google Scholar]
  8. Gardner, S., & Nesi, H.
    (2013) A classification of genre families in university student writing. Applied Linguistics, 34(1), 1–29. 10.1093/applin/ams024
    https://doi.org/10.1093/applin/ams024 [Google Scholar]
  9. Gray, B., & Biber, D.
    (2012) Current conceptions of stance. InK. Hyland & C. S. Guinda (Eds.), Stance and voice in written academic genres (pp.15–33). Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan. 10.1057/9781137030825_2
    https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137030825_2 [Google Scholar]
  10. Halliday, M. A. K.
    (1994) An introduction to functional grammar (2nd ed.). London: Arnold.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Hood, S.
    (2004) Managing attitude in undergraduate academic writing: A focus on the introductions to research reports. InL. J. Ravelli & R. A. Ellis (Eds.), Analysing academic writing: Contextualised frameworks, (pp.24–44). London: Continnum.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Huddleston, R., & Pullum, G. K.
    (2002) The Cambridge grammar of English language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/9781316423530
    https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316423530 [Google Scholar]
  13. Hyland, K.
    (2005) Stance and engagement: A model of interaction in academic discourse. Discourse Studies, 7(2), 173–192. 10.1177/1461445605050365
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1461445605050365 [Google Scholar]
  14. Hyland, K., & Tse, P.
    (2005) Evaluative that constructions: Signalling stance in research abstracts. Functions of Language, 12(1), 39–63. 10.1075/fol.12.1.03hyl
    https://doi.org/10.1075/fol.12.1.03hyl [Google Scholar]
  15. Leech, G., Hundt, M., Mair, C., & Smith, N.
    (2009) Change in contemporary English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511642210
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511642210 [Google Scholar]
  16. Martin, J. R.
    (1984) Language, register and genre. InF. Christie (Ed.), Language studies: Children’s writing: Reader (p.984). Geelong, Australia: Deakin University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Myers, G.
    (1989) The pragmatics of politeness in scientific articles. Applied Linguistics, 10(1), 1–35. 10.1093/applin/10.1.1
    https://doi.org/10.1093/applin/10.1.1 [Google Scholar]
  18. Nesi, H., & Gardner, S.
    (2012) Genres across the disciplines: Student writing in higher education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. Nuyts, J.
    (2001) Epistemic modality, language, and conceptualization: A cognitive pragmatic perspective. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 10.1075/hcp.5
    https://doi.org/10.1075/hcp.5 [Google Scholar]
  20. Palmer, F. R.
    (1979) Modality and the English modals (1st ed.). London: Longman.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Rayson, P.
    (2016) Log-likelihood and effect size calculator. Retrieved from: ucrel.lancs.ac.uk/llwizard.html (12March 2018)
  22. Scott, M.
    (1996) WordSmith Tools. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Scimago Journal rank
    Scimago Journal rank (2016) Retrieved from: www.scimagojr.com/journalrank.php (15October 2017).
  24. The ICE Project
    The ICE Project (2009) The design of the ICE corpora. Retrieved from: ice-corpora.net/ice/design.htm (19March 2019).
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Verhulst, A., Depraetere, I., & Heyvaert, L.
    (2013) Source and strength of modality: An empirical study of root should, ought to and be supposed to in present-day British English. Journal of Pragmatics, 55, 210–225. 10.1016/j.pragma.2013.05.010
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2013.05.010 [Google Scholar]
  26. Verstraete, J-C.
    (2001) Subjective and objective modality: Interpersonal and ideational functions in the English modal auxiliary system. Journal of Pragmatics, 33, 1505–1528. 10.1016/S0378‑2166(01)00029‑7
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0378-2166(01)00029-7 [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): corpora; obligation modals; science writing; stance; student writing
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error