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The modal words* (modals)

§ 329. As a part of speech the modals are characterized by the following features:

1. Their lexico-grammatical meaning of 'modality'.

1 See Л. О. П и п а с т. К вопросу о категории состояния в ан­глийском языке. «Иностранные языки в школе», 1951, № 5; Б С. X а й-м о в и ч. Существует ли «категория состояния? в английском языке? «Вопросы теории и методики преподавания английского языка», Днепропетровск, 1961.

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  1. Their negative combinability.

  2. Their functions of parenthetical elements and sentence- words.

§ 330. 'Modality' as a linguistic term denotes the relation of the contents of speech to reality as viewed by the speaker. When describing the meaning of 'modality' in the small group of modal verbs we are in fact dealing with lexical 'modality'. The 'modality' of the indicative, subjunctive and imperative moods is grammatical 'modality'. Now we are dealing with the meaning of 'modality' uniting a part of speech. This is lexico-grammatical 'modality'.

Modal words indicate whether the speaker is sure that the contents of his utterance correspond to reality, or he doubts it, or he regards it as something possible, probable, desirable, etc. Accordingly, modal words can be divided into several groups.

  1. Those which denote various shades of certainty: certainly, surely, of course, no doubt, assuredly, undoubtedly, indeed, really, etc.

  2. Those which denote various degrees of probability: maybe, perhaps, possibly, probably, etc.

  3. Those which denote various shades of desirability (undesirability): happily, luckily, fortunately, unhappily, etc.

§ 331. The relatively negative combinability of modal words manifests itself in various ways.

  1. They are almost never used as adjuncts to some head­ word.

  2. They but seldom function as head-words to some ad­ juncts, mostly adverbs of degree like very, quite, most, etc.

E. g... whom most probably they were compelled to respect. (Dreiser).

c) Their isolatabihty (§ 6) is greater than that of other words. They very often make response sentences.

E. g. But you can take a carpet to Caesar in it if 1 send one? Assuredly. (Shaw).

§ 332. Functioning as a parenthetical element of a sentence, a modal word is usually connected with the sentence as a whole.

203

E.g. Perhaps I shall never pray again. (Shaw).

Apparently, they were fully prepared for the coming of the visitors from England. (Tracy).

But sometimes it may be connected with a part of the sentence only,

Ё. g. We worked that land -\or maybe a hundred years. (Daily Worker).

§ 333. The usage of modals depends upon the type of sentence. They are found almost exclusively in declarative sentences, very rarely in interrogative and almost never in imperative sentences.

According to S. E. Kagan J there are 256 modal words in The Man of Property by J. Galsworthy. 250 of them are in declarative sentences, 6 in interrogative ones and none in imperative sentences. This fact can easily be accounted for. Interrogative and imperative sentences are used not in order to express one's knowledge of reality with various degrees of certainty or doubt. They are means of urging somebody else to say something or do something.

The response words

§ 334. The response-words yes and no are characterized as a separate class by

  1. their meaning of 'response statement',

  2. their negative combinability,

  3. their functioning as sentence-words.

§ 335. Practically every notional word can alone make a sentence in a certain situation of speech.

"How have you been?" "Good news, I hope". -

- "F i n e". (Dreiser). "Very". (Shaw).

But for most words this is not their principal function. Usually they are combined with other words to form a sen­tence:

1 See C. E. К а г а н. Модальные слова английского языка в раз­личных по цели высказывания типах предложения. Автореферат дис­сертации, М., 1954, р. 9.

204

The hilly country in the middle of the north edge of Sussex, looking very pleasant on a fine evening at the end of Septem­ber, is seen through the window of ... (Shaw).

There are words which are very often used as response sentences, e. g. the modal words.

"Are you paying room-rent where you are?" "C e r t a i n I y", answered Carry. (Dreiser).

But again this is not their only function. Though they rarely form combinations with other words, they usually modify the sentence they are used in.

/ was certainly rather taken aback when 1 heard they were engaged. (Shaw).

The words yes and no differ from other words in their being used almost exclusively as sentence-words. Thus it is not the situation of speech that makes them sentence-words, but they exist as such in the language. Therefore they must be regarded as a separate group or class of words.

§ 336. Their lexical meanings are those of 'affirmation' and 'negation'. Their lexico-grammatical meaning is that of 'response statement'. They confirm or deny a previous statement.

Yes represents a previous statement adding the lexical meaning of 'affirmation'. No does the same, but adds the meaning of 'negation'. In this respect yes and no resemble pronouns. They are some kind of anaphorical pro-sentences.

"At four, then, we may expect you?" "Yes", said Carrie. (Dreiser). "Can't you handle it?" "No", he said weakly. (Ib.).

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