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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


CONRADIE, Jac. Modal chains in Afrikaans. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2018, vol.58, n.2, pp.258-276. ISSN 2224-7912.

Sequences of two or more modal auxiliaries in one clause are found in most Germanic languages and varieties, as in Danish, for instance (example and gloss by Brandt 1999:126): An Afrikaans example would be: Nar jeg kommer i skole vil jeg ikke gide skulle kunne laese latin. When I get to school will I not bother should could read Latin Jy sal vinniger moet kan werk. You. SG will quicker must can work "You will have to be able to work more quickly." The purpose of this paper is to determine whether the ordering of Afrikaans modals adhere to a general principle or is constrained in some way. The sequencing of a modal such as kan "can", on the one hand, and of modals with an epistemic (or evidential) function, on the other, may be indicative of such a principle. So is the fact that the modal sal "will" - and similarly Dutch zullen "will" - conventionally occupies the first position. Cognates of the modal kan "can" typically occupy the last position in the chain in various Germanic languages. This modal ascribes a fixed attribute, expressed by the predicate, to the sentential subject. A modal used in epistemic function, e.g. kan "can" in Ben kan 'n Boeing moet vlieg om die werk te kry. Ben can a Boeing must fly to the work to get "Ben may be required to fly a Boeing if he is to get the job." evaluates the probability of the entire proposition and therefore has no special relationship to the sentential subject. This also goes for certain usages of sal "will" and its preterite sou "would", such as prediction, hypotheticals, future tense, and evidentiality as expressed by sou "would": Ben sou 'n vlieënier wees. Ben would a pilot be "Ben is said to be a pilot." There is a sharp functional contrast between epistemic moet "must, should", where a relationship with the sentential subject is completely lacking, and kan "can" when expressing a subject-internal ability, as in Ben moet Boeings kan vlieg. Ben must Boeings fly "Ben is expected to have the ability to fly Boeings." While in the case of kan the modal source derives from the sentential subject itself, the modal source related to moet typically has an external nature. In the course of the utterance, i.e. from a discursive point of view, the role assigned to the subject changes: while Ben at first only has a thematic role in relation to moet, it comes to assume a more agentive role in relation to kan. If wil "want to" + kan "can" were to constitute the chain, the modal source remains internal to the subject: it is not fully implemented in the case of wil (i.e. is inchoative), but forms a fixed attribute in the case of kan (i.e. is perfective). In a moet "must" + kan "can" sequence there is both a progression from external to internal source of modality and from inchoative to perfective aspect. In regard to possible orders of modals in chains, it is hypothesized that the position of a particular modal in a chain is a function of the strength of the link forged between the sentential subject and its predicate by the modal in question, where "strength" is defined by the extent to which the source of modality is identical with or internal to the subject and the extent to which the realisation of the source of modality is in the process of coming into effect (inchoative) or has been realised (perfective). While the default assumption in the case of Ben vlieg "Ben isflying" would be factual, the addition ofkan as in Ben kan vlieg "Ben can fly" renders the act of flying counterfactual, and the further addition of moet, as in Ben moet kan vlieg "Ben should be able tofly" in turn renders the ability expressed by kan counterfactual. The factuality expressed by the rightmost verb is therefore cancelled (relativised) by every modal added to the left. A combination of the functional and aspectual relationship of the subject to the modal verb it controls would give rise to the order in Table 1. The actual occurrence of the predicted chains was empirically checked with reference to the Taalkommissiekorpus 1.1 and other sources. The search was restricted to non-negative sequences with two root3 modals, with no clause boundaries between them. Out of 15predicted orders, such as sal moet, moet wil and behoort te kan, eight were attested. However, only one example was found of non-predicted (or converse) root orders such as kan moet and wil mag. The hypothesis is therefore confirmed in general. However, a number of non-occurrences of predicted orders still require an explanation, e.g. the fact that behoort (te) "ought to" was only followed by kan/kon "can, could", and mag "may" only preceded by sal/sou "will, would".

Keywords : proposition; sentential subject; predicate; inchoative; perfective; root meaning; epistemic; evaluation; evidential; relativising; realising; deontic; dynamic; obligation; permission; will; capability; possibility; Force Dynamics.

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