Verb: Category of Mood

July 3rd, 20121:08 pm


Verb: Category of Mood

Verb: Category of Mood – Part 2
Verb: Category of Mood – Part 3
Verb: Category of Mood – Part 4

Any utterance is perceived as containing information either correspond­ing or contradicting to the situation. To express this meaning is possible owing to a category that indicates the speaker’s attitude to the content of an utterance. For example, the utterance may inform of an actual fact or action of the world, or it may express the speaker’s wish, conjecture or a non-exist­ent phenomenon. A specific grammatical category that functions to mark the speaker’s attitude to the content of an utterance is called modality.

Modality was first mentioned by Aristotle who introduced the two basic modal categories: “necessary” and “possible”. It was Aristotle that laid the foundation of logical modality with the two modal operators “logically pos­sible” and “logically necessary”, where “logically necessary” presupposes that an utterance is true in all situations and “logically possible” means trite­ness only in some situations. As classical logic classifies utterances into true and false, attributing their value on the ground of logical rules, logical modality is in direct dependence on the strict logical rules, which, for instance, determine that if an utterance is false then its negation must logically necessarily be true, and vice versa.

However, in natural languages utterances may be characterized not only as true or false. Sometimes they may contain additional information con­cerning the speaker’s certainty or uncertainty, sometimes – concerning the speaker’s approval or disapproval, sometimes additional meanings may be those of imposition, command, permission, etc. Therefore natural languages distinguish between a number of modalities. Epistemic modality is among them. It marks sentences with various degrees of certainty. For example, the statement It will rain tomorrow presupposes that the speaker cannot imagine tomorrow without rain, whereas the sentences It may rain tomorrow or / think it will rain tomorrow express less certainty about what the true state of affairs will be like tomorrow.

So-called deontic modality is based on the two deontic operators “ob­ligatory” and “permitted”. Utterances with these operators have normative connotations and express what is perceived as a norm. The spheres of deontic modality are law and morale, but it would be a mistake to restrict deontic modality to the legal sphere only, since it may be quite often observed in eve­ryday communication. It is noteworthy that in English epistemic and deontic modalities have two separate markers – must, should, ought to and to be to respectively, whereas in Ukrainian the system is not so distinctly elaborated:

Ukrainian English
Deontic modality
Зарплату вчителів мають підвищити Teachers salaries must/should/ought
to be raised
Зарплату вчителів мають підвишити Teachers salaries are to be raised

The difference between the two modal operators lies in that must, should, ought to are used when the speaker is convinced that teachers’ salaries are too low and it is the state’s moral obligation to increase them, whereas the epistemic to be to only indicates that the speaker has some information con­cerning the increase in teachers’ salaries in the nearest future without ex­pressing any moral involvement in the event.

Axiological modality characterizes an utterance along the value system scale. It is usually expressed by such words as “good” or “bad”. Logicians also distinguish tense modality based on the priority, simultaneity and pos­teriority of situations described in utterances.

Obviously, linguistic means to express modality are quite numerous, e.g. morphological (verbal forms), lexical (modal words), prosodic (intona­tion). The term mood is closely related to modality and is generally defined as a grammatical category expressing the relation of the action to reality as stated by the speaker.