LINGUIST List 33.1085

Thu Mar 24 2022

Confs: General Linguistics, Historical Linguistics, Semantics, Syntax, Typology/France

Editor for this issue: Everett Green <>

Date: 22-Mar-2022
From: Rea Peltola <>
Subject: Postmodality and the life cycles of modal expressions
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Postmodality and the life cycles of modal expressions

Date: 02-Jun-2022 - 03-Jun-2022
Location: Caen, France
Contact: Rea Peltola
Contact Email: < click here to access email >
Meeting URL:

Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics; Historical Linguistics; Semantics; Syntax; Typology

Meeting Description:

The aim of this conference is to shed light on the late stages in the evolution of modal items, namely the transition from modal to postmodal domain, the internal structure of the postmodal category and the possible remodalization cycles.

The cross-linguistic evolution of modal expressions is described as chain-like grammaticalization structures where items of different degrees of semanticity follow one another in a predetermined order. Lexical or otherwise semantically more concrete elements develop into different types of expressions of possibility and necessity until they eventually bleach into semantically less and less specific, abstract markers (e. g. Lehmann 2015). Bybee, Perkins & Pagliuca (1994) identified paths of development across a set of unrelated languages for different types of modalities. According to the authors, all these tracks present an evolution from agent-oriented source meanings through speaker-oriented and epistemic modalities to subordinate uses.

In van der Auwera & Plungian (1998), these paths were put together and elaborated into maps consisting of three domains. Premodal domain brings together lexical source expressions that enter the modal domain, sometimes through auxiliarization or other changes in grammatical shape. At the other end, postmodal sphere involves a rather heterogeneous set of desemanticized elements that no longer carry modal meaning. A famous example are the Romance future tenses stemming from the latin modal periphrasis ''habere + INF'' (''cantare habeo'' ‘I can/must sing’) which ceased to convey possibility and necessity when grammaticalizing into a verbal tense (''chanterai'' ‘I will sing’). Another case in point is the English modal auxiliary ''should'' when used for marking that the state of affairs deviates from the speaker’s expectations: ''– Can I get you some coffee? – Strange that you should ask'' (see Celle 2018: 39). At the interface between modal and postmodal domains, the grammaticalization paths cross, as both possibility and necessity tracks may lead to certain postmodal meanings. This was one of van der Auwera & Plungian’s (1998) main arguments for unifying the different paths into a map. The evolutions described by the map result from semantic processes of different types: specialization, generalization and extension (metaphor and metonymy).

These models have ever since inspired further studies, both in typological perspective and in individual languages. Modality’s semantic map has been finetuned, elaborated and discussed (e. g. van der Auwera, Kehayov & Vittrant 2009; van der Auwera 2013; Traugott 2016; Georgakopoulos & Polis 2018). Attention has been drawn to the evolution of non-verbal modal categories, the areal restriction in certain grammaticalization paths and the crosslinguistic variation as to the presence and evolution of particular subcategories of modality (e. g. Traugott 2011; Narrog 2012; Becker 2014). Constructional approaches have recently undertaken to research the evolution of modal meanings in patterns where both grammaticalization and lexicalization processes come into play and as part of developments within networks of constructions, beyond individual units (e. g. Hilpert 2016; Cappelle & Depraetere 2016; Hilpert, Cappelle & Depraetere, to appear; see also Schulze & Hohaus 2020).

Keynote Speakers:

- Martin Becker (Köln)
- Agnès Celle (Paris)
- Heiko Narrog (Tohoku), video conference


- CRISCO EA4255 Research center, Caen-Normandy University
- Evgeniya Gorshkova-Lamy
- Adeline Patard
- Rea Peltola


See program on the conference website:

Page Updated: 24-Mar-2022