Journal article

Scope and the development of epistemic modality: Evidence from ought to

R Nordlinger, EC Traugott

English Language and Linguistics | Cambridge University Press | Published : 1997


Discussions of modality (e.g. Bybee, Perkins & Pagliuca, 1994; Coates, 1983; Lyons, 1977; Palmer, 1986; Traugott, 1989) typically center around two issues: deonticity vs. epistemicity, and degree of subjectivity. Using diachronic evidence from the quasimodal ought to, this paper argues for the need to recognize a third, crosscutting these two: narrow vs. wide scope. We argue that the epistemic use of ought to developed out of a wide-scope deontic construction, in which the modal was used with deontic meaning, but with propositional scope (contra Bybee, 1988). Rather than attributing an obligation to the subject (i.e. having narrow scope), the modal in this construction makes an assertion abo..

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