Modality, Subjectivity, and Semantic Change: A Cross-Linguistic Perspective

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review

140 Citations (Scopus)


This book deals with the issue of subjectivity (and intersubjectivity) in modality from a synchronic perspective, and from a diachronic perspective more generally with semantic change in modality, including the tendencies of subjectification and intersubjectification. This book argues for a definition of modality in terms of factivity independent of subjectivity or speaker attitudes. Instead, (inter)subjectivity, re-conceptualized as speech-act orientation is taken as a dimension in identifying different types of modality together with volitivity. The following diachronic part of the book tries to demonstrate that diachronic change in modality is characterized by two major tendencies that are parallel to each other: First, a tendency towards more speech-act-oriented meaning, which includes speaker-oriented (subjective), hearer-oriented (intersubjective), and discourse-oriented meaning, and second, a tendency to structurally higher positions in syntax. The book further shows that other categories, such as possibility vs. necessity, or participant-internal vs. participant-external do not define semantic change in modality, and that extension from deontic to epistemic meaning is only a limited tendency. Finally, investigations on semantic change between modality and other grammatical categories, such as voice and aspect, support the overall directionality of change proposed in this book.

Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages352
ISBN (Electronic)9780191742279
ISBN (Print)9780199694372
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Sept 20


  • Grammaticalization
  • Intersubjectification
  • Intersubjectivity
  • Modality
  • Semantic Change
  • Subjectification
  • Subjectivity


Dive into the research topics of 'Modality, Subjectivity, and Semantic Change: A Cross-Linguistic Perspective'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this