Daisuke Suzuki Kyoto University “A historical study of the English modal adverbs: Evidence from a combination of diachronic corpora.”


This study sheds light on the historical development of the modal adverbs doubtless, indeed, maybe, no doubt, of course, and perhaps from a functional perspective. By analyzing corpus data, I discuss, stage by stage, how these modal adverbs have changed in function over time. As a source of data for analysis, I selected the Penn-Helsinki Parsed Corpus of Early Modern English and the Penn Parsed Corpus of Modern British English, comparable corpora of Early Modern English and Late Modern English respectively, as well as the Corpus of Late Modern English Texts and the Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing. These corpora enable us to describe the long-term development of the modal adverbs over the course of the Modern English period. In order to explore the further development of the target expressions in Present-Day English, I also used the Lancaster-Oslo/Bergen Corpus of British English and the Freiburg-LOB Corpus of British English, which represent British English in 1961 and 1991, respectively. The results of the analysis demonstrate that the Late Modern English period can be viewed as a critical stage in the development of these expressions into modal adverbs and as a pre-stage to their further development in Present-Day English. Specifically, I show that these modal adverbs have continued to expand their pragmatic functions even in contemporary English. Finally, I provide an explanation of these changes in terms of modalization and pragmaticalization.

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