chapter  One
36 Pages

The scope of the study and some earlier proposals

WithLeo Hoye

The study of modality in English remains one of the most pervasive and intriguing areas of philosophical and linguistic inquiry. The wealth of literature on the subject, much of it recent, attests the continuing need for new insights into the definition, description and analysis of this elusive and fundamental category of human language and thought. The notion of modality is tantalizingly problematic in that its scope and treatment depend on whether the inquiry is essentially philosophical or language based. This chapter is primarily a linguistic study of modality in natural language, namely, modern spoken and written English. Linguistic investigation, however, is founded in empirical and scientific method and examines these same concepts in terms of the human attitudes and behaviour from which they are extrapolated. There is much interpenetration between the philosophical and linguistic approaches, but they have fundamentally different research aims and proceed at different levels of abstraction.