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Dissertation Information


Title: On Black Magic - How Epistemic Modifiers Emerge Add Dissertation
Author: Jakob Maché Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Homepage: http://hpsg.fu-berlin.de/~mache
Degree Awarded: Freie Universität Berlin , German and Dutch Languages and Literature
Completed in:
2013
Linguistic Subfield(s): Syntax
Director(s): Stefan Müller
Werner Abraham
Horst Simon
Uli Reich
Philippa Cook

Abstract: The aim of this survey is to account for the grammaticalisation of
epistemic modal verbs in German. In order to investigate the historical
development of linguistic structures, it is indispensable to describe the
synchronic status of these elements. Each so-called modal verb involves
various complement types: accusative NPs, ‘daß’-complement clauses, event
related control infinitives, event related raising infinitives, reportative
control infinitives, reportative raising infinitives and, finally,
epistemic raising infinitives. As it has been suggested at many occasions,
each of these patterns reflects a different stage in the historical
development of the modal verb. Accordingly, it is possible to roughly
reconstruct the grammaticalisation of these verbs by means of synchronic
language data. As a consequence, this study is based in large parts on
synchronic data taken from the Deutschen Referenzkorpus ‘German Reference
Corpus’ (DeReKo) which encompassed about 2 billion word form token at the
time when the investigation here was undertaken.

First of all, it needs to be clarified what the term Modalverb precisely
means. Traditionally, it is considered as a class which encompasses six
elements: ‘können’ (‘can’), ‘müssen’ (‘must’), ‘wollen’ (‘want’), ‘dürfen’
‘be.allowed.to’, ‘sollen’ (‘shall’) and ‘mögen’ (‘may’). Yet, it is
demonstrated here that these elements do not constitute a homogeneous and
consistent class. This is mainly due to the circumstance that each of these
verbs can be realised with fairly different syntactic patterns.

Furthermore, there are a whole range of related verbs which are
characterised by very similar features.

In contrast, the epistemic uses of these verbs form a homogeneous and
consistent class. Thus, it is much more efficient to focus on a class of
epistemic modal verbs which ignores all of the remaining syntactic patterns
of each verb. From this it follows that more verbs have to be integrated
into this class: ‘brauchen’ ‘need’ and ‘werden’ ‘FUT. AUX’.

In order to understand the evolution of epistemic interpretations, it is
necessary to investigate the difference between circumstantial and
epistemic modal verbs. On closer inspection, circumstantial modal verbs
turn out to be event modifiers and epistemic modal verbs clausal modifiers.

Moreover, epistemic modal operators indicate that the embedded proposition
is not part of the speakers knowledge.

The status of epistemic modal verbs can be more thoroughly determined if
the environments are considered in which they cannot occur. In the past
decades, 21 non-canonical environments for epistemic modal verbs have been
proposed. In the course of the corpus study presented here, it has revealed
that there are only eight of them in which epistemic modal verbs are really
not attested. Most of these eight environments involve configurations in
which the epistemic modal verb occurs in the scope of another operator,
such as circumstantial modal operators or nominalisation operators.
Interestingly, reportative modal verbs are attested in some of these
contexts and they are significantly more acceptable.

This circumstance can most efficiently be captured in terms of anchoring
conditions. Epistemic modal operators are operators which introduce a
variable for a deictic centre with respect to whose knowledge the validity
of the embedded proposition is evaluated. In the most canonical case, the
deictic centre is identical to the speaker.