Featured Linguist!

Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

Donate Now | Visit the Fund Drive Homepage

Amount Raised:


Still Needed:


Can anyone overtake Syntax in the Subfield Challenge ?

Grad School Challenge Leader: University of Washington

Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

New from Oxford University Press!


What is English? And Why Should We Care?

By: Tim William Machan

To find some answers Tim Machan explores the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is fascinating and important, for definitions of English have influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the identities of those who live in them.

New from Cambridge University Press!


Medical Writing in Early Modern English

Edited by Irma Taavitsainen and Paivi Pahta

This volume provides a new perspective on the evolution of the special language of medicine, based on the electronic corpus of Early Modern English Medical Texts, containing over two million words of medical writing from 1500 to 1700.

Query Details

Query Subject:   External Necessity, Epistemic/Deontic Possibility
Author:   Igor Yanovich
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Linguistic LingField(s):  Historical Linguistics

Query:   The older works on grammaticalization of modality (Bybee et al. 1994,
van der Auwera and Plungian 1998) do not list a development of an
epistemic possibility sense from a circumstantial/deontic necessity
sense. Potentially, such a development occurred in some Dinka
dialects (such ambiguity is manifested in the speech of a speaker of
Dinka Bor I'm working with at the moment), and in Adyghe
(Kimmelmann 2010, field notes). I do not know much more at the
moment; even the direction of change is not supported by evidence,
though from the general considerations of how grammaticalization of
modal meanings works, I'd be surprised if the development went in the
other direction.

Here are two examples from Dinka Bor illustrating the phenomenon (I
omit tones and phonations):

Auxiliary ''dhil'', DEONTIC NECESSITY:

(1) Majok dhil riN thaal
Majok dhil meat cook
''Majok _must_ cook meat'' (can be used as a command)

Auxiliary ''dhil'', EPISTEMIC POSSIBILITY:

(2) a luel Dau, ye Majok a dhil riN thaal
AGR say Dau COMP? Majok AGR dhil meat cook
''Dau says that Majok _maybe_ is cooking meat''

Would anyone know of other languages which would have such
polysemy, or maybe even had a recorded history of such historical
LL Issue: 23.1314
Date posted: 15-Mar-2012


Sums main page