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What is mood and modality?



Mood is one of a set of distinctive forms that are used to signal modality.


Modality is a facet of illocutionary force, signaled by grammatical devices (that is, moods), that expresses

  • the illocutionary point or general intent of a speaker, or
  • a speaker’s degree of commitment to the expressed proposition's believability, obligatoriness, desirability, or reality.

The term mood is used by some authors in the same sense modality is.


Others distinguish the two, as we do here, by using mood to refer to the contrastive grammatical expressions of different modalities and reserving modality to refer to the meanings so expressed.


If, in addition, modality is used to refer to meanings expressed by lexical means as well as grammatical, it is effectively a synonym of illocutionary force.

Example (English)

Here are some examples of mood and modality; items that signal certain modalities:

  Here are some kinds of mood and modality:
  Mood and modality is a kind of

Chung and Timberlake 1985 241


Givón 1984 272


Palmer 1986 14–15, 26


Bybee 1985 169


Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, and Svartvik 1985 219


Crystal 1985 198


Hartmann and Stork 1972 142, 144


Richards, Platt, and Weber 1985 183


Mish 1991 762, 770

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Go to SIL home page This page is an extract from the LinguaLinks Library, Version 5.0 published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 2003. [Ordering information.]

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