PhD Alumni

Gabriela-Veronica Diaconu Freiburg

Modality in New Englishes: a corpus-based study of obligation and necessity

ErstbetreuerProf. Dr. Dr. h. c. Christian Mair
ZweitbetreuerProf. Dr. Bernd Kortmann

This dissertation investigates language-internal variation patterns in expressions of obligation/necessity, e.g. must, have to, (have) got to and need to, in regionally and stylistically diverse spoken material from the newer and newly emerging varieties of Standard English. The study builds on previous real-time corpus-based research on the modality system of present-day English such as Krug (2000), Leech (2003), Mair and Leech (2006), and Smith (2003).
While these studies focus largely on British and American English written texts, the present study investigates Jamaican English (JamE), Indian English (IndE) and Irish English (IrE) and concentrates on spoken data retrieved from the recently completed Jamaican, Indian and Irish components of the International Corpus of English (ICE) covering 180 formal and informal conversations (of ca. 2,000 words each). In addition, the three datasets are compared to ICE-GB and Santa Barbara Corpus of Spoken American English. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches are integrated in the research design, and the comparison of samples from different varieties obtained at roughly the same point of time is expected to allow extrapolations as to diachronic trends in the development of the modality system in World Englishes.
The detailed corpus analysis builds on the assumption that modal obligation/necessity follows a different dynamic in varieties from the outer circle than those from the inner circle. According to this categorization, IrE as the oldest language-shift variety is closer to BrE and thus to the inner circle. By contrast, JamE is influenced by the creole-continuum whereas IndE is a classic ESL. The analysis shows that beyond quantitative differences in distribution, there are also subtle qualitative preferences in the use of these verbal constructions both in formal and informal conversations, particularly in JamE and IndE. The higher frequency of must in JamE and IndE as compared to the other varieties usually indicates linguistic conservatism. Similarly, have to is the most frequent marker in all the varieties, but mainly in the outer circle, whereas (have) got to occurs at significant frequencies only in the inner circle. It is striking that need to is most frequent in JamE but less frequent in IndE. Generally, IrE is closer to BrE than the other varieties. On the basis of the high frequency of semi-modal have to in the outer circle, it can be assumed that these varieties take part in a shared ongoing development. The low number of occurrences of informal (have) got to in the outer circle, on the other hand, might suggest prescriptive influence during the early phases of the colonial implantation of English or decreasing openness to British influence in the later colonial period. In regard to semantic contrast, all varieties display striking differences between root and epistemic readings with an unexpected finding in ICE-India: both root and epistemic must occur more often in the Indian data. The most significant finding refers to the difference between subjective and objective uses within root necessity, which might contribute to ongoing change as subectification (Goossens 2000, Traugott 1989, Traugott and Dasher 2002) in the New Englishes, in particular, in JamE and IndE. In addition, the data shows that modal must occurs less as speaker-imposed obligation and more often as self-imposed obligation. However, it is less clear how advanced such uses are, as they are also difficult to classify.
To conclude, the analysis shows that three historically British-derived contact varieties of English have diverged from the parent variety to a considerable extent in their further development.


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Ab 1. Dezember 2018 stehen Ihnen als assoziierte ProfessorInnen unserer Schule Prof. Dr. Juan Ennis, U. La Plata / Buenos Aires; Prof. Dr. Mar Garachana, U. Barcelona, Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Gülich, U. Bielefeld und Prof. Dr. Michael B. Buchholz, I.P.U. Berlin als BetreuerInnen und/oder GutachterInnen zur Verfügung. Wir begrüßen die neuen KollegInnen in unserer Runde!

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