Modality as an instrument for discourse analysis

Josefina García Fajardo* El Colegio de México/ Translation: Denisse Piñera Palacios

At the beginning of the thirties, Karl Bühler wrote1 that the complex linguistic sign

…is a symbol by virtue of its arrangement according to objects and relationships; a symptom (or indication), by virtue of its dependency towards the sender, whose interiority it expresses, and a signal by virtue of its appeal to the receiver, whose external or internal conduct it directs, like other traffic signs.2

Nowadays, there are discrepancies when considering more complex formulations of language functions. The three basic ones, taken from Bühler,3 can be found in the use of the different languages all around the world; briefly said, in a model of any linguistic family, the speakers refer, express themselves and act socially. This trilogy has allowed me to obtain a framework for the analysis of modality.4

I must anticipate that I will not present a discourse analysis, in the strictest sense,5 my intention is to show that the analysis framework of modality can be applied as an instrument for such analysis, and for this purpose I present fragments of texts. The types of modality shown by the texts I analyze reveal the threads of the weaves that entwine the discursive sense; but they do not represent this sense, unique and impossible to repeat, of each speech; in order to reach it, we will naturally need to start from the textual unit.

I am going to present some of the results to which this study of modality has led me. First, I will very briefly refer to the analysis framework built from the notion of modality as subjectivity.6 Then I will present some of the materials which come from eight texts, under the lights of the analysis framework, in order to show their functioning, discovering the moves the agent performs when he/she symbolizes reality, when he/she expresses him/herself and when he/she interacts with the addressees. At each step I will comment on how the application of this framework may contribute to the unveiling of the threads that weave the discourse.

Since Aristotelian writings on logic until our times, three systematic paths for the study of modality can be basically distinguished. In the formal line, from the languages of logic to formal semantics, the exclusion of the utterance agent which, paradoxically, turns to be the center of modality in the natural language, is a constant.7 In the traditional grammars of Indo-european languages, some grammaticalized forms can be observed, mainly in verb moods.8 In anthropological linguistics, the largest focus within the domain of modality is directed to the study of the morphemes that are called “evidential”, which appear in certain languages, mostly in the verb construction; they express the channel (sensory or epistemic) through which the speaker had access to the fact he/she talks about.9 The panorama shows that each line covers only a small section of linguistic facts from the large domain of modality.10

From the content dimension, when we go beyond the frontiers of those modalities considered in formal studies,11 a variation of modal values is presented to us, which appears to be incommensurable between the systems. In the domain of expressions, we see that these values cross different grammatical levels. This state of things makes us face one of the constants we find in the language each time we try to observe it organically: the way in which the content values and the values of the structural domain of expressions are imbricated does not correspond to traditional mathematic functions (such as isomorphism or homomorphism); at most, homomorphism is suitable, in a practical way, to describe small fragments.

In an attempt to obtain a systematic framework of analysis which gave room to the modal values of the different linguistic families, I started from the conception of modality considered as the linguistic expression of the agent’s attitude, before a propositional content.12 I support this on the three basic functions of the language, which are close to the simplicity of Karl Bühler’s exposition,13 trying not to nourish too much the starting framework and to be alert to all linguistic possibilities, no matter how unfamiliar they might seem compared to those already known. The objective has been to obtain a structuring instrument which was not too dense in aprioristic content, and which could give room to values that are not yet acknowledged.

From the trilogy of semantic dimensions exposed by Bühler,14 we see that our words try to allude to an external world and they populate our own world, building our representation of reality. They express us as subjects, not only describing us, but discovering and building us as a part of that reality. And they link us to the receiver, by demanding something from him/her, by structuring our relationships in the scenario of linguistic actions. Hence the three basic functions by means of which the language represents a reality, expresses an agent, and acts on a stage representation.15

It might be strange to look for modality in the three language functions, because being the expression of the agent, it is more natural to place it in the expressive function. In order to make this clear it is necessary to say, in the first place, that it is indeed the expressive function the one that corresponds to modality, as a center. However, let us remember that even when we try to refer to facts objectively, and when we act linguistically appealing to the receiver, the agent (or better, the multiplicity of agents, as we will see through the development of this work) manifests him/herself. Émile Benveniste16 has insisted on the fact that “Le langage n’est possible que parce que chaque locuteur se pose comme sujet, en renvoyant à luimême comme je dans son discours”. The language is deeply marked by the expression of subjectivity, and subjectivity is not possible without the dialogic contrast that lays the foundations of intersubjectivity: there can be no I without a you. I believe in the understanding that says that the three functions are inherent to the language; even when we focus only on one, the other two do not disappear. It cannot be otherwise, because when we try to structure the things of the world, the agent always builds from the experience of the receiver: there is no language construction without the link towards the receiver, since acquisition, so that this genesis appears with each subsequent linguistic act.

These considerations have led me to the use of a geometric metaphor: the functional (crystal) prism. From each rectangular face of a triangle-based prism, two faces can be observed. This means that, from the expressive function of the language, we see the moves performed by the agent when he/she refers and in his/her attempt to get to the receiver, acting linguistically. The fact of not being able to refer without manifesting him/herself is one of the characteristic features of the natural language. It must be noted that when we appeal to objectivity, the appeal itself makes us manifest: the agent, as if trying to be ignorant of his/her presence between the fact he/she talks about and the words he/she expresses, needs to perform a move that reveals him/her. The metaphor of the functional prism allows us to understand how it is we can look for the expressive function of the language not only in the most evidently expressive mechanisms, but also in those that are closer to the act of referring and to social interaction.


For each linguistic function I consider the relation given between the three elements: between the agent and his/her expression, and between each of these two and another element, the referred event (in the representative and expressive functions) or the receiver (in the appeal function, where this “other” is built). Looking for the manifestation of the agent, I go through the three functions and, in each relationship between their elements, I find the agent projecting him/herself in a domain of semantic value (or better, “semantic-pragmatic”).17 In this way, the types of modality are structured as content domains. From them, I have devoted myself to apply the framework to find the linguistic forms that shape them. As I have already mentioned, they can belong to any grammatical level, and each language has its preferences to grammaticalized some or other modal values.

It is only about the grammaticalized cases that we can strictly talk of linguistic categories, at the level of expressions. In Spanish, the grammaticalized expressions of modality are morphemes of verb flexion and pronominal ones, lexical categories, lexicalized phrases and syntactic structures.18 Non-grammaticalized modal values generally correspond to textual inferences. In the materials I present in this text, we have manifestations of grammaticalized and non-grammaticalized modality.

At the end of each fragment with which I will show the types of modality, I write the initials of the author with the year of issuing inside […] brackets. These materials are taken from:

1. A colloquium on democratization, performed at El Colegio México in 1990; from which I take the text of anthropologist Roger Bartra (hereinafter, RB, 90).19

2. A colloquium on the great changes of our era, that took place at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, in 1992; I take the text of philosopher Luis Villoro (LV, 92).20

3. The debate among the candidates of three parties to the presidency of the Mexican Republic, which took place at a hotel in Mexico City, in 1994; it corresponds to the texts of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano, Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León and Diego Fernández de Cevallos (CCS, 94; EZP, 94; DFC, 94, respectively).21

4. A consultation to three writers about Mexico City’s local elections, organized by the Vuelta magazine, a day before said elections, in 1997; from this I take the texts of Gabriel Zaid, Carlos Monsiváis and Enrique Krauze (GZ, 97; CM, 97; EK, 97, respectively).22

I introduced close capital letters within the fragments to highlight only the linguistic forms that express the type of modality I am dealing with in each case. In each paragraph, however, we can find marks of different types of modality. At the left margin of each fragment there is a Roman number and a small letter which correspond, respectively, to the function (representative, expressive or appeal) and to the domain of modality, as they appear in the analysis framework chart (supra).

In the line of representative function, the event we are dealing with constitutes the considered element (it is towards it that the language is directed in this function).

Some phrases and lexical elements express the sensory or inferential channel through which the speaker has had access to the event he/she talks about:

Ia During the days before the election of July 6th, each of the probable voters feels responsible for his/her decision, in a way that is not sentimental or merely angry anymore. I TAKE THIS FROM the universe of the conversations, newspaper information, telephone calls to radio stations, surveys, social spheres. [CM,97]

Ia and from the massive throwing away of characteristics that SEEMED TO BE fatal: inertia, resignation, fear, exchange of the vote for a few services and a bunch of little gifts. [CM, 97]

Ia we all HAVE HEARD inflamed speeches in favor of democracy. [DFC, 94]

The channel of access can manifest different attitudes. In an argumentative linguistic action, which considers the rationality of the receiver, the political analyst offers the sources and the means by which he can say what he says, and expresses uncertainty. In a disqualifying action, the evidence that the censured facts have been accessible in a shared way occupies a high place.

The plain way to refer to an event is assertion (explicit affirmation or negation). If we consider that there is a distance between an assertion (explicit expression) and an inference, we believe the latter to be a move that manifests the agent; this is why the presentation of forms that generate inferences (or of contents that within the context generate them)23 constitutes a modality. For instance, it is inferred that one is not (at least in 1997, in Mexico: time and place of the utterance) completely a citizen, because the wish to make use of the citizenship for the first time is mentioned, or that the system could not be reformed from the inside, because it is only made explicit that this was attempted:

Ib THE most outstanding WISH of the moment, is that of USING the citizenship FOR THE FIRST TIME. [CM, 97]

Ib Cuauhtémoc TRIED TO reform the system from the inside, and he isolated himself from it in 1987 and he contended at the elections of 1988 with such a success that he probably won them. [EK, 97]

The assumption of agents through conversational implications,24 helps in the construction of the enunciators’ structure. In this way, for instance, a negation can operate on the content that corresponds to the speech act of another agent:

Ib Evidently, the prevailing desire is NOT that of retaliation, but the appetite of change. [CM, 97]

The appearance of inferences turns to be crucial for the analysis of the enunciators, because in the living language, an utterance always implies an enunciator; in this way, when an utterance is inferred, an enunciator is announced. In the analysis of the voices of speech, it is fundamental to gather the inferences that appear in this domain of modality. Before each inferred voice we can see the adherence or opposition of the speaker, and in this way a structure of polyphonic positions is sketched. The subsequent task would be to trace the sociohistorical identification of these voices.

Some of the enunciators that emerge from the inferences also make up the multiplicity of receivers. One of these cases is the negation from which emerges the utterance of the receiver, to whom the agent directs the opposition, without necessarily losing his/her link towards the explicit receiver, who might even be present.

The disengagement from the real world through a conditional structure or an alethic (expressing possibility) verb (or verb phrase), also constitutes a move of separation from assertion, and permits one of the characteristics that belong the most to human beings: analyzing the alternatives of the future and having an attitude towards it. A move which, on the other hand, underlines assertion as such, implicitly insisting on that what is said is about a consummated fact, it can appear in a non-grammaticalized expression, when the speaker is presented as a chronicler, in opposition to the prophet:

Ib IF the tendencies of the vote are confirmed and Cárdenas wins, the problems will intensify but a great obstacle will be diminished: the historic annihilation of civic will. [CM, 97]

Ib Starting at the next elections, another variety of the essential alternation of power WILL BECOME POSSIBLE: the President will have to negotiate bills and budgets with the Chamber of Deputies. The Senate, which will continue to be obediently PRIista until the year 2000, MIGHT veto some resolutions of the Lower Chamber, but at a political cost that would be so high it would cast a shadow of doubt over the democratization process. IT DOES NOT SEEM NECESSARY to reach these extremes [EK, 97]

Ib we lack traditions on which we can found the critical and self-critical modernity, but the deterioration of the PRI cannot be hidden and is irreversible, and WHEN I WRITE THIS I DO NOT CONSIDER MYSELF TO BE A PROPHET, BUT A CHRONICLER. [CM, 97]

Epistemic verbs and phrasal verbs express the place of the referred event within the state of knowledge of the agent. With the epistemic position separated from the certainty, the speaker presents himself as an agent that keeps a space for the reasoning of the receiver. In the harangue, conversely, we find what is said in certainty:

Ic Before this situation I BELIEVE that it is fundamental to discuss the problems of an alternative civilization [RB, 90]

Ic IT IS NOT UNKNOWN that the “locks” imposed by the regime are strong, nor that there are uncountable techniques of budget or corporate intimidation towards opposition governments, nor that the projects for the capital city from the part of the PRD and the PAN are weak, nor that there has been an insufficiency for the past three years in office after decades of PRIista control and solidification of collusion nets and chieftaincies. [CM, 97]

Ic In spite of the consequences that are foreseen, the triumph of the opposition in Mexico City and the end of the absolute majority in Congress would be, AS I SEE IT, signs towards the pass to democracy that are not to be despised. [CM, 97]

Ic I BELIEVE that with this investment policy, which will encourage new businesses, the already existent ones, the Mexican fields, and the new services and export activities, I AM SURE, fellow Mexicans, we will generate those employments. [EZP, 94]

Some forms have been lexicalized to express the attention to the relation between the words and the events they refer to:

Id For Lechner, normativity is not imposed, LET US SAY THAT it is not given, but it constitutes an order based on a solidaristic identity; it is a self-determined solidarity that is being built, different from the traditional solidarity that is given by external mechanisms to society itself. [RB, 90]|Id WE CAN SAY THAT nowadays nobody, except for a few, very few, are better off than in 1988. [CCS, 94]

In the line of expressive function, the agent is the highlighted element, considering that in all the cases of modality, what we analyze is a move that makes subjectivity manifest.

Some phrases express the acknowledgment of the role played by the agent when he interprets reality; in others, on the other hand, when he appeals to a pretended objectivity, the agent appears as if negating himself:

IIa This is why loyal opposition IS USUALLY SEEN AS disloyal, if it is intransigent, or as bought, if one negotiates. [GZ, 97]

IIa What is TRULLY serious is that the opinions on the solution of those problems are not only different but radically opposed. In Mexico, competition appears not between shades of the same model, but between opposite models. [EK, 97]

IIa Rosa Luxemburgo’s denunciation of the Bolshevik dictatorship, her exigency of democracy, REALLY implied, although she did not say so, a division25 of the pretended scientific character [LV, 92]

Between the agent and his expression, the former can be interested in expressing that he himself is inside his words. In the type of texts I considered, these cases are very infrequent. In fact, I found this only in one of them:

IIb I HONESTLY believe that we have marked differences [DFC, 94]

Assessments, judgments, and inexplicit emotions reveal themselves in conjunctive, prepositional links, and phrasal adverbs; also in anaphoric nominal phrases which contain value judgments or analytic conclusions, and in comparative and superlative constructions; they are the marks of the axes on which the logic relationships supposed by the speaker, some of which generate conventional implications, are structured.26 Logic relationships so unveiled allow to place the speaker, and to identify or distinguish him/her from the enunciators emerged from the moves in the responsibility of the speech act (modality IIIc) and from the inferred utterances (modality Ib):

IIc Along the century a “governability guarantee” has been the passive role of the citizens, distributed in indifference, occasional support to the presidents of the Republic, and gossiping. And this was called “social peace”, BECAUSE ANYWAY there was mobility, some peasant sons and workers studied at the universities, the ILLUSION OF escalating was equally distributed (NOT so the escalating, OF COURSE), and the protests against corruption, one of the MOST opprobrious facts, was diluted BY THE EFFECT OF cynicism, that social language imposed BY the concentration of political and economical power in a few hands. BUT in recent years, the wish for a civil life has destroyed fatalistic schemes and attitudes. [CM, 97]

IIc ONLY the narrow minds and the corporate interests of the old system disdain the democratic celebration of July 6th. BUT as we Mexicans know VERY well, after the party comes the “hangover”, and ALSO rough reality. ALTHOUGH on July 7th Mexico will wake up on the shore of democracy, it will ALSO discover that democracy IS NOT a panacea FOR achieving THROUGH an incantation the solution to the incredibly serious problems of the country, BUT ONLY the political means to live together and negotiate IN ORDER TO face them. [EK, 97]

A single form can manifest the agent in two domains of modality; for instance, a but and a not express an opposition, and as such they reveal a judgment (modality IIc); besides, they make a linguistic inference emerge (a conventional implication and a conversational one, respectively), reason by which they also represent a move in assertion (modality Ib), from which an enunciator emerges.

Expressly deontic judgments that involve the speaker him/herself constitute another type of modality that manifests the agent in his/her conception and analysis of reality:

IId WE MUST NOT underrate the abilities of the PRI’s electoral alchemists, nor their manipulation, buying and intimidation capacity, but everything indicates that as to Mexico City at least, their battle is lost. [EK, 97]

IId It seems to me that Alexander is completely right when he says that IT IS NECESSARY to perform an analysis of the symbolic codes, the rituals, rhetoric, culture and language, in order to understand their relationship, which is not mechanical, and he makes this very much clear, with the socialization process that allows the pass from particularism to universality, from the self to the other. [RB, 90]

IId Catch-22: in order to continue existing, public opinion MUST prove its closeness to the electoral surveys, in order for these surveys to be legitimized, they NEED TO influence public opinion. [CM, 97]

In the line of appeal function, by which the word links the agent to his receiver, this link, which is materialized in its illocutive force, is the center.

The time, person and place deictics, as has been pointed out so many times,27 are the welding points between the words and the utterance, manifesting the position of each element (the way of placing it), including the agent, and related to him/her and the other elements; in this way the speaker builds his/her scene.

The descriptive phrases with which the participants are called express a position:

IIIa NOW WE need to locate the problems of the search for the community, civility, civil society or of the citizens in a much wider perspective. Perhaps because I AM AN ANTHROPOLOGIST, I want to add one more term, and in a certain way to go back to the discussions between wars: WE are facing a problem I would say is one of civilization; this is a concept, so clear to the anthropologic tradition, without which it seems to ME it is very difficult WE can orient OURSELVES in this situation in which the large ideological conglomerates, the large blocks of ideological coherence, are falling apart. WE are facing a worldwide problem, the search for civilization options. It seems to ME that we have not dealt with this HERE [RB, 90]

The illocutive values of appeal and some moves about them, such as the so called rhetorical question, are direct links that sometimes emerge in the middle of flirting:

IIIb What happened first: the survey or reality? And the continuous paradox is the incestuous treatment between public opinion and surveys. [CM, 97]

IIIb On the other hand, I SAY THIS A LITTLE BIT AS A PROVOCATION, Lechner is more worried about the problems of order, as long as it comes from underneath. [RB, 90]


IIIb I PROPOSE a total reform of our justice system [EZP, 94]

IIIb I WANT TO CONVOKE my fellow Mexicans to get ready for this change, to make each other ready, workers from the countryside and from the city, workers of art and culture, citizens of all the domains of the Republic, to prepare this change, which we will be able to push forward if we are decided to do so. [CCS, 94]

The illocutive values crucially contribute to place the agent within the structure of enunciators, by the type of action he performs in his bond with the receiver. As we know, when explicit performative predicates,28 are uttered with the adequate deictics (first person singular in the indicative), they constitute a grammaticalization of the illocutive value. I have found, as a clear mark of the link the agent establishes with the receiver,((J. García Fajardo, “Los asomos del sujeto: mecanismos de la modalidad”, in J. García F. (ed.), op. cit.)) the directives, with which decisions are made and actions are taken about the receiver; the expressives, with which an attitude is assumed before the conduct and state of the receiver; and the commissives, which engage the agent before the receiver within the line of action they mention. Maybe it is important to remind here that the expression of modality is not restricted to grammaticalized forms, as shown by some of the cases exposed up to this point. Between the moves performed by the agent in the expression he/uses uses to perform his illocutive act, we find the alternative between expressing his/her intention of perlocution (“I say it a little bit as a provocation” and “I say to you […] that I believe I will have the endorsement from the part of all of you”) and expressing his intention of illocutionarity (“I want to convoke”). With the first form, the agent seems to introduce himself in the place of the receiver, whereas with the second one, he seems to reserve that other place for the receiver.

We find moves that give distance to the speaker, displacing the responsibility of the speech act towards another agent. Intonations (not registered in the written text), quotation marks and verb phrases are some of the standardized marks. In the same relation between the agent and the speech act appear the dicendi forms (a subclass of assertive predicates,29 which sometimes announce another speech act, and other times perform their own assertive act:

IIIc Along the century a “governability guarantee” has been the passive role of the citizens, distributed in indifference, occasional support to the presidents of the Republic, and gossiping. And this WAS CALLED “social peace”, [CM, 97]

IIIc THE TWO PROPOSALS COME TOGETHER IN THAT THEY POSE THAT it is necessary to find in the ways of societal community, AS Parsons WOULD SAY, forms of new civility that can found the democratic alternatives in an international context in which, after the revolutions of 1989, the SO-CALLED modernization process is completely inevitable. [RB, 90]

IIIc Before these two different forms of dealing with the problem, I WOULD LIKE TO HIGHLIGHT the need to add new dimensions to the analysis. [RB, 90]

This domain of modality, together with the moves in assertion (modality Ib), where we find the linguistic inferences, allows us to look at the diversity of voices of the enunciators. Their placement is mainly outlined by the modality of assessments, judgments and emotions (modality IIc), which presents us the panorama of the logic threads of the agent, by the modality of location (modality IIIa) and by the illocutive values of appeal (modality IIIb). These three domains provide us with the information to find the identifications, adherences and oppositions which will constitute the structure of enunciators and receivers.

As can be seen, in each corner of the three language functions the agent appears, even when he/she tries to talk about the facts in an objective way, and it is precisely there, when he/she manifests a pretended objectivity, that he/she is revealed to us as trying to deny him/herself. According to the results I have obtained up to this moment, I can say that in Spanish, the gramaticalization at the different levels of the language, and with a wider variety of forms at each level, has penetrated importantly in the type of modality that belongs to the domain of the moves of assertion: from the morpheme level, in the marks of the conditional tense and the subjunctive, to the syntactic constructions from which presuppositions emerge.

Although it would be very premature to talk about the results associated to text genres, it is possible to say that a distribution between them and the types of modality has been outlined; and a characterization of preferences that, for the time being I could call “of personal horizons” has also been manifested. To provide some examples, the modalities of location, of stage mounting, as could be expected, were widely manifested in the political and academic debates, differently from the exposition that was not open to debate, in the materials of EZP and of DFC we find the largest modal manifestation in the illocutive values of appeal, whereas in that of CCS, as well as in the exposition of philosopher LV, there is a larger modality in the moves of assertion. In the consultation performed to the three writers (GZ, CM, EK), the modality in the expression of assessments and judgments prevailed, followed by the moves of assertion. This sequence appeared inadvertently in the political debate. Modal exuberance was notorious in RB and rare in GZ.

I am not going to stop to detail the distribution of the types of modality in the materials, nor will I try to interpret like this, out of context, the meaning of this distribution, because this is not the objective of this work; the objective is to share some of the applications of the analysis framework of modality.

The way in which the analysis framework of modality operates, as has been shown, consists in starting from a domain of content (a value of modality) trying to find the forms that are shaped in the discourse. Certainly, the grammaticalized forms that have been previously found in a language,30 help in this search; but it will always be pending to specify the discursive sense in each of the found forms, in each of the particular occurrences: the analysis framework cannot produce it automatically, but it orientates a systematic search of the discursive nodes of subjectivity.

Modality so considered is distinguished from the explicit referential meaning. Due to the definition with which we started, modality is outside of it, because “the linguistic expression of the speaker’s attitude, before a propositional content” has as a formal correlate the notion of an operator that acts upon the propositional content, and this last concept is the one that contains the explicit referential meaning. The difference between an explicit referential meaning and a value of modality, like any of the ones that emerge from the analysis framework, can be proved when comparing the assertive content of: “I am a person who is concerned about the truth of my words”, and the modality of adaptation of: “WE CAN SAY THAT nowadays nobody, except for a few, very few, are better off than in 1988”.

The path that may be taken by the application of the modality framework will depend on the purposes of the research, if it is inserted in a discourse analysis, or in a descriptive linguistics, be it typological or historic. In the domain of discourse analysis, modality types would have the function of alerting the hearing act to find within the linguistic materials the discursive nodes of subjectivity, or better, of subjectivities. The diversity of voices is basically manifested not only in the moves in the responsibility of the speech act, by means of different kinds of quotes, but also in some sort of moves in assertion: linguistic inferences. When an utterance is inferred, with it emerges another speaker, and the receivers are also multiplied.

Not only do modalities of location and illocutive values of appeal outline the position of the voices; in the domain of assessments, judgments and emotions, the linguistic links from which conventional implicatures and negative or affirmative adverbs emerge place the voices in a structure, by means of identifications and oppositions. This structure of relations between the voices joins the text with its sociohistoric dimension.

Because of the structuring of the voices, which results from the analysis of modality, the latter becomes an instrument for discourse analysis, which makes feasible a path through which linguistic materiality goes to connect itself to the sociohistoric dimension. The appearance of a structure of relations between the inferred voices is not surprising; it confirms the understanding that social structures are inscribed in the text. Far from being assumed, social materiality in the language, as an evident truth in itself, or as a metaphor, is shown as a reality that allows the systematicity of the instrument and the direction that orientates the analysis from the language.


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Partee, Barbara H., “Possible Worlds in Model-Theoretic Semantics: A Linguistic Perspective”, en Sture Allen, (ed.), Possible Worlds in Humanities, Arts, and Sciences: Proceedings of Nobel Symposium 65, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 1989, pp. 93-123.

Porto Dapena, J. Álvaro, Del indicativo al subjuntivo. Valores y uso de los modos del verbo, Madrid, Arco, 1991.

Ridruejo, Emilio, “Modo y modalidad. El modo en las subordinadas sustantivas”, en I. Bosque y V. Demonte (eds.), Gramática descriptiva de la lengua española, 2, Madrid, Real Academia Española/Fundación José Ortega y Gasset/Espasa Calpe, 1999, pp. 3209-3251.

Villoro, Luis, “La fraternidad: base de toda comunidad auténtica”, en Coloquio de invierno, I: La situación mundial y la democracia, México, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México/Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes/Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1992, pp. 88-95.

Zaid, Gabriel, “El poder incómodo”, en Vuelta, núm. 248, 1997, pp. 21-22.

  1. Karl Bühler, Teoría del lenguaje, Madrid, Revista de Occidente, 1959 (1934), pp. 35-45. When he describes the three functions of language in “The ‘organon’ model proper to the language”, Bühler reformulates a presentation he had already made in 1918. Apart from developing a wider understanding of the language, he modifies the terms he had previously used to name the functions, and amusingly evokes the relation between a speech appeal and the sex-appeal, as equally tangible facts. His description of the three functions is the starting point of my work; however, it can be observed that I do not unlimitedly adopt Bühler’s idea of the language; particularly, I do not consider the language as a tool, but as the shaper of subjectivity. []
  2. Ibidem, 1959, section 2. []
  3. Idem. []
  4. J. García Fajardo, “Modalidad: hacia un marco de análisis”, in R. Barriga y P. Martín (eds.), Varia lingüística y literaria: 50 años del CELL, tomo I. Lingüística, Mexico, El Colegio de México, 1997, 193-210 and “La modalidad en tres líneas funcionales”, in Actas del XI Congreso Internacional de la Asociación de Lingüística y Filología de la América Latina, Tomo I, Gran Canaria, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria-Librería Nogal, 1999, 641-648. []
  5. In her doctoral research, Sara Isabel Pérez develops a methodology line of discourse analysis, in which she incorporates the framework to the orientation I present here. []
  6. I mean a conception of subjectivity immanent to the language that implies intersubjectivity at the same time, as has been said by Émile Benveniste (“Structure des relations de personne dans le verbe”, in Problèmes de lingüistique générale, Paris, Gallimard, 1966, pp. 225-236; “La nature des pronoms”, ibidem, pp. 251-257, and “De la subjectivité dans le langage”, ibidem, pp. 258-266). I believe that the three pillars from which the language is structured, from its acquisition: genetic base, construction of the agent from experience, and intersubjectivity, appear in each linguistic act. []
  7. John Lyons’ radical position, (Language, meaning and context, London, Fontana, 1981), regarding the linguistic approaches that leave the agent out can be appreciated in its just relevant position if we analyze the paradoxes that emerge when we try to apply modal logics to the natural language. See the relation between the absence of agent and the paradoxes of belief, in Josefina García Fajardo, “Las variaciones de sentido, los sujetos y el universo del discurso”, in R. Barriga y J. García F. (eds.), Reflexiones lingüísticas y literarias. Lingüística, Mexico, El Colegio de México, 1992, 231-247. If we remember the origin of alethic logic, whose systematization has been the base for the other modal logics, we find that the motivation for its creation were the problems provoked by the suspension of assertion in the formal construct, and that their solution was headed towards the representation of denotations in different possible worlds (about the application of models of possible worlds of the natural language, see Barbara H. Partee, “Possible worlds in model-theoretic semantics: a linguistic perspective”, in Sture Allen (ed.), Posible worlds in humanities, Arts and sciences: proceedings of Nobel symposium 65, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 1989, 93-123). []
  8. In Ángel Manteca’s work, Gramática del subjuntivo, Madrid, Catedra, 1981, we can find a review of the way in which have been treated the moods of Spanish, since Salvá and Bello until some developments of the generative grammar. An analytic exposition of the values that have been acknowledged in verb moods can be found in J. Álvaro Porto Dapena, Del indicativo al subjuntivo. Valores y uso de los modos del verbo, Madrid, Arco, 1991. Emilio Ridruejo, in “Modo y modalidad. El modo en las subordinadas sustantivas”, in (I. Bosque y V. Demonte (eds.), Gramática descriptiva de la lengua española, vol. 2, Madrid, Real Academia Española-Fundación José Ortega y Gasset-Espasa Calpe, 1999, 3209-3251) offers a panorama of the relation between mood and modality. []
  9. In Wallace Chafe and Johanna Nichols (eds.), Evidentiality: the linguistic coding of epistemology, Norwood, Ablex, 1986, we can find a panorama of the developments of the study of evidentials in anthropologic linguistics, from the first findings of Franz Boas, referred there by William H. Jacobsen. This researcher makes an analysis of the domain of evidential paradigms, from the point of view of the content values. []
  10. In F.R. Palmer, Mood and modality, Cambridge, Cambridge University, 1986 and in Joan Bybee and S. Fleischman (eds.), Modality in grammar and discourse, Amsterdam, John Benjamins, 1995, we can obtain a panorama of the attempts to systematically analyze modality. []
  11. From the perspective of the manifestation of the agent in the language (Émile Benveniste, “Structure des relations…”, in op. cit., “La nature des pronoms”, in op. cit., and “De la subjetivité …”, in op. cit.; John Lyons, op. cit.), modality crosses the frontiers marked out by formal studies, under whose definitions lays the notion of suspension of assertion. []
  12. In Josefina García Fajardo, “Los asomos del sujeto: mecanismos de la modalidad” (in J. García F. (ed.), Número Monográfico de Semántica, Mexico, Revista Latina de Pensamiento y Lenguaje, 1997, 351-369) I used this framework to analyze the grammaticalization of modality in Spanish; in Josefina García Fajardo, “Modalidad: hacia un marco de análisis”, in R. Barriga y P. Martín (eds.), op. cit., I basically present forms of Spanish and mention some forms of modality in non-Indoeuropean languages. []
  13. Karl Bühler, op. cit. []
  14. Idem. []
  15. When I mention the three functions, I describe them from a perspective of the language that allows considering it as structuring of the agent, not only as a mere instrument of which the agent makes use. In order not to deviate the exposition from the objective of this work, I will make no further reference to this difference. []
  16. Émile Benveniste, “De la subjectivité dans le langage”, in op. cit., 1966, p. 260. []
  17. It seemed more adequate to me to call “domains” the types of modality that derive from the framework (and not “categories” or “specific meanings”), since they represent zones of semantic values whose categories are specified in each particular language. In this sense, it is not about categorizations that are saturated of content, but about guidelines that orientate the search. []
  18. J. García Fajardo, “Los asomos del sujeto: mecanismos de la modalidad”, in J. García F. (ed.), op. cit. []
  19. Roger Bartra, “Comentarios acerca de las ponencias de Jeffrey Alexander y de Norbert Lechner”, in Modernización económica, democracia política y democracia social, Mexico, El Colegio de México, 1997, pp. 101-105. []
  20. Luis Villoro, “La fraternidad: base de toda comunidad auténtica”, in Coloquio de invierno, I: La situación mundial y la democracia, Mexico, UNAM/Conaculta/FCE, 1992, pp. 88-95. []
  21. Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano, E. Zedillo Ponce de León y D. Fernández de Cevallos, “El debate paso a paso…”, in Perfil de la Jornada, May 13, 1994, pp. I-II. []
  22. Gabriel Zaid, “El poder incómodo”, in Vuelta, núm. 248, 1997, pp. 21-22; Carlos Monsiváis, “Después del 6 de julio”, in op. cit., pp. 27-29; Enrique Krauze, “Una fiesta democrática”, in ibidem, pp. 19-21. []
  23. This consideration is limited to the linguistic inferences called presuppositions, conventional and conversational implicatures, understood from a formal definition; not so to the million inferences that could be extrapolated at each utterance. Even with the characteristics of non-specificity and multiplicity of content of a conversational implicature, there is a difference between the “flagrant violation of a maxim” (H. Paul Grice, “Logic and conversation”, in P. Cole y J.L. Morgan (eds.), Syntax and semantics, 3: Speech acts, New York-London, Academic Press, 1975, 41-58) and the open possibility of imagining inferences from any utterance situation. The inferences that systematically emerge from the forms allow their delimiting by this formal characteristic (with this I do not mean that the difference between them is totally solved; to this respect Graciela Fernández Ruiz is making a grammar of forms that generate conventional implicatures, in her doctoral research). []
  24. H. Paul Grice, “Logic and conversation”, in P. Cole y J.L. Morgan (eds.), op. cit. []
  25. Is this a misprint: “division” for “dimision”? []
  26. H. Paul Grice, op. cit. []
  27. Émile Benveniste, “La nature des pronoms”, in op. cit.; Roman Jakobson, Shifters, verbal categories and the Russian verb, Harvard, Harvard University Press, 1957. []
  28. John L. Austin, How to do things with words, Oxford, Clarendon, 1962. []
  29. John L. Austin, op. cit. []
  30. In Josefina García Fajardo, “Los asomos del sujeto …”, in J. García F. (ed.), op. cit., I directed the analysis towards the search of grammaticalized forms in Spanish, for each domain of modality, and I presented some cases of grammaticalization in non-Indoeuropean languages. []

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