Multi-factorial sicilian modals: a case of continuity in discourse

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We intend to analyze a few constructions, in Sicilian (S) and in the variety of Italian spoken in Sicily (IS), involving the modals voliri (S)/volere (IS) “want” and aviri a (S)/dovere (IS) “have to”. They are used to express both modal values, along a deontic→epistemic continuum, and futurity (Sicilian, but not Italian, lacks a synthetic future).Modality has been traditionally defined as the linguistic manifestation of the speaker’s attitude towards his utterance. However, modality does not have an unambiguous treatment and there is no agreement on number and kind of semantic categories that can be completely defined as modals (cf. Bybee et al. 1994; Palmer 2001; Nuyts 2005). From a cognitive perspective, modality is a strategy of grounding (Langacker 1987; 1991) which can be expressed differently in languages, also depending on the degree of grammaticalization of the so-called modals.A few uses of modals observed in the varieties mentioned above can be interpreted assuming the existence of a modal continuum, both at the abstract level of modal categories’ typology (deontic→epistemic continuum and vice versa) and at the more concrete level of their linguistic expression, which is grammaticalized according to language specific parameters.Volere is less grammaticalized than dovere and coexists with a lexical counterpart, whereas dovere has almost only a modal use. Accordingly, we can hypothesize that the grammaticalized uses of volere do not completely opacify the original semantics of volition and the metaphor which allows its extension from animate subjects to inanimate ones. Moreover, it is reasonable that some properties of transitivity (in particular, agent’s control), have a crucial role in determining the selection of modal interpretation:1)S Voli chioviriIS Vuole piovere want.PRS.3SG rain.INF It will rain/It is going to rain 2)S A pasta voli cociri IS La pasta vuole cuocere The pasta want.PRS.3SG cook.INF Pasta needs to be cooked The deontic value of volere coexists, in S, with the construction “aviri a+infinitive” and, in IS, with the modal dovere. Nevertheless, the ranges of meanings of the Sicilian construction (cf. Bentley 1998; 2000) and the Italian dovere do not fully overlap, since the latter is narrower. Therefore, in the shift from Sicilian to Italian, the selection of the only available option (dovere) produces a sort of after-effect metonymy:3)S A pasta a (a) ccociri The pasta have.PRS.3SG (to) cook.INF IS La pasta deve cuocere The pasta have to.PRS.3SG cook.INF Pasta needs to be cooked 4)S M’ a (a) diri paroli To me have.PRS.3SG (to) dire words IS Mi deve dire parole To me have to.PRS.3SG tell.INF words He tells me swear words Our aim is to provide an interpretation of the proposed data according to a multi-factorial hypothesis of modality, not as a linear deontic→epistemic continuum rather as a radial structure with a prototypical nucleus branching out into a complex of meanings metonymically constructed and selected on a contextual basis.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2008

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