Meaning change in the Dutch core modals : (inter)subjectification in a grammatical paradigm
Faculty of Arts. Linguistics and Literature
Acta linguistica Hafniensia. - Copenhagen
, p. 85-116
University of Antwerp
This article presents a corpus-based analysis of the semantic developments of the three most prototypical Dutch modals, kunnen can, mogen may, and moeten must. It focuses on the implications for current concepts of (inter)subjectification. The three modals turn out not to behave in a uniform way and to show different diachronic profiles: kunnen and mogen do but moeten does not show clear processes of (inter)subjectification, while kunnen is a much younger modal than mogen and moeten. In terms of paths of semantic change, the investigation shows that evolutions toward more (inter)subjective meanings are often not linear. Even if they predominantly emerge from one other meaning, new meanings can have secondary sources. Furthermore, evolutions often happen in parallel, with one specific meaning serving as the source for several others (e.g., deontic, epistemic/evidential, and directive meanings typically all evolve in parallel from a dynamic modal meaning).