The Typology of Modality in Modern West Iranian Languages

Date: 17 April 2019

Venue: Allameh Jafari Salon, Tarbiyate Modares University - Ale Ahmad Tehran, Iran

Time: 10:00 AM

PhD candidate: Sepideh Koohkan

Principal investigator: Jan Nuyts, Arsalan Golfam

Short description: PhD defence Sepideh Koohkan - Faculty of Arts


Modality concerns with the modifications and semantic changes, which the speaker  makes in the proposition to indicate his/her commitment and assessment to the state of  affairs. On the other hand, typology deals with the varieties in languages to achieve  generalizations cross-linguistically. This thesis studies modality, as a semantic notion and  typology, as mostly a formal category, in eleven New West Iranian languages, including  Balochi (Bamposht), Gerashi, Gilaki (Shaft), Hawrami (Hawraman Takht), Kahangi,  Kordish (Sanandaj), Lori (Balaguariveh), Persian, Semnani, Tati (Takestan) and Vafsi  based on Nuyts (2005 and furthermore). The main goal of this dissertation is to examine  the possibility of categorizing languages based on a semantic feature, which is modality  here, and to discover the differences between this type of classification of languages and  the other available categorizations which mostly have a morphological or syntactic basis.  

The results reveal that all these languages, enjoy different types of expressions to express  modality, including modal auxiliaries, nouns, adjectives, adverbs and main verbs (mostly  complex verbs). However, this enjoyment is systematic, i.e. first, in all above languages,  these are the modal auxiliaries which not only have a high frequency in the languages,  but they are also the more native elements. Secondly, some languages, including Balochi  (Bamposht dialect) and Hawrami (Hawraman Takht dialect) apply adverbs to express  those dimensions of modality which prototypically is on modal auxiliaries in other  languages to express and that is why they contain less modal auxiliaries comparing to  other languages. Finally, modal nouns and adjectives (and consequently modal main verbs, which are mostly complex verbs, constructed with modal nouns/adjectives and a  light verb), directly or indirectly are loan words from Arabic.

Furthermore, modal  auxiliaries, and also some of the other modal elements, are polysemous, that is, they are  used to state several meanings in the domain of modality. In search for classifying  languages based on a semantic feature, besides the semantic map of modality in these  languages, two other methods were also suggested. One, classifying languages, according  to the number of the elements they apply to express modality. In this method, instead of  presenting branches which a language is or is not a member of, a continuum was proposed  where all languages laid on it based on the number of modal auxiliaries and modal  adverbs. The other, classifies languages, on the basis of their origin, where the modal  auxiliaries with the same source, are grouped together as one category.