Glossary of Linguistic Terms

Mood And Modality

Mood And Modality

Mood is one of a set of distinctive forms that are used to signal modality.

Modality is a facet of illocutionary force, signaled by grammatical devices (that is, moods), that expresses:

  • the illocutionary point or general intent of a speaker
  • a speaker’s degree of commitment to the expressed proposition's believability, obligatoriness, desirability, or reality

The term mood is used by some authors in the same sense modality is.

Others distinguish the two, as we do here, by using mood to refer to the contrastive grammatical expressions of different modalities and reserving modality to refer to the meanings so expressed.

If, in addition, modality is used to refer to meanings expressed by lexical means as well as grammatical, it is effectively a synonym of illocutionary force.


Here are some examples of mood and modality; items that signal certain modalities:

  • Verbal inflections
  • Auxiliary verbs
Page/s: 183
Source: Richards, Platt, and Weber 1985

Richards, Jack, John Platt, and Heidi Weber. 1985.Longman dictionary of applied linguistics. Harlow, Essex, England: Longman.

Page/s: 219
Source: Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, and Svartvik 1985

Quirk, Randolph, S. Greenbaum, G. Leech, and J. Svartvik. 1985.A comprehensive grammar of the English language. London: Longman.

Page/s: 14–15, 26
Source: Palmer 1986

Palmer, F. R. 1986.Mood and modality. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University.

Page/s: 762, 770
Source: Mish 1991

Mish, Frederick (editor). 1991.Webster's ninth new collegiate dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster. 1,564 pages. 0877795088; indexed 0877795096; deluxe 087779510X.

Page/s: 142, 144
Source: Hartmann and Stork 1972

Hartmann, R.R.K., and F.C. Stork. 1972.Dictionary of language and linguistics. London: Applied Science.

Page/s: 272
Source: Givón 1984

Givón, T. 1984.Syntax: A functional-typological introduction. Volume I. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Page/s: 198
Source: Crystal 1985

Crystal, David. 1985.A dictionary of linguistics and phonetics. 2nd edition. New York: Basil Blackwell.

Page/s: 241
Source: Chung and Timberlake 1985

Chung, Sandra, and Alan Timberlake. 1985.Tense, aspect, and mood . In Shopen 1985d

Page/s: 169
Source: Bybee 1985

Bybee, Joan L. 1985.Morphology: A study of the relation between meaning and form. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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