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What Modals Are: Modal Verbs, Modal Words, and Auxiliary Modals

Author(s): Fazira A. Kakzhanova

Journal: European Researcher
ISSN 2219-8229

Volume: 61;
Issue: 10-2;
Start page: 2530;
Date: 2013;
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Keywords: modal verbs | auxiliary verbs | defective verbs | status | realizable or unrealizable | tense category.

The modals are a complicated grammatical phenomenon. As of today, the status of modals is still not precisely defined in the linguistics literature, and they are described under different names: modal verbs, modal words, auxiliary modals, or defective verbs. Modals express the result of the conversion of thought processes (deep structure) about the realization of actions into surface structure. As articles determine the status of nouns as indefinite or definite things, modals determine the relation of a person to actions or the quality of an action as realizable or unrealizable. Modals cannot truly be ‘modal verbs’, because they lack the morphological characteristics of verbs (aspect, voice, mood, and tense), and the term ‘defective verb’ is flawed for the same reason. Furthermore, they cannot be ‘auxiliary modals’, because they don’t neutralize their main meanings when they become auxiliary. Thus, I propose to refer to these elements only as modals or modal words.

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