Modality in Hindi

Modality in Hindi. By Shlomper Genady. (LINCOM studies in Indo-European linguistics 32.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2005. Pp. 175. ISBN 9783895867699. $103.20 (Hb).

Reviewed by Sharbani Banerji, Ghaziabad, India

Adopting the principles for the classification of modality proposed by Frank Robert Palmer (Mood and modality, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), Shlomper Genady details the system of modality in Hindi, supporting his claims at every step with helpful examples. G’s aim is to define the modal resources of Hindi and to detect their interrelations based on semantic classification and nuances. The grammatical tools most often used for expressing modality are mood, modal verbs, modal adjectives, modal adverbials, sentential adverbials, special syntactic constructions, particles, clitics, interjections, conjunctions, parentheticals, word order, and question words. The past and future tenses can also have strong modal connotations. Among these modal devices, moods are broadly interpreted as basic. G divides modality into three subclasses: inherent, deontic, and epistemic, each with primary and secondary expressive means.

This book contains six chapters. In the introduction, Ch. 1 (1–13), G defines modality as ‘a feature of a language that serves for expressing the attitudes and opinions of the speaker to the propositional content of the sentence’ (7). Individual speech is exclusively subjective. For example, whereas The flowers are red and blue expresses a minimum degree of subjectivity, Perhaps they will come tomorrow shows a higher degree of subjective attitude (6–7). Excluded from the analysis is neutral modality, which is a mere statement of fact.

In Ch. 2, ‘Some previous works on modality in Hindi’ (14–20), G points out that not much work has been done on modality in Hindi. Here, G designates cases of the subjunctive for a deontic function as optative and the subjunctive used for an epistemic function as potential. Furthermore, G demonstrates that, although the temporal characteristics of a proposition do not depend on the choice of mood, past indefinites and the future have modal characteristics.

Ch. 3, ‘Inherent modality’ (21–45), discusses the agent-oriented notion of inherent modality, which represents the ability or the desire of an agent to fulfill an action. Ability can be inner/innate, acquired, or circumstantial. Desire can be classified as a wish or an intent. Intention can also have various shades of meaning. The role of tenses in expressing intention is also discussed.

Ch. 4, ‘Deontic modality’ (46–104), deals with possible worlds that are consistent with social regulations and requirements. Deontic modality reflects an attempt by the speaker to influence the addressee’s behavior, known as a directive. Directives are classified into mands, which include commands, demands, requests, and exhortatives, which in turn include invitations and recommendations. Among deontic subordinations are complement, purpose, and relative purpose clauses. Deontics also include permissives and prohibitives.

In Ch. 5, ‘Epistemic modality’ (105–56), G demonstrates that a speaker’s evaluation of reality can be factual or imagined. An imagined state of affairs, can be nonfactual (possible or probable) or counterfactual. Evidential information can be obtained from (i) sensory evidence, (ii) experience or general knowledge, (iii) personal confidence, (iv) reported evidence (i.e. reportatives), or (v) inferential evidence. Guesses include speculatives, deductives, and counterfactuals. Conditional clauses and concessive clauses also fall under the discussion of epistemics.

In Ch. 6, ‘Summary and conclusions’ (157–60), G admits that the correlation of modality with negation and interrogation—the discourse properties of modality—as well as the compatibility of different kinds of modality have been touched upon only lightly.