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The modal expression in Karitiana

Grant number: 13/03936-7
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Scientific Initiation
Effective date (Start): May 01, 2013
Effective date (End): April 30, 2014
Field of knowledge:Linguistics, Literature and Arts - Linguistics - Linguistic Theory and Analysis
Principal Investigator:Ana Lucia de Paula Muller
Grantee:Luiz Fernando Ferreira
Host Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil


Karitiana is a language of the Ariquém family. It is a singular language in many aspects, but the focus of this research is the modal marks in this language. Lyons (1997:452) defines modality as "'opinion or attitude' of the speaker". It means that modality is the position that the speaker has about the sentence he says if he considers it true, hypothetical, an order, etc. This position of the speaker is used marked in the verbs and this mark is called verbal mood. Portner (2011:1262) describes the verbal mood as "[&] a distinction in form among clauses based on the presence, absence or type of modality in the grammatical context in which they occur.".Comparing Karitiana with Portuguese, for instance, it is possible to perceive some relevant differences. First, Karitiana's modal chart is bigger. While Portuguese has three moods (subjunctive, indicative and imperative), Kariitiana's modal chart, according to Storto (2002), has six moods (declarative, assertive, quotative, deontic, imperative, and conditional). Another difference is that the subordinate clauses seem not to have modal marks in Karitiana. This research focuses on these clauses intending to see the way the speakers recognize the mood without the morphological modal mark. This research chooses Storto's work (2002) to start. The author described six moods in Karitiana, but this description is still superficial and needs deeper studies. Therefore, this project intends to make a description that is more consistent using modal theories that allow checking the six moods in Karitiana. The theories that are going to be used during the checking process are Palmer (1986), Lyons (1997), and Portner (2011). These theories will supply this research with the necessary tools for modal analysis. Then, the project will study the mood on the subordinate sentences because they seem not to have the modal mark. The study will try to understand how the speakers identify the mood semantically if there is no morphological mark. The clauses of the reported speech are going to be used as a Corpus of this research. In this kind of sentence, the speaker repeats what was said by another speaker, for instance, "JOHN: I want to eat!" would become "MARY: John said he wants to eat!". The sentence said by John is the main clause but it becomes subordinate when repeated by Mary. Therefore, in Karitiana the main clause would have the modal mark but when repeated in the reported speech this mark would disappear. Understanding that the modal mark is not necessarily morphological, this project aims to investigate other elements of the clause searching for traces that could be considered as modal marks. Palmer (1986:06) exemplifies the interaction between modality and intonation saying that "doubt and lack of commitment are often expressed by intonation in English.". Palmer (1986:06) says "[&] the use of modal forms in subordinate clauses depends to some degree on the choice of the lexical items in the main clause." Therefore, both intonation and the lexical items of the main clause (verbs, prepositions, and conjunctions) may determine the modality of the subordinate clause. At the end of this study, the research intends to present some kind of structure, that could be phonological, syntactic, or lexical that indicates that there is a modal mark on the subordinate sentences. If the research did not find such a structure, it intends to show why the modal mark is not necessary for the subordinate clauses. (AU)

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