Modality – modulation (obligation)

Modulation operates on proposals, where “the meaning of the positive and negative poles is prescribing and proscribing: positive ‘do it’ and negative ‘don’t do it’ [and] there are two kinds of intermediate possibility, in this case depending on the speech function, whether command or offer” (H & M, p.147). For commands, the modality is one of obligation, which may be either subjective or objective.

1.  Subjective

Subjective obligation may have one of two orientations:

i. Implicit

High: You must go!

Medium: You will/shall go!

Low: You may go!

The medium and low values may also then be softened by shifting to past tense: you should go; you might go.

ii. Explicit

High: I demand that you go.

Medium: I recommend that you go. 

Low: I suggest that you go.

Notice that these are a grammatical metaphor shift from verbal processes, in keeping with the speech function of command.

2.  Objective

Objective obligation may also have two orientations:

i. Implicit

High: You’re required to go.

Medium: You’re supposed to go.

Low: You’re allowed/permitted to go.

ii. Explicit

High: It is necessary that you go.

Medium: It is recommended that you go.

Low: It is permitted for you to go.

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About eflfunc

I'm an EFL teacher in Japan and this is a blog to record some thoughts on using Systemic Functional Linguistics in the foreign language classroom.
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