Interpersonal function of language is one of the most fascinating and complicated subjects in a linguistic study. Modality, reflecting the writer's opinion and idea about a proposition, lexico-grammatically realizes the interpersonal meaning of an utterance. Two main modalities can be recognized; that is, epistemic and root modality. The latter rests with the hearer/reader whereas the former rests with the writer and refers to a linguistic mood that indicates how much certainty or commitment the writer has for his proposition. Both root and epistemic modalities can be textualized through different lexical verbs, adverbs, adjectives, nouns and modal auxiliaries. Among these different lexico-grammatical realizations, modal auxiliaries are employed more frequently in expressing the writer or writer's attitude toward a proposition.
Modality or the attitude of the speaker or writer to reality characterizes any utterance. It is a category inherent in the language in action and therefore, equally with other categories, constitutes the essence of the communicative process.
This is the opinion of the outstanding modern linguists V. V. Vinogradov, I. R. Galperin, N. Yu. Shvedova, G. A. Zolotova and others. At the same time the overwhelming majority of grammarians consider the category of modality mainly as the expression of reality/irreality of the utterance, treating it as a notion, objectively inherent in the utterance, but not connected with a personal evaluation of the subject of thought.
In compositions of emotive prose textual modality is realized in the basis of certain regularities. Subjective evaluating attitude to the object of utterance, as a rule, doesn't reveal the essence of a phenomenon, but only colours it correspondingly, and gives a notion of the author's world outlook. Therefore textual modality more frequently finds its place in relative spans of the text, which don't carry the main factual information, but not in predicative spans, which are mostly imbued with facts. Yet, in the process of linear development of the text accentuation can be shifted and relative spans may gradually acquire the status of predicative ones. As a result, modality acquires a more significant role in creating conceptual information.
Thus in the story «Wild Flowers» by E. Caldwell descriptive spans of the text carrying no factual information are subjected to reaccentuation. The following example shows how description acquires a predicative status and becomes a key-note in conveying conceptual information. «While she trudged along the sandy road, she could smell the fragrance of the last summer flowers all around her. The weeds and scrub hid most of them from sight, but every chance she got she stopped a moment and looked along the side of the ditches for blossoms».
Bringing this passage into correlation with the title and the content of the whole story we can disclose the author's attitude to his personages and the reality described — in other words determine the subjective evaluating textual modality: for the author Vern and Nelly are frail but at the same time staunch wild flowers, staunch in their love confronting the cruel world, the reign of weeds and thorns.
Such reaccentuation, connected with the saturation of relative spans of the text by subjective-evaluating modality is observed most frequently in the literary works which more or less distinctly manifest the personality of the author, his world outlook, his tastes and notions.
Thus the notion of subjective-evaluating modality comes into close contact with the concept of the «author's image». Discoursing about the essence of the latter, Academician V-V. Vinogradov cites N. M. Karamsin's words that «the creator is always represented in his creation and often against his will» . At the same time V. V. Vinogradov stresses, that the «author's image», as a deep-lying linking element of the text, is a notion of a broader scale, than the position of the author. According to L. Tolstoy's expression, the cement binding any literary work into one integral whole is the unity and invariability of the author's original moral attitude to the subject. Making this formula more precise, V. V. Vinogradov speaks about «the unity of the author's evaluation and comprehension of reality».
The author's image is most explicitly represented by his point of view expressed in the literary work. Indeed, if the writer himself qualifies the thoughts and actions of his personages, the reader gradually gets an idea about his image. It is much more difficult to define the author's position, when the writer refuses to be present in the story and entrusts his role to an immediate participant or a witness of events. That imparts especial authenticity to the narration, because in this case the events are narrated and comprehended from inside, from the eye-witness' point of view.
The brief description of textual modality shows that this category in application to the units, exceeding sentence limits, cardinally changes its designation even in the subjective-evaluating plane. Out of the two kinds of modally-objective and subjective— the first one, according to I. R. Galperin, is not inherent' in literary texts in general. Moreover, most frequently objective — modal meaning confines itself only to a sentence. The relation of reality Irreality is not pertinent to fiction texts at all, so long as fiction texts give only depicted reality. These works are a fruit of a writer's imagination, the fancy of a poet, of a dramatist. The less we notice conventionality in depicting reality, the greater is the artistic impact. Nevertheless an experienced reader never forgets that he deals with depicted life. Such a reader perceives the described happenings in two planes: he compares the real and the imaginary, verifies how far they agree with each other and evaluates the imaginary, proceeding from his habitual criteria and conception of the world. Simultaneously he tries to determine the author's attitude to the subject-matter of the book and in this way to make out the subjective-modal meaning of the whole text.
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- Гальперин И. Р. Текст как объект лингвистического исследования. — Москва, 1975.
- Vinogradov V. V Stylistics, Poetics. — Moscow, 1963.