Modality and Subordinators in the Germanic Languages and beyond

Jackie Nordström

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This thesis argues that general subordinators, such as the Germanic THAT and IF, denote propositional modality. Propositional modality stands for the “speaker’s attitude to the truth-value or factual status of the proposition” (Palmer 2001:24) and is otherwise expressed by moods such as the indicative-subjunctive and epistemic-evidential modal markers. One obvious connection between markers of propositional modality and general subordinators is that the indicative-subjunctive distinction is typically manifested in subordinate clauses. Furthermore, in the Germanic languages, the indicative and THAT are associated with declarative clauses, whereas the subjunctive and IF are associated with conditional and interrogative clauses. The thesis offers many other pieces of evidence in support of the hypothesis. In particular, it is shown that there is variation in many clause types between both the indicative and the subjunctive and THAT and IF depending on whether or not the speaker knows etc. that the proposition is true.
The thesis draws a distinction between three types of modality: speech-act modality, propositional modality, and event modality. These are regarded as separate functional categories. As for subordinators, a distinction is drawn between general subordinators and adverbial ones. Whereas the former are seen as markers of propositional modality, it is argued that the latter are in fact prepositions and adverbs. Focus is placed on the Germanic languages, but the thesis also contains cross-linguistic investigations of the morphosyntactic status of mood and modal markers and the semantics of subordinators.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Centre for Languages and Literature
  • Platzack, Christer, Supervisor
Award date2009 Jun 8
ISBN (Print)978-91-628-7805-4
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2009-06-08
Time: 13:15
Place: Hörsalen, Språk- och litteraturcentrum, Helgonabacken 12, Lund

External reviewer(s)

Name: Eide, Kristin M
Title: forskar
Affiliation: Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet, Trondheim, Norge


The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015.
The record was previously connected to the following departments: Centre for Languages and Literature (015016000), Swedish (015011001)

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Languages and Literature

Free keywords

  • Germanic languages
  • factuality
  • subordinators
  • modality
  • propositional modality
  • general subordinators
  • that
  • if
  • whether
  • indicative
  • subjunctive
  • epistemic modality
  • irrealis
  • realis
  • Swedish


Dive into the research topics of 'Modality and Subordinators in the Germanic Languages and beyond'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this