Modality and Subordinators in the Germanic Languages and beyond

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.


  • Jackie Nordström
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature


  • Germanic languages, factuality, subordinators, modality, propositional modality, general subordinators, that, if, whether, indicative, subjunctive, epistemic modality, irrealis, realis, Swedish
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
Award date2009 Jun 8
  • Lund University
Print ISBNs978-91-628-7805-4
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic 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)