Irrealitetsmarkører i dansk talesprog: En korpuslingvistisk undersøgelse af hvis-konstruktioner og modalverber i medarbejdersamtaler og sociolingvistiske interview

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesisResearch


  • Afhandling

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In this thesis, an analysis of hvis-constructions (conditionals) and modal verbs as markers of irreality is presented: They function as a speaker’s instruction to the addressee to built up a mental space which differs from its mother space (usually speaker’s conception of reality) with regards to reality or epistemic value. The object of the PhD project has been to make a survey into how and why modal verbs and hvis-constructions are used in spoken discourse, including which conceptualization of the distinction between reality and irreality they represent and how their meaning and use is influenced by linguistic and situational factors.
The empirical study is based upon a text corpus of modern spoken Danish, composed of 50 conversations. The basis is a quantitative analysis of all occurrences of modal verbs and hvis-constructions in the corpus. The analysis has shown that both modal verbs and hvis-constructions are most often used to express direct or indirect causality in the extra-linguistic and extra-cognitive reality. However, hvis-constructions and modal verbs can also be used epistemically to express, respectively, sufficient conditions or the degree of certainty with regards to the truth of a proposition. Hvis-constructions are also used to express conditions with regards to the use of a speech act (most often its relevance) or a particular linguistic expression. The study has also shown that modal verbs as well as hvis-constructions frequently built up mental spaces which differ from the mother space in generality rather than in reality.
In the second part of the study, the text corpus is split into sub-corpora based on the genre of conversation, speaker’s gender, speaker’s role in the conversation and speaker’s “social class”. The sub-corpora are compared and the results show statistically significant correlations between all the variables and the use of modal verbs and hvis-constructions.
The last part of the study is a qualitative analysis of two conversations from the corpus. The analysis has shown that contexts in which the conversation deals with concrete, past events have a low frequency of hvis-constructions and modal verbs, while contexts in which the conversation deals with general circumstances (especially evaluation of such circumstances) or future events often have high frequencies – this applies especially to contexts in which the conversation revolves around planning. Contexts in which the conversationalists disagree and/or want to perform face-threatening acts seem to be particularly predisposed to the use of markers of irreality.
Translated title of the contributionLinguistic irreality in spoken Danish: A corpus linguistic study of conditionals and modal verbs in employee performance interviews and sociolinguistic interviews
Original languageDanish
Number of pages550
Publication statusPublished - 2005

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Humanities - Danish, grammar, modality, conditionals, modal verbs, reality, cognitive linguistics

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