Original scientific article
Page 103 - 120

High-level modal metonymies in English and Spanish

Francisco José Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez
E-mail: francisco.ruiz@dfm.unirioja.es
ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1200-2850
Universidad de La Rioja, Logroño, Departamento de Filologías Modernas, Edificio de Filología

Lorena Pérez Hernández
ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1200-2850
Universidad de La Rioja, Logroño, Departamento de Filologías Modernas, Edificio de Filología

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Abstract: has been brought to the fore in recent works by Thornburg and Panther (1997), Panther and Thornburg (1999), Radden and Kövecses (1999), Ruiz de Mendoza and Pérez (2001), and Ruiz de Mendoza and Otal (2002) among others, where the authors analyze the grammatical import of high-level or generic metonymies. This paper explores the metonymic basis of several expressions of modality in English and Spanish. More specifically, we focus on two types of metonymic mapping: (i) OBLIGATION FOR DESIRE (called NECESSITY FOR MOTIVATION in Thornburg and Panther 1997), which underlies the understanding of expressions like I must go, where the modal verb is used to express an obligation that comes from the speaker; and (ii) POTENTIALITY FOR ACTUALITY, which motivates English expressions such as I can see the Thames from my window (‘I see the Thames from my window’) or I can hear well (‘I hear well’). We have observed that both metonymies are productive in Spanish as well, but their exploitation in this language is subject to certain peculiarities. On the one hand, Spanish is sensitive only to the POTENTIALITY FOR ACTUALITY metonymy in those cases in which a verb carrying a commissive element is involved. On the other hand, regarding the OBLIGATION FOR DESIRE mapping, there is a clear asymmetry between Spanish and English. An example like I must speak to you, please is better rendered into Spanish as Tengo que hablar contigo, por favor (‘I have to speak to you, please’). In this sentence, the Spanish modal expression tener que is only formally equivalent to the English modal have to, but unlike its English counterpart it conveys internal (or self-imposed) obligation. Finally, we note that, in the domain of epistemic modality, meaning shifts from probability to usuality, and we argue for a non-metonymic implicational correlation between these two modality scales both in English and Spanish.
Keywords:
high-level metonymy, deontic modality, epistemic modality, potentiality, motivation, cross-linguistic analysis,
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