Modal particles and their features

Particles in German, their classification

The concept of “particle”, as well as the concept of “modality” are given different definitions. This was reflected in the terminology of different periods: the particles were called “Flickwörter” – “patch words”, “Fuellwörter” – “filler words”[1]. Now the situation has changed, and particles are no longer considered the words “parasites” that uselessly litter the speech.

G.I. Voronin, following G. Tsifonun and I.D. Matko identified the following features of particles:

1. Particles are auxiliary, ambiguous words.

2. Particles are not members of the proposal, but only part of the other members of the proposal.

3. Since particles are not members of a sentence, they cannot be used alone before the predicate in a German declarative sentence, but always only with some full-valued word to which they refer.

4. It is impossible to put a question to a particle; a particle can serve as an answer to a question only together with its key word: Wie? – Sehrgut . Zuschnell .

5. The particles in the sentence are unstressed. Only in rare cases – shock.

6. Particles are not included in the sentence structure. Extraction of a particle from a sentence does not lead to its semantic or syntactic inferiority.

7. Particles, unlike adverbs, cannot be at the beginning of a sentence with a negative, be the focus of a negative, a question, or an elicitative construction.

8. The semantics of particles has one characteristic feature that distinguishes it from the semantics of adverbs, namely, contextual determinism. Particles cannot be understood without the surrounding context.

9. Adverbs and particles also differ in the field of word formation. The former are an open group of words. The replenishment of the class of particles occurs mainly at the functional level by converting words from other parts of speech: adjectives, verbs, adverbs, conjunctions.

10. Particles expand the semantic (modal) boundaries of the statement, that is, they perform a pragmatic function.

11. Particles connect statements, correlating their modal plans; conjunctions connect sentences or components of a sentence, their main function is structural.

12. Particles can form phraseological combinations among themselves; unions cannot act as elements of such combinations [2].

Such a classification seems acceptable to us, although there are also more compact and generalized ones (see, for example, Appendix No. 1)

The generally accepted classification of particles by I.V. Arnold considers the classification of G. Altman and G. Bussman.

They identified the following subclasses of particles:

1) modal particles (Abtönungspartikeln, Modalpartikeln): aber, auch, bloss, eben, etwa, halt, ja, wohl, vielleicht, denn, doch, falls…

2) particles of time (Temporalpartikeln): erst, noch, schon .

3) negative particles (Negationspartikeln): kein, nicht .

4) infinitive particles, grammatical particles (Infinitivpartikeln): zu .

5) interjection particles (Interektionspartikeln): ah! Nanu! Oh weh!

6) comparative particles (Vergleichspartikeln): wie, als, denn .

7) restrictive particles (Gradpartikeln, Rangierpartikeln, Fokuspartikeln): auch, eben, ausgerechnet, genau, besonders, gerade, nur, selbst, sogar.

8) amplifying particles (Steigerungspartikeln, Intensivpartikeln): ausserordentlich, etwas, ganz, sehr, weitaus, ziemlich [3] .

Modal particles and their signs

The interpretation of the concept of “modality” is given by such domestic linguists as V.V. Vinogradova, V.G. Admoni, I.R. Galperin, N.Yu. Shvedova, Ermolaeva L.S. and Babakina T.N., French linguist C. Bally and others. Each of them has its own definition of the concept, but the common thing is that modality is a language category that indicates the nature of objective connections reflected in the content of the sentence (objective modality) and the degree power of attorney of the content of the same sentence from the point of view of the speaker (subjective modality).

The term “modality” is very broad in scope, since it is used to refer to various phenomena that are heterogeneous in terms of semantic volume, grammatical properties and the degree of formalization at different levels of the linguistic structure. The question of the boundaries of this category is solved by different researchers in different ways.

According to V.V. Vinogradov, any sentence, reflecting reality “in its practical public awareness”, expresses the relation of the content of speech to reality and therefore the category of modality is closely connected with the sentence, with the variety of its types [4]. “Each sentence includes, as an essential constructive feature, a modal meaning, that is, it contains an indication of the relationship to reality. Any holistic expression of a thought, feeling, motive, reflecting reality in one form or another of an utterance, is clothed in one of the intonation schemes of a sentence existing in a given language system and expresses one of those syntactic meanings that in their totality form the category of modality.

Approximately the same definition of modality takes place in the “Grammar of the modern Russian literary language”: “The general grammatical meaning of the relation of the main content of the sentence to reality is expressed in the syntactic categories of modality, as well as time and person …” [5]. The relation of the message to reality contained in the sentence is “this is, first of all, a modal relation. What is communicated can be conceived by the speaker as real, present in the past or in the present, as being realized in the future, as desirable, required from someone, as invalid, etc. The forms of grammatical expression of various kinds of relations between the content of speech and reality constitute the syntactic essence of the category of modality.

V.V. Druzhinina and K. Keller understand modality as a functional-semantic category, expressed with the help of a hierarchically organized system of morphological, syntactically-constructive, intonational and lexical means, regardless of whether the content of the speaker’s consciousness expressed in the statement is consistent with reality or not.

V.G. Admoni in his work “Syntax of the modern German language. The system of relations and the system of construction” suggests that the sentence, which is the expression of any act of thought, not only reflects objective reality, but also contains a certain attitude to these objective connections reflected in it.

Most scientists, for example, V.V. Vinogradov, V.G. Admoni, L.S. Ermolaev, in the very category of modality, its subcategories are distinguished, which have different names, but in principle the same essence: objective and subjective, external and internal modality, etc.

Modal particles belong to the most common means of the modern German language, which serve to express emotions and a subjective attitude to the content of the statement and to the interlocutor, with their help various shades of modal relations are transmitted. This relation may be uncomplicated in any way, or it may be connected with the meaning of the objective relation of the reported to reality. However, the subjective attitude, evaluation in modal particles is always present.

In the Grammar of the Modern Russian Literary Language, the category of modality is also presented in two forms – an objective-modal meaning and a subjective-modal meaning.

As we can see, on this issue (the issue of dividing the category of modality into separate subcategories), scientists do not have a common opinion. So, for example, as the researcher Magidova I.M., V.V. Vinogradov refers to the objective modality the meaning of possibility, reality, reliability, since these meanings are reflected in the content of the statement of objective connections in the world[6]. The researcher interprets the relation of the utterance to reality as a subjective modality on the basis that the meaning of reality / unreality is established by the speaker himself. The subjective modal values also include the values of reliability / probability, uncertainty.

Kremikh I.I. refers to the opinion of L.S. Ermolaeva, who distinguishes three different types of modal relations: internal, objective external and subjective external modalities[7]. By internal modality, she understands “the relation of the subject (less often the object) of the action to the action he performs (for the object, the relation to the action to which he is subjected): Er will essen. DieKrankheit will kuriert werden.

The main means of expressing internal modality in modern Germanic languages, according to L.S. Ermolaeva, are modal verbs. The external modality of a sentence is understood as the relation of its content to reality in terms of reality / unreality (objective external modality) and the degree of confidence of the speaker in the facts reported by him (subjective external modality). At the same time, the researcher considers moods to be the main means of expressing objective external modality in modern Germanic languages, and modal words, for example, vielleicht, wahrscheinlich, gewiss, are the main means of expressing subjective external modality.

Some linguists, for example, V.G. Admoni, interpret modality as a subjective-objective category on the grounds that in any sentence, partly by means of organizing the entire structure of the sentence, partly by special indicators, a certain assessment of the very content of the statement is additionally given from the point of view of its reality, and “this assessment is always active, it always affirmed … “.

In text linguistics, modality is considered as one of the main text categories. In foreign linguistics, one of the first who proposed to attribute modality not to the level of the sentence, but to the level of the text, was A.D. Kaksin, who considered modality as one of the constituent features of the text – a communicative unit of communication [8].

Linguists who study modality in the text propose to expand the general concept of modality, including emotional and evaluative meanings as its subjective aspect. The most essential category for expressing modality is the inclination: real – indicative, unreal – imperative and subjunctive. A subjective assessment of the content of an utterance may include a rational assessment by the speaker of the utterance in its relation to reality. This assessment expresses the reaction not of feelings, but of the mind and logic of the speaker’s reasoning. In addition to rational evaluation, subjective ones also include emotional, aesthetic, ethical, quantitative, and also logical evaluation. This includes: a plan for the reliability / unreliability of the reported, probability / improbability, possibility / impossibility, certainty / uncertainty.

Research in the field of modal particles was carried out by M. Turmair, G. Veidt, A. Krivonosov. They identified the following characteristic features of modal particles:

1) Modal particles are immutable.

2) Modal particles cannot give the same answer to the question.

3) Modal particles cannot take the first place in a sentence.

4) Modal particles refer to the entire sentence as a whole.

5) Modal particles are always shockless.

6) Modal particles are integrated in the sentence.

7) Modal particles are not members of a sentence and cannot act as equivalents of a sentence.

8) Modal particles form a sentence member with other words, belong to the predicate and represent, together with the verb, a “phonetic word”.

9) Modal particles are syntactically always optional, i.e. can be removed from the sentence without changing the grammatical structure of the sentence.

10) Modal particles are usually short monosyllabic words.

11) Modal particles are in the sentence after the verb, other members can stand between the verb and the modal particle.

12) Modal particles are not negated, therefore they face negation[9].

Modal particles are necessary and common in all cases when the speaker sees a specific interlocutor in front of him, and speech without modal particles is perceived by German speakers as dry, ungracious and overly categorical. Elimination method, i.e. the omission of an element from the structure of the utterance, allows you to see how modal meanings in the utterance change with the help of one modal particle and how you can influence the interlocutor or change your opinion about him. Wed, for example:

– Es klopft an der Tür. DasistAfra – Knocking. This is Aphra.

– Es klopft an der Tür. Das ist wohl Afra (Aufnahme) – They knock. Probably Aphra.

The examples given have shown that modal particles are an integral part of the sentence, they introduce various subjective-modal meanings into it, making the speaker’s speech lively, interesting, showing that the speaker is interested in direct communication with his interlocutor.

Most researchers do not recognize the presence of lexical meanings in modal particles. The idea that German modal particles have no lexical meaning arose to a certain extent due to the fact that they are difficult, and in some cases impossible, to translate into other languages. Sometimes their meanings are easier to describe than to find the corresponding equivalents in other languages.

There are a large number of modal particles in the Russian language, and therefore almost every modal particle of the German language can be translated using a particle. However, the German and Russian languages do not show complete coincidence in this respect. But modal particles have both a lexical meaning, which is realized in their sentence, and a stylistic coloring; they enter into synonymous relations with each other.

According to linguists S.A. Rotonova and Ming-Je Noon, we can distinguish the following series of important communicative-pragmatic functions performed by modal particles, while the same particle is able to have several functions simultaneously:

1) modal particles establish contact between the speaker and the listener, and also express their attitude to each other or to the described situation;

2) modal particles perform the function of expressing the relationship of the reported to reality;

3) with the help of modal particles, the speaker expresses certain positions, premises and expectations associated with the listener; modal particles are involved in the implementation of the speaker’s communicative intentions;

4) modal particles enhance the emotional impact on the interlocutor[10].

It should be noted that modal particles, like modal verbs, belong to the most common means of the modern German language. They convey various shades of modal relations, subtly differentiating the shades of the modality of the sentence. Even more than modal verbs, modal particles are used in everyday conversations and in colloquial style. The presence of them gives speech a special clarity, salience not transmitted by other means of national flavor.

In modern German, there are intensifying particles (sogar, selbst, zu), exclamatory particles wie, wieso; affirmative particle ja, negative nicht, nein; modal particles doch, denn, nur, nun, etc.

Consider the last group of particles, depending on the meaning and role in the sentence. Modal particles in modern German can be divided into the following groups:

1) modal amplifying (doch, denn, schon, nun, mal, einmal);

2) modal-restrictive (ja, bloß, nur);

3) modal in the proper sense of the word (etwa)[11].

Consider the last group of particles. The modal particle etwa is related in origin to the adverb etwa – “approximately” and means “perhaps, perhaps, probably.” Its distinctive feature lies in the fact that it does not just clarify the modality of moods, and sometimes changes it radically, introducing shades of assumption and uncertainty into the sentence.

The modal particle etwa is usually found in interrogative sentences; it is similar in semantics to the modal words vielleicht, wahrscheinlich and expresses shades of doubt, often untranslatable into Russian, for example:

Ist das etwa ein Witz? – is that witty?

Bist du etwa krank? – maybe you are sick?

Anna (lächelnd): klappt sie etwa nicht (die Sache)? – divorced

does it stick?

Ist das etwa ein Verbrechen? – Is this a crime?

Hatte sie etwa den Brief gelesen? – Have you read this letter?

As these examples show, in interrogative sentences the meaning of etwa, with its shades of mistrust and doubt, organically merges with the syntactic semantics of the interrogative sentence.

The modal particle etwa is somewhat less common in conditional sentences, for example: Sag es ihm wenn du ihn etwa siehst (sehen solltest) – Tell him if you happen to see him, as well as in negative, mainly imperative sentences: Denken Sie nicht etwa, dass … – don’t just think that .

The question of the particle etwa, as a means of expressing modality, was raised in German grammar a long time ago. Even in the grammar of I.K. Adelung, the adverb etwa stood out, which serves to express the state of mind of the speaker.

Klyuev E.V. follows also, as G. Shetenzak attributed etwa along with wohl, vielleicht, vermutlich, wahrscheinlich to modal adverbs (Adverbien der Aussage), expressing doubt[12]. I.K.A. Geise directly points to the modal meaning of the particle etwa, referring it to modality adverbs expressing assumption or doubt. Fr. Blatz also considered etwa to be an adverb of modality and believed that etwa, along with vermutlich and wahrscheinlich, limits the reality of the utterance. The ability of the particle etwa to indicate the degree of certainty of the statement is also emphasized in his work on German grammar by I. van Dam.

The question of which of the words the particle etwa = maybe, or the adverb etwa = approximately was historically earlier, has not yet been resolved. D. Zanders believes that the main type of the word etwa is the adverb etwa = ungefähr, and G. Paul puts forward another hypothesis that the adverb etwa is of secondary origin, that it is formed from the particle etwa in such affirmative sentences as – du verreist etwa[13]. G. Paul believes that it is in such sentences before quantitative data (Qualitätsangaben) that the meaning of ungefähr is divorced: es wird etwa Tage dauern. . Meanwhile, there is every reason to believe that both the adverb etwa= ungefähr and the particle etwa are the result of the development of the original adverb etwa= irgendwo along two lines, in different syntactic functions. It is characteristic that in the very original meaning of irgendwo there were already shades of uncertainty, presumption. These shades subsequently already in the 16-17 centuries. led to the allocation of a more specialized meaning of homonyms – the particle etwa and the adverb etwa, formed from the same source and developed in parallel in the language.

The particle etwa complements and modifies the modality of the sentence, its lexical meaning is erased, it conveys only the abstract concept of the assumption: Eugen, sagmal, bistduetwahierbeigewesen?

Unlike the particle etwa, the adverb etwa means “approximately” and is used most often with numerals:

Er hat etwa 3 Tage gewartet. – He waited about three days.

Etwa 5 Meter im Quadrat. – About 5 meters squared.

Summing up the study of the place of modal particles in modern German to express the assumption, it can be noted that modal particles are not yet a fully formed category of words, they are widely used in modern German, complementing and clarifying the semantics of other means of expressing modality. Modal particles do not just express or other thoughts of people, but also betray them in the most idiomatic and peculiar form. Modal particles add emotional flavor and inimitable expressiveness to the oral speech of the German people; these are the most lively and direct ways of conveying a person’s thoughts and feelings.


2.1. The meaning of emotionally expressive particles in modern German.

The term “emotionally expressive” refers to particles that express the speaker’s emotional and evaluative attitude to the situation reflected in the utterance, i.e. his feelings, experiences, as well as other connotations. This includes such words as doch, ja, mal, einmal, auch, eben, nur, schon, nun, etwa and others. In traditional grammar, they are usually called modal particles, which, in our opinion, does not correspond to the essence of this functional category of words.

Among linguists, there is no other opinion about whether functional words and, in particular, particles have lexical meaning. In general, the following points of view on this issue can be distinguished.

1) Particles are devoid of lexical and grammatical meaning, representing desemantized language units.

2) Particles are devoid of lexical meaning and have a purely grammatical meaning.

3) Particles are not completely devoid of lexical meaning, but this meaning is characterized by weakness, ambiguity, inferiority.

4) The lexical and grammatical meanings in the particles coincide, while the lexical meaning is dissolved in the grammatical one.

5) Particles have a lexical meaning, but this meaning is determined contextually, syntactically.

6) Particles have lexical and grammatical meanings that exist in close interaction with each other.

The first of the above points of view seems to us insufficiently legitimate, since it remains unclear what prevents particles devoid of lexical and grammatical meaning from acting as absolute synonyms in sentences of any construction and goal setting. As the studied material shows, particles in their use have rather strict distributive, lexical and situational restrictions that do not allow them to act as absolute synonyms. Apparently, the particles still have a peculiar semantic structure, and one of the tasks of the researcher is, in our opinion, to reveal this originality and show the specificity of the meaning of the particles in comparison with full-meaning words.

Emotionally expressive particles are morphologically invariable words, the semantic feature of which is that, outside of actualization in speech (at the level of naming), they have only a general (total) content, which is based on the concepts of various relations: restrictions (nur, schon) attachments (auch, noch), oppositions (aber, doch), indeterminacy (etwa), etc.

The grammatical meaning of a particle is accompanied by a conceptual lexical core that is specific to each particle and allows native speakers to recognize it as this particular particle, in contrast to all other particles with a similar grammatical meaning. This is the first purpose of the conceptual core. The reduction of the lexical meaning of the particle to a minimum is due to the fact that the particle should contribute to the expression of the emotional and evaluative attitude of the speaker to the content of the statement due to the manifestation of a pragmatic presupposition. V.N. Bashinsky singles out after L.M. Khacheresova, additional emotional presupposition. We include various connotations that are included in the emotional-evaluative attitude of the subject of speech to the subject of the statement; the representative of the additional emotional presupposition is the particle in the sentence. In what follows, for brevity, the term “additional emotional presupposition as a component of pragmatic presupposition” will be used.

As follows from the above, the particle must have the ability to connotative “load”. If the particle had a lexical meaning similar to significant words, there would be no vacancy in its semantics to be filled with various connotations. Having a real value, the particle could name, designate, but would not be suitable as a means of expressing the connotations that are part of the emotional-evaluative attitude of the speaker to the statement, i.e., it would not be a particle. Therefore, what is sometimes accused of particles as their main drawback (namely, the absence of a denotative meaning), upon closer examination, turns out to be their main advantage.

The second purpose of the conceptual core of the particle is that it contributes to the specification of the main emotional connotation that arises, as mentioned above, on the basis of grammatical meaning. Enrichment of the main connotation occurs through additional shades of the relation of the subject of speech to the subject of the utterance, arising as a result of the interaction of the lexical core of the particle with the composition of the utterance and consituation. In the absence of a conceptual lexical core, additional connotations “fell” through the particle without finding a lexical fulcrum.

From the above semantic characteristics, our understanding of the meaning of particles follows, which we define as the content of a particle, the peculiar nature of which is manifested, firstly, in the fact that it is based on the expression of the conceptuality of the lexical and grammatical components of its semantics, which is due to the functional features of this category of words.

Before proceeding to illustrate these positions, it is necessary to dwell on the concept of “function” as applied to particles. In the linguistic literature, the term “function” is interpreted ambiguously. With regard to particles, one can, in a number of cases, note the identification of function and meaning. Such a lack of distinction seems to us unjustified. As A.A. Ufimtsev, the word as a unit of language performs a number of functions in it: nominative (designation), significative (generalization), communicative (communication) and pragmatic (expressive expression and emotional impact). In full, the listed functions are inherent in significant words. Particles are characterized by the fact that they specialize in performing pragmatic, primarily, and communicative functions. The essence of the communicative function in application to particles is that they, expressing various shades of the emotional and evaluative attitude of the speaker to what is being expressed, convey certain information necessary to ensure the normal process of communication between people. The pragmatic function is realized by the particles through a number of concrete functions. At the same time, by the function of a particle, we understand the role, the task that they are called upon to perform in the language. Particles, therefore, perform two kinds of functions: 1) general language (pragmatic and communicative) and 2) a number of specific functions, which are the embodiment of a pragmatic function. The relationship of the latter with the specific functions of its manifestation can be defined as an invariant – variants.

The main emotional connotation (consent) is overgrown with additional connotations of indignation and indignation, manifested as a result of the interaction of the lexical core of the particle with the composition of statements and the constitution; additional connotations will basically remain even if the auch particle is removed, but with one significant communicative amendment: the main connotation aimed at a potential partner disappears, requiring him to approve the subjective reaction of the speaker, and demanding not dispassionately, but in an emotional form, which is achieved through transfer additional connotations on the recipient of information. Consequently, the presence of a particle in the utterance always indicates that the partner is addressed, even if this is a potential partner who is not present at the moment of speaking or is represented by the subject’s own “I”. It is in the focus on the recipient of information that the fundamental difference between particles and other means of expressing the emotional reaction of the sender of the message to what is being expressed, primarily intonation and interjections, lies: the former are always directed at the partner, the latter are optional.

The lexical meaning of the particle auch, providing the emergence of the main emotional connotation, simultaneously serves as a kind of “permission to stay” of the particle in the statement, consistent with the linguistic presupposition and the meaning of the latter.

Emotionally expressive particles as functional words characterized by morphological immutability, a peculiar semantic structure, serving for the expressive design of the utterance, due to the performance of various functions, primarily the function of expressing the emotional-evaluative attitude of the speaker to the subject of the utterance, and providing contact (feedback) with a partner in the act of communication .

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