A comparable-corpus based approach to the expression of obligation across English and French

Diana M. Lewis


A French-English comparable corpus of political discourse is used to investigate the expression of obligation across the two languages. The aims of the study are to look at the expression of obligation in the comparable genres in the two languages and to compare the contexts of use of deontic modal and semi-modal verbs, i.e. comparing their frequencies in contextual frames characterized by agentivity, polarity and event type. The focus is on the modal and semi-modal verbs must, need to, have to, devoir and falloir. While have to and falloir are more frequent than must and devoir respectively in the spoken languages, the reverse is the case in the political speeches. The five verbs are found to occur in similar contexts within and across the two languages in the genre in question. The study highlights the potential impact of genre on frequency and distribution and the interactions between genre-based patterns and ongoing change in the wider languages.


deontic modality; obligation; contrastive genre analysis; comparable corpora; political discourse; French; English

Full Text: PDF