Literary Stylistics:
Workshop Notes no. 8

Mood and Modality II

Page Index

Adjuncts and Their Metafunction
Modal Adjuncts
Importance for Stylistics
Problems with Halliday's Division
Modal Adjuncts: Amendments
      Mood Adjuncts
      Comment Adjuncts
The SFPCA Pattern: Stylistic Significance
      Consistency of SFPCA
      Changes of Mood
      Absence or Presence of Complement
      Nature of Adjunct
      Use of Non-Standard or Non-Native English

The Analysis of Modal Adjuncts:
Significance and Problems

The Stylistic Significance of the Analysis of Modal Adjuncts  

As was mentioned in a previous workshop,

The adjuncts which come under consideration in the analysis of mood and modality, are the modal adjuncts, which according to Halliday, 'express the speaker's judgement regarding the relevance of the message' (pp. 49-50; 49 of his Introduction)[1]. Modal adjuncts are further divided into

As modal adjuncts involve the judgment of the relevance of a message, they are clearly important for stylistic analysis. One can, for example, note the modal adjuncts in a passage, and ask oneself whether, or to what extent, they express or colour the opinions or perspectives (whether purely subjective or to an extent based on external evidence) of the author, narrator, or character in a narrative, or of the persona in a poem.

Some Problems with Halliday's Table of Modal Adjuncts

However, although the broad distinction between the modal adjuncts and the other types of adjuncts may not be problematic, some problems may be encountered in Halliday's division of modal adjuncts into mood and comment adjuncts. Halliday has given a list of modal adjuncts in Table 3(3) of the first two editions of his Introduction (pp. 50; 49) or Table 3(5) in the third edition (p. 82). According to information given later in the first edition of the book (see pp. 82 and 83 of the first edition), the mood adjuncts in Table 3(3) are listed under 'I', whilst the comment adjuncts are listed under 'II'. However, there are discrepancies between information given in the two places. In Halliday's listing of mood adjuncts on p. 82 of the first edition, the modal adjuncts indicating presumption are categorised as mood adjuncts there, but are listed under 'II' in the table, where the comment adjuncts should be. There is also the problem of categorising modal adjuncts indicating opinion under mood adjuncts in the table, when they should have been more appropriately listed within the category of comment adjuncts (this has been corrected in the second and third editions).

The discrepancies between the list and the earlier table are not found in subsequent editions, as the list found on p. 82 of the first edition is no longer found, although the mood adjuncts in Table 3(3) of the second edition (p. 49) or Table 3(5) of the third (p.82) , appear to be similarly listed under 'I', whilst the comment adjuncts appear to be listed under 'II'. Furthermore, the second edition does seem to have improved matters by usefully dividing the mood adjuncts up into a) adjuncts of polarity and modality, b) adjuncts of temporality and c) adjuncts of mood (pp. 82-3). There is a further advance in the third edition, where mood adjuncts are divided into adjuncts of a) temporality, (b) modality and (c) intensity (pp. 126-9), and there is also a separate discussion of polarity, which can also function as mood adjuncts . In this connection, the newer editions clearly indicates that words such as 'not', 'yes', 'no' and 'so' (which in the past, posed problems in some students' analyses), can be classified as modal adjuncts: there is further clarification on this in the third edition. Thus the function word 'not' which one would have a tendency to describe as a negative polar element in response to the first edition, can now be more conveniently described as a modal adjunct. However, one has to be warned that the other words in the list (i.e. 'yes', 'no' and 'so') may also function as discourse signallers or continuatives (see pp. 54; 53-4; 81, 145) in which case they are part of the textual metafunction of language, and hence cannot be regarded as modal adjuncts. In functional grammar, one looks at how these words are used in the text, and one should not automatically classify a word according to how it has been classified in a part of Halliday's book.

Due to the problems that may arise from one's reading of the first edition, it would thus be helpful if we could make some amendments to Halliday's table of modal adjuncts. But before doing that, one should firstly clear the ground by attempting to define the terms mood and comment adjuncts more clearly. In my view, a comment adjunct could be defined as a modal adjunct which is more dependent on the speaker's subjective opinion, whereas a mood adjunct is relatively less subjective and more reliant on crude statistical evidence.

With this definition, one can reconstruct Halliday's Table 3(2) of the second edition, or Table 3(5) of the third, which I have done below. However, my revised table of the modal adjuncts in English, in spite of having taken into consideration the three editions of Halliday's Introduction, and including a few more examples than those given in Halliday's table, is not complete, as the mood and comment adjuncts of the English language do not belong to 'closed' linguistic categories. You can, I am sure, add further examples of mood and comment adjuncts of your own. Moreover, the classification of the adjuncts depends on context, and some of the examples given here can be classified as circumstantial or conjunctive adjuncts depending on the context in which they appear. The revised table should therefore be used as a guide, and not as the ultimate arbitrator on modal adjuncts and on their further classification into mood and comment adjuncts, as there are, in addition to the context of usage, exceptions, overlaps and 'grey areas' in language in actual use.

Amended Versions of Halliday's Tables of Modal Adjuncts


Type Meaning Examples
1) adjuncts of
polarity &
polarity is or isn't not, yes, no, so
probability how likely? probably, possibly, certainly, perhaps, maybe
usuality how regularly? sometimes, often, always, never, ever, seldom, rarely, usually
readiness how willing? willingly, readily, gladly, certainly, easily
obligation how committed? definitely, absolutely, possibly, at all costs, by all means
2) adjuncts of
time at what phase? yet, still, already, just, soon
how often? once
typicality how typical? occasionally, generally, regularly, mainly, for the most part
3) adjuncts of
obviousness how obvious? obviously, positively, of course, surely, clearly
intensity to what extent? just, simply, even, merely, only
how genuinely? really, actually, in fact
degree how closely? quite, almost, nearly, scarcely, hardly, literally
how completely? totally, entirely, utterly, completely, absolutely

Type Meaning Examples
admissive I admit frankly, to be honest, to tell you the truth
desiderative how desirable? (un)fortunately, to my delight, luckily, regrettably, hopefully, to my distress
entreaty I request you please, kindly
evaluative how sensible? wisely, understandably, foolishly, by mistake, curiously enough, mistakenly, unwisely
opinion I think in my opinion, from my point of view, personally, to my mind
persuasive I assure you honestly, really, believe me, seriously
predictive how expected? to my surprise, surprisingly, as expected, amazingly, by chance
presumption how presumable? evidently, apparently, no doubt, presumably
reservation how reliable? initially, at first, tentatively, looking back on it, provisionally
validative how valid? broadly speaking, in general (terms), on the whole, objectively, strictly speaking, in principle

Deviation from the S{-f}-P-C-A Clause Pattern:
Grammatical & Stylistic Significance

The S{-f}-P-C-A structure of the declarative sentence per se is not really part of mood and modality. The arrangement of the constituents of the clause can be viewed as part of the textual metafunction of language rather than the interpersonal metafunction. However, there are at least two aspects of the S{-f}-P-C-A structure which has a connection to mood and modality: the section of the clause consisting of the subject and finite, which is part of mood, and the ordering of the constituents of the clause according to its clausal mood (i.e. whether it is declarative, interrogative or imperative), which will be discussed shortly.

Although the consistent use of the S{-f}-P-C-A clause pattern in Halliday's grammar may in itself be of stylistic significance, we will be considering the breaking of this pattern here.



Missing Complement

Non-Standard English


[1.] This is phrased as 'the speaker or writer's judgment on or attitude to the content of the message' in the third edition, p. 81. Back to earlier position in the text.
[2.] This disjunction between form and function will be discussed later in the semester in relation to grammatical metaphor and speech acts. In addition to the categories of clausal mood mentioned by Halliday, you may also consider the subjunctive mood. Back to earlier position in the text.
[3.] The essay 'Linguistic Function and Literary Style: An Inquiry into the Language of William Golding's The Inheritors' can be found in Essays in Modern Stylistics ed. by Donald C. Freeman (London: Methuen, 1981), pp. 325-360, or in Literary Style: A Symposium ed. Seymour Chatman (New York: Oxford U P, 1971), pp. 330-365. Back to earlier position in the text.

Texts to Analyse
Passage from Henry Fielding's Tom Jones
Another passage might be given during the workshop session.

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Last revised: 11 May 2017
Ismail S. Talib 1996-2017.