Glossary of Linguistic Terms

Mood And Modality


Mood is one of a set of distinctive forms that are used to signal modality.

Modality is a facet of illocutionary force, signaled by grammatical devices (that is, moods), that expresses:

  • the illocutionary point or general intent of a speaker
  • a speaker’s degree of commitment to the expressed proposition's believability, obligatoriness, desirability, or reality

The term mood is used by some authors in the same sense modality is.

Others distinguish the two, as we do here, by using mood to refer to the contrastive grammatical expressions of different modalities and reserving modality to refer to the meanings so expressed.

If, in addition, modality is used to refer to meanings expressed by lexical means as well as grammatical, it is effectively a synonym of illocutionary force.



Here are some examples of mood and modality; items that signal certain modalities:

  • Verbal inflections
  • Auxiliary verbs