Modality analysis: A semantic grammar for imputations of intentionality in texts

Carl W. Roberts, Cornelia Zuell, Juliane Landmann, Yong Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Modality analysis is a text analysis methodology that affords comparisons of how people from distinct cultural contexts differ in their accounts of why one or more of their numbers find specific activities possible, impossible, inevitable, or contingent. The technique is built around a two-part semantic grammar, the application of which involves the identification of modal clauses in texts, the classification of these clauses according to their modal forms, and the identification of rationales associated with the clauses' modalities. We show that with sufficient training the method affords high interrater agreement. After providing a few tips on data-collection strategies, results are presented from a modality analysis of editorials sampled from the Arab newspaper, Al Riyadh, and the Hindi newspaper, Hindustan. The analysis illustrates how modal expressions can be used in locating well-known (e.g., Islamic and Hindu) cultural characteristics from among the vast quantities of discourse that societies continuously generate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-257
Number of pages19
JournalQuality and Quantity
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2010


  • Arab
  • Culture
  • Discourse
  • Hindi
  • Semantic grammar
  • Text analysis


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