The Use of Modals in Requests: A Communicative Study


ABSTRACTThe purpose of this paper is to study how the sociolinguistic variation is manifested in language use with reference to making requests in English ;and to investigate into the usage of modal auxiliaries in requests on the basis of a questionnaire. In this case one has to view language in it's broader context which extends beyond the linguistic context, ie, one has to view language in it's communicative context which includes the total context of situation for the speaker-hearer behaviour. The communicative context means the speaker's "competence for use", whereas the linguistic context means the speaker's" competence for grammar" (Hymes, 1972: 296).The communicative context includes paralinguistic factors which are both attitudinal and social. Among the attitudinal factors the intuition ,emotion ,and attitude of the speaker /writer lend great significance to the communicative role of language behaviour. For example ,the same sentence or utterance may have different attitudes of the speaker such as happiness, anger, or sympathy ,depending on the tone of voice and intonation. Example: 1.What are you doing?This sentence can have at least three different emotional attitudes:a .Simple question of neutral nature with a falling intonation.b . an acusing exclamation with prominent stress on" what" and "doing".c. An affectionate way of talking to children with a rising intonation in a gentle voice.As regard the social factors included in communicative context, situational context and role relationship are important factors for language choice and behaviour .Language activity in various contexts reveals differences in the type of language chosen as appropriate for different situations . These factors form the major components of registers.According to Halliday et al (1964:p.90),register is classified into three major dimensions: field of discourse ,mode and discourse ,and style of discourse. Field of discourse refers to the subject matter :technical ,literary ,journalistic ,etc. Mode refers to the medium of language activity –mainly spoken and written .Style of discourse refers to the relations among the participants which determine the language forms according to the relative status and the degree of intimacy .The scale of formality in language use moves from formal to informal. This aspect of sociolinguistic variation of language in relation to the structure of English will be focused on later in this paper.