Modality in the Forum conversations
“The nature of scenarios is possibilities, not probabilities” – Facilitator, March 1st
This blogpost focuses on the use of markers of modality in the Forum discussions of November 2nd 2011 and March 1st 2012.
Given their brief to focus on possible scenarios for Birmingham in 2050, it seems intuitive that speakers would express varying degrees of commitment and likelihood for potential futures.
‘Modality relates to how valid the information is being presented as in terms of probability (how likely it is to be true) or usuality (how frequently it is true)’ (Thomson, 1996). Modality is expressed in a number of ways, such as modal auxiliary verbs (e.g. may, might, will) and certain adverbs (possibly, likely, probably).
The table below displays the frequencies of a selection of modal items in the data from both conversations.
By far the most frequent modal adverb in the data is probably, with a total of 102 occurrences across both sets of conversations. The interactive visualisation allows you explore this item in context – click on the image and then on a word to zoom in.
Compare this with the next visualisation, which shows all the occurrences of ‘possibly’ in the data.