Anna Daugavet

St Petersburg State University


A corpus-based study of the Latvian debitive vs vajadzēt



A corpus-based study of the two main verbal expressions of necessity in Latvian shows that the much more frequent debitive is commonly used in the present tense without negation while the less frequent vajadzēt is usually found in the subjunctive. An analysis of randomly selected examples of the present, past and future tense and the subjunctive demonstrates an almost identical distribution of deontic and dynamic uses of both modals with respects to grammatical forms without negation. With negation, there is a striking difference between vajadzēt, expressing prohibitions and criticism of past actions, and the debitive, conveying lack of necessity. The article also provides a discussion on how to distinguish between various types of modal meanings in authentic examples from a corpus.



Keywords: modality, modal verbs, dynamic and deontic necessity, debitive, Latvian