Towards a Diachronic Study of Modal Adverbs: a Case Study of "certainly"


  • Carmen Maiz
  • Jorge Arus


modality, modal adverbs, diachronic analysis, certainly


There is extensive bibliography devoted to the topic of modality (Coates 1983; Palmer 1990; Kärkkäinen 2003 among others), including the study of modal adverbs illustrated by more recent studies such as Hoye (1997) or Downing (2002). The majority of these studies feature a synchronic rather than diachronic approach. To fill that gap, the current paper analyses the evolution of certainly from the 19th century to present-day English. The results presented in this study are but a preliminary stage of a more extensive project currently being carried out at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. As the analysis will show, there has been a progressive specialization of certainly, its use having more of an intra-clausal than a discursive value, save for conversational agreement, i.e. agreement with a previous turn.


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How to Cite

Maiz, C., & Arus, J. (2021). Towards a Diachronic Study of Modal Adverbs: a Case Study of "certainly" . Philologia, 6(1), 17–25. Retrieved from



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