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Abstract: Lewis

Does Blackfoot make formal distinctions based on modal strength (necessity or possibility) and type (epistemic, deontic, etc), and how are they expressed? Frantz (2009b) defines the affix aahk- as ‘might/non-factive.’ The data in (1a) seems to support this claim with an epistemic possibility reading. However, the data in (1b) seems to dispute such a definition with a stronger modal interpretation.


(1)       Kainaa Blackfoot
a.              na    imitaa-(wa) ahkohtahkomimmii                             ni possi

             na    imitaa-(wa) aahk-ohkott-(w)aakomimm-ii-(wa)  ni poss-i

         DEM dog-3SG   might-able-love-DIR-3SG       DEM cat-4SG ‘the dog could love the cat’ 

[Note: denoting epistemic possibility]


na    imitaa-(wa) ahkomwaakomimmii                    ni possi



na    imitaa-(wa)  aahk-oma-(w)aakomimm-ii-(wa)  ni poss-i


DEM  dog -3SG         might-yet-love-DIR-3SG                         DEM cat-4SG
‘the dog must love the cat’
[Note: denoting epistemic necessity]

The goal of this study is to provide a description of the distribution and use of aahk- in Kainai Blackfoot, and to offer an analysis that gives some insight on its semantic content. The study tests out various orderings between aahk- and the secondary modal which can accompany it. The study examines its scope relations with respect to negation. The modality descriptions will be limited to epistemic and deontic only. Furthermore, I intend to contrast Blackfoot modality against English and/or another First Nation’s language.


Bliss, Heather and Ritter, Elizabeth. (2007). Grammaticalizing information status in Siksika Blackfoot: a tenseless analysis. WSCLA 12, UBC Working Papers in Linguistics. University of British Columbia: Vancouver.

Frantz, Donald G. (2009a). Blackfoot Grammar: 2 Ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Frantz, Donald G., and Norma Jean Russell. (2009b). Blackfoot Dictionary of Stems, Roots,

and Affixes: Second Edition. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Hacquard, Valentine. (2000). Aspects of Modality. PhD thesis, MIT. Cambridge, MA.

Matthewson, Lisa, Hotze Rullmann, and Henry Davis. (2005)."Modality in St’át’imcets."

40th international conference on Salish and neighbouring languages.

Matthewson, Lisa. In press (2012). On the (non-)Future Orientation of Modals. To appear in Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 16.

Matthewson, Lisa. In press (2013). Gitksan Modals. To appear in International Journal of American Linguistics.

Palmer, Frank (1990). Modality and the English Modals. second ed. Longman, London.

Palmer, Frank R. (2001). Mood and Modality. Cambridge University Press: New York. Portner, Paul. (2009). Modality. Oxford University Press: New York.


* I would like to thank Issapoikoan and Ainootaa for consulting with me and providing the data used here.