Epistemic possibility

Linguistic modality includes necessity and possibility (Psbl), each with a situational (objective, fact-based) and an epistemic (subjective, speaker-specific) variant.[1] Epistemic possibility indicates that the described information is assumed, based on the speaker’s personal opinion.[2] Epistemic necessity can be expressed through the use of verbal affixes or clitics, verbal constructions (such as periphrasis)[3], and other markers, such as particles, adverbials, nouns, adjectives, and phrase- or clause-level clitics. These strategies may serve multiple functions, in addition to expressing epistemic necessity.


EpsPsblAff: Epistemic possibility is expressed through the use of verbal affixes.[4]

EpsPsblV: Epistemic possibility is expressed through the use of verb constructions.

EpsPsblNonaffNonV: Epistemic possibility is expressed through a strategy other than verbal affixes and verb constructions.[5]

When a language displays more than one strategy, multiple values can be listed. If one strategy is dominant, a slash (/) can separate the two values, with the dominant value appearing first; if neither is dominant, they are listed with an ampersand (&) separating the two.


[1] Situational possibility refers to a situation in which an agent is either capable of an action, allowed to perform it, or faces no objective obstruction from performing it.

[2] Consider the following examples: The train may be delayed. He may not know the answer. They may be staying for a while.

[3] This strategy includes the use of auxiliaries and quasi-auxiliaries, such as words that have lexical meanings such as ‘become’ and ‘give.’ Both auxiliaries and quasi-auxiliaries should show agreement with the subject or be the finite verb of an impersonal construction. Main verbs that express meanings such as ‘I think’ or ‘I’m guessing’ do not fall under this value.

[4] This value applies even if the use of verb affixes is not the only strategy available in the language for the expression of situational possibility.

[5] This should be detailed in the commentary.