¿Opiniones, normas o pura necesidad?: La modalidad deóntica y la modalidad dinámica a través de deber tener que

  • Datum:
  • Plats: Ihresalen, Engelska parken, Thunbergsvägen 3L, Uppsala
  • Doktorand: Thegel, Miriam
  • Om avhandlingen
  • Arrangör: Institutionen för moderna språk
  • Kontaktperson: Thegel, Miriam
  • Disputation


This study focuses on the notions of deontic and dynamic modality in Spanish and how they are expressed through the modal verbs deber ‘must’ and tener que ‘have to’. The analysis is based on a corpus of political debates from the European Parliament, conducted 2010‒2011 by Spanish MEPs. In total, 578 occurrences of deber and 334 occurrences of tener que have been studied in detail, in order to understand their semantic and pragmatic behavior.

Out of the 912 cases, 860 were classified as deontic necessity and 52 as dynamic necessity. When separating the deontic readings from the dynamic ones, the notions of volitivity and factuality proved to be crucial: whereas deontic cases are volitive and non-factual, dynamic cases can be described as non-volitive and, to a high extent, factual.

In order to further examine the deontic uses, four classificatory variables were taken into account, namely, grammatical person, degree of agentivity, tense and source of the necessity. The distributions of deber and tener que were analyzed using Chi-square tests. Statistically significant differences were found for all four variables. The results show that deber is highly preferred in the third person, whereas tener que occurs equally often in the first and third person. Moreover, deber occurs more frequently in contexts which obscure the responsible agent, such as the impersonal se construction and inanimate subjects. As far as tense is concerned, the major difference between deber and tener que is found in the conditional tense, where tener que barely occurs, while deber is fairly frequent. A final difference between the two verbs is that the speaker usually is the source of the necessity when tener que is used, whereas deber is the first option when the speaker refers to another source or authority.

In conclusion, it is argued, firstly, that there is a clear difference between deontic and dynamic modality in Spanish, and secondly, that deber and tener que display different semantic and pragmatic functions in deontic contexts, pointing towards an intersubjective use of deber and a subjective use of tener que.