As a follow on to these comments, I have gone through a retagged a bunch of questions about modality or mood. I have also suggested these tag wikis:


The grammatical category of modality includes realis/irrealis, epistemic, and deontic modality. If you want to ask about the subjunctive, optative, etc. morphological systems, then use the "mood" tag.


For questions about grammatical mood, such as the subjunctive, optative, imperative etc. To ask about realis/irrealis, epistemic, or deontic modality, use the "modality tag".


Questions on modal verbs (such as the English verbs can, might, must, should, etc.)

I think that this conveys the distinction usually seen between the grammatical categories of mood, and the semantic categories of modality. (The grammatical formally grammaticalising the semantic in some languages.) Further discussion on these tags is welcome!

1 Answer 1


I am fine with the tags and and their proposed descriptions. But modality is a heavily overloaded term and not unique enough to act as a tag. From my perspective (which includes curating metadata for digital resources) modality is predominantly dealing with the written/spoken/signed/multimodal contrast. There is currently this question where modality is used in this sense.

Maybe we can have a tag for realis/irrealis, epistemic & Co. I don't know how to explicate modality in the sense of spoken/written/signed, is there a good adjective to add?

  • I don't think it is a very heavily overloaded term. Search Google for "linguistics modality" and Wikipedia, about.com, Quora, SIL, MIT, Oxford, Cambridge, UMD, and a bunch of other unis all use modality to mean the semantic category. Only three pages in the top 50 are about the medium of communication: 1, 2, 3. It's very much the minority use of the term.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 14:43
  • I think by far the most common sense of "modality" is the one I described above, and I don't think it's likely to be confusing. My guess is that your sense of the word is much more common among educators and perhaps ontology/databases than linguists. But I wouldn't mind if the official tag was "semantic-modality" and "modality" was made a synonym of it. Would "communication-medium" work as a tag for your sense?
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 14:47
  • (Perhaps the German equivalent of modality is more commonly used to refer to communication media? I only suggest it because I noticed on your profile that you have written a German book.)
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 14:49
  • 1
    @curiousdannii: My perception of modality comes from the Virtual Language Observatory ( vlo.clarin.eu ) where there is one facet named "modality" (enter a search term or click on "See all records" to get at the facet browser) filled entirely with all the ...ehm... modalities of linguistic expression. communication-medium is better than nothing at all, but I am not yet sure whether this is the best possible tag. Disclaimer: I am involved in the project behind the VLO. Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 14:58
  • How about "communication-modality"?
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 15:12
  • 1
    @curiousdannii: communication-modality sounds good to me, let's go for it when noone else enters the discussion. Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 15:49

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