This paper examines the interaction between the Newār versatile verb mal ‘search, need’ and the range of epistemic, deontic, and dynamic modalities outlined in Palmer 1986. According to Givón 2001, modality codes the speaker’s attitude toward a proposition.
The attitudinal thread running through the modal uses of mal is that of necessity. With epistemic judgments, mal marks an inference as necessary, given the evidence at hand. In deontic directives, mal amounts to a command – a certain action or response on the part of the hearer is necessary. In deontic commissives the speaker finds it necessary to commit himself to a task. In volitives, the speaker’s need is to express a wish, a blessing, or a curse. In the dynamic modalities the necessity stems either from within the speaker (subject-oriented) or from external pressures that impinge upon him (circumstantial).
The evidential basis of a statement, whether eye witness or hearsay, is the modality that has the least to do with necessity, and the one to which mal has the least contribution to make. Thus mal is shown to have a wide range of interaction within the epistemic, deontic, and dynamic modalities, but in each interaction the contribution of mal highlights necessity as part of the speaker’s attitude to the proposition.