Modelling through Modality: (Re)shaping Brexit




Brexit, modal verbs, modality, political discourse, corpus linguistics


Due to Brexit, the UK has been involved in a continuous political debate between Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, and Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition. This paper compares and analyses the modality used in a corpus consisting of their political speeches until Brexit day. Modal verbs are used to express ability, possibility, willingness, certainty, obligation and necessity. Politicians’ choice of certain words can be a useful tool to affect voters’ decisions and modality is a resource which reinforces that influence. The findings show remarkable similarities between both politicians and reveal that possibility is the most frequent meaning of the modal verbs used in the corpus.


Download data is not yet available.


Baker, Paul. Using Corpora in Discourse Analysis. A&C Black, 2006.

“Brexit.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge UP, 2020, dictionary,

Bybee, Joan L., and Suzanne Fleischman, editors. Modality in Grammar and Discourse, special issue of Typological Studies in Language, vol. 32, John Benjamins, 1995.

Chilton, Paul. Analysing Political Discourse: Theory and Practice. Psychology Press, 2004, doi:10.4324/9780203561218.

Downing, Angela, and Philip Locke. A University Course in English Grammar. Prentice Hall, 1992.

Ekawati, Rosyida. “Power through Linguistic Modalities in Indonesian Presidential Speeches.” Discourse and Interaction, vol. 12, no. 1, 2019, pp. 5–28, doi:10.5817/DI2019-1-5.

Gisborne, Nikolas. “Dynamic Modality.” SKASE Journal of Theoretical Linguistics, vol. 4, no. 2, 2007, pp. 44–61.

GOV.UK. Government Digital Service, 2021,

Huddleston, Rodney D. English Grammar: An Outline. Cambridge UP, 1988.

Huddleston, Rodney D. Introduction to the Grammar of English. Cambridge UP, 1988.

Huddleston, Rodney, and Geoffrey K. Pullum. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge UP, 2002.

Jabber, Khalid W., and Zhang Jinquan. “The Modal Verbs: A Speech Act of Request in the Speech of the President of the United States Barak Obama.” The Criterion Journal, vol. 12, 2013, pp. 1–13.

Khomutova, Tamara N. “Mood and Modality in Modern English.” Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, vol. 154, 2014, pp. 395–401, doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.10.174.

Kilgariff, Adam, et al. “The Sketch Engine: Ten Years On.” Lexicography, vol. 1, no. 1, 2014, pp. 7–36, doi:10.1007/s40607-014-0009-9.

Lalić-Krstin, Gordana, and Silaški, Nadežda. “From Brexit to Bregret: An Account of Some Brexit-induced Neologisms in English.” English Today, vol. 34, 2018, pp. 3–8, doi:10.1017/S0266078417000530.

Palmer, Frank Robert. Mood and Modality. Cambridge UP, 1988.

Paltridge, Brian. Discourse Analysis: An Introduction. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2012.

Quereda Rodríguez-Navarro, Luis. A Morphosyntactic Study of the English Verb Phrase. 2nd ed., Editorial Universidad de Granada, 1997.

Quirk, Randolph, et al. A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. 1985. Longman, 2012.

Stubbs, Michael. Discourse Analysis: The Sociolinguistic Analysis of Natural Language. U of Chicago P, 1983.

The Jeremy Corbyn Archives. Labour, 2021,

Zhang, Jinghua. “A Semantic Approach to the English Modality.” Journal of Language Teaching and Research, vol. 10, no. 4, 2019, pp. 879–85, doi:10.17507/jltr.1004.28.




How to Cite

Orrequia-Barea, A., and E. Almazán Ruiz. “Modelling through Modality: (Re)shaping Brexit”. ES Review. Spanish Journal of English Studies, no. 42, Nov. 2021, pp. 127-53, doi:10.24197/ersjes.42.2021.127-153.