The present study uses corpus-assisted discourse analysis to examine the role of modality in policy verb phrases, using California opioid policies as a case study. By tracking the behavior of permissive and restrictive modals across time, this study highlights two potential discourse functions of modals in policy drafting: (i) to reflect the gravity of the issues on the ground, and (ii) to express permission and restriction by highlighting and deemphasizing a policy's suggestive intent, respectively. This study shows that the increased use of restrictive modality has significant positive correlations with California's worsening opioid crisis and its rising fatalities. A closer examination of state policy amendments reveals that altering policy modals has the potential to either broaden or limit the terms of existing policies. Informed by Van Dijk's ‚Äúcontext models,‚Äù this study provides a cogent applied corpus linguistics framework for analyzing policy text and offers both political and linguistic perspectives into our understanding of modals and how communities address epidemics, respectively.
- The role of modals in policies
- Applied corpus linguistics
- Discourse analysis
- modal verbs