A World of Possibilities (WoPoss) – Modal pathways over an extra-long period of time: the diachrony of modality in the Latin language is a project in Linguistics and Digital Humanities focusing on the study of the development of modality in Latin. Modality is a phenomenon by which all languages can put into perspective the factuality of a statement by qualifying its content as possible or necessary. From the description of objective possibilities and necessities (dynamic modality: “He can swim”) to the duties and rights (deontic modality: “According to the new law, it is forbidden”) up to the description of the speakers attitude in terms of probability (epistemic modality: “He must have already left”) modality is omnipresent in our daily life.
Through a diachronic approach combining theoretical linguistics and Digital Humanities and by means of a specific linguistic annotation platform, the WoPoss team is annotating a corpus of literary and documentary texts in order to trace the history of the Latin language, from its earliest beginnings up to the emergence of Romance languages. The team is also developing tools for scientific exchange and didactics, such as the Pygmalion software for the visualization of the semantic evolution in diachrony. Due to the transversal nature of modality, the project seeks to develop a network of linguists, literary scholars, philosophers, theologians, computer scientists, jurists, medical historians, and others, gathered around the fascinating subject of modality.