Modality is set apart from verb moods (including the indicative, which is marked by tense & evidence) in that the modal particles come just before the phrase that they modify. Most often they are placed in front of the verb phrase, but that can also be used with noun phrases. They are also optional, and can be used in combinations.
Questions are formed with the interrogative particle idha
. In front of the verb phrase, it poses a neutral question as to whether the entire proposition is true or not. For such questions, the reportative evidential is used, essentially asking "Can you report that X is true?".
Was/is the scholar sleeping?
The particle can also be in front of noun phrases, which shifts the question to whether it was that referent that was involved in the event or someone/something else.
Was the scholar reading the book (or someone else)? (emphasis added)
Was the scholar reading the book (or something else)? (emphasis added)
In front of a verb in the subjunctive, idha
turns the question into request for permission or whether the act ought to be undertaken.
May/should I read the book?
When combined with the imperative, the question can also be for permission, but such that the act should be performed immediately.
The negative particle anu simply negates the phrase it is placed in front of.
The novice is not reading. (I can see him.)
It's not the novice reading. (I can see him. It's someone else.)
With a subjunctive verb and interrogative particle, the question is whether the act should not be undertaken.
May/should I not read the book?
With an imperative verb, the statement becomes a prohibition.
The dubitative particle pëso
expresses that there is chance the proposition is true, but isn't very likely.
The monk might be praying. (But probably not. He doesn't usually do so at this time, but I haven't seen him elsewhere.)
communicates that there is a chance, and a decent one, perhaps 50/50, that the statement is true. There's a decent chance it's not, but it wouldn't be surprising either way.
The scholar could be reading. (I saw him go in the other room.)
The particle kona
expresses that the statement is most likely true. There's a small chance it's not, but that's not likely.
The scholar is probably sleeping. (He went into the bedroom some time ago and I haven't saw/heard him since.)
marks the speaker's certainty that statement, or at least the phrase that marked, is true and correct. It can be translated as "definitely", "surely", "certainly", etc.
The scholar is definitely sleeping. (I can hear him clearly!)
Because all of the modal particles can be placed in front of various phrases in a sentence, they tend to emphasize that phrase to some extent. The particle sa
explicitly marks the phrase as the focus of the sentence. It especially helps mark focus on the verb, since the other modal particles technically change the meaning of the entire sentence, rather than just the verb phrase.
The scholar is praying. (As opposed to someone else. I saw him.)
The monk is praying. (As opposed to doing something else. I saw him.)