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CJLS: Vol. 8 No. 1, June 2020

Expressing (Un)certainty through Modal Verbs in Advance Fee Fraud Emails

  • Isioma Maureen Chiluwa & Stephen Anurudu
June 3, 2020


Advanced fee fraud is a common form of online financial scam on the Internet. Previous researchers have attempted a broad study of the nature and narrative features of this scam.  The current study attempts a linguistic analysis of 200 samples of advanced fee scam emails and examines specifically how modal auxiliary verbs are used to express certainty or uncertainty in the scam. For instance, modal verbs are commonly used to direct, promise, threaten and even serve politeness functions in scam emails. Deontic modal verbs such as “will†is found to be the most frequent verb in the data and is manipulatively deployed at speaker-oriented level of discourse to express commitment on the part of the speaker and impose some obligation such as ensuring the interaction proposed in the letters remain secret.  Findings from the study reveal that the manipulative use of modal verbs contributes to the success of the proposed scam.