The syntax and semantics of Present-day English (henceforth PrE) modal auxiliary verbs are deeply rooted in an entangled net of both linguistic and extralinguistic factors constantly operating through the centuries; this host of features cannot, therefore, be overlooked when tackling the still much debated issue of modal combinations featuring sequences of two (or more) modal auxiliary verbs commonly called double modals. It is generally acknowledged that in standard PrE modals lack non-finites and cannot occur after other auxiliaries in their verbal group; consequently the following: *to can *(is) canning *would can have always officially been branded as wrong or non-standard. In the second half of this century, however, as a result of intensified sociological studies, co-occurring modals have been granted wider recognition, especially in non-standard dialectal varieties. More recent studies on the topic have confirmed that they are chiefly used in informal spoken contexts in large areas of the United States, in Caribbean English varieties, in Scotland and Ireland, and finally, although to a much lesser extent, even in written British English. Interestingly enough, colligations of two or more premodal auxiliaries already existed in the Middle English period (henceforth ME) and, as a result of their morpho-syntactic and semantic reanalysis, gradually disappeared by the Early Modern English period (henceforth EModE). Nevertheless, a sound agreement has yet to be reached in regard to the relationship between ME modal combinations and the current, full-fledged, double modals, which were apparently (re-)emerging towards the end of the eighteenth century and have been gradually developing throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In this paper I am further exploring the relationship between ME and ModE modal combinations. For this purpose, I will broaden the scope of my analysis to all ModE patterns featuring modal + finite auxiliary, in the firm belief that double modals are no isolated phenomenon in the history of this verbal class, but rather are strongly influenced by socio-historical and language-internal features affecting their ontogenesis. I will be focusing on the central modals (will, would, can, could, shall, should, may, might, and must), together with the modal catenative construction ought to, which was very much in use in ME modal combinations. The analysis will be supported with data drawn from two computerized diachronic corpora: the Helsinki Corpus of Older Scots and the Corpus of Late Modern English Prose; the two databases, which together span the entire ModE period, have been purposely chosen since they are representative both of socially and of non-socially marked varieties.

Modal combinations in Modern English: a socio-historical interpretation

FACCHINETTI, Roberta
1997-01-01

Abstract

The syntax and semantics of Present-day English (henceforth PrE) modal auxiliary verbs are deeply rooted in an entangled net of both linguistic and extralinguistic factors constantly operating through the centuries; this host of features cannot, therefore, be overlooked when tackling the still much debated issue of modal combinations featuring sequences of two (or more) modal auxiliary verbs commonly called double modals. It is generally acknowledged that in standard PrE modals lack non-finites and cannot occur after other auxiliaries in their verbal group; consequently the following: *to can *(is) canning *would can have always officially been branded as wrong or non-standard. In the second half of this century, however, as a result of intensified sociological studies, co-occurring modals have been granted wider recognition, especially in non-standard dialectal varieties. More recent studies on the topic have confirmed that they are chiefly used in informal spoken contexts in large areas of the United States, in Caribbean English varieties, in Scotland and Ireland, and finally, although to a much lesser extent, even in written British English. Interestingly enough, colligations of two or more premodal auxiliaries already existed in the Middle English period (henceforth ME) and, as a result of their morpho-syntactic and semantic reanalysis, gradually disappeared by the Early Modern English period (henceforth EModE). Nevertheless, a sound agreement has yet to be reached in regard to the relationship between ME modal combinations and the current, full-fledged, double modals, which were apparently (re-)emerging towards the end of the eighteenth century and have been gradually developing throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In this paper I am further exploring the relationship between ME and ModE modal combinations. For this purpose, I will broaden the scope of my analysis to all ModE patterns featuring modal + finite auxiliary, in the firm belief that double modals are no isolated phenomenon in the history of this verbal class, but rather are strongly influenced by socio-historical and language-internal features affecting their ontogenesis. I will be focusing on the central modals (will, would, can, could, shall, should, may, might, and must), together with the modal catenative construction ought to, which was very much in use in ME modal combinations. The analysis will be supported with data drawn from two computerized diachronic corpora: the Helsinki Corpus of Older Scots and the Corpus of Late Modern English Prose; the two databases, which together span the entire ModE period, have been purposely chosen since they are representative both of socially and of non-socially marked varieties.
Modal combinations; History of English; Corpus-based studies
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11562/310533
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