Date: Sat, 2 Jul 1994 08:19:00 +1200


Subject: Re: Double modals in Utah

Defining Modals More Tightly

As I conceded the term modal can and is used in different ways.

For the purposes of the thread which was discussing a particular

syntactic usage and its distribution, the definition on morphological

and syntactic grounds is the most useful.

I didn't bother to spell out all the syntactic classes in detail as

I presumed that the defining of this particular class would be old hat

to those on the list. Nor did I state that this class is limited (a

closed set) because as stated previously it varies slightly with dialect.

Two syntactic features are as suggested already lack of do support

and the bare infinitive without to.

Ought does vary too. I don't use it at all in my English, using should

instead. My wife does but she has do support:

I didn't ought to do it.

Used to - has do support for I would say most speakers

Didn't you used to go there a lot?

I know there are speakers who say oughtn't, and I have seen in old-fashioned

books for learners - Usedn't - so there is some variation - language is


Finally I would use the terms "modal verb" or simply "modals" in a different

way to "modal expressions" and include "ought, have to" in the latter. I

would probably wish to work "is to" and "used to" into a description of

aspect. It all depends on your model (or brand of religion). As for

me, I'm not keen on government or bondage.

George Halliday