Date: Tue, 17 Oct 1995 09:19:53 EDT
From: Larry Horn LHORN[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]YALEVM.CIS.YALE.EDU
Subject: Double/Multiple Modals
Sounds like a must read. Let me just add to Bethany's comment--
The constructions like "might could" are called double modals or multiple
modals. There are several good article or parts of articles, all of which are
cited in my not quite published article. There can also be three of them
if one allows in quasi-modals. Ex: might should oughta.
The best comment I have ever heard about them cam from Bill Labov in
an Institute talk one year. He discussed the form (and every grammar book I
have ever examined says categorially, "modals cannnot be combined in
English"), then exaplained their distribution in SOuthern English and
concluded, "Standard English may be considerd a subset of Southern
English. Southern English allows a wider range of variations then
I am trying to get bothe my double modal paper and my a-prefixing paper
finished and to journals RIGHT NOW.
==========[end Bethany's message]==================
--that at least some speakers in eastern Texas and southwestern Arkansas
accept garden-variety three-modal sequences, provided that the first modal is
(epistemic) 'might' and the third is (root) 'could':
He might should could finish 'Perhaps he should be able to finish'
A student of mine from Arkansas claimed 'might' could only ever occur as the
first modal in a sequence of 2 or 3, and 'could' or 'can' as the last. Among
permissible sequences were
He'll can come.
but the most frequently occurring was evidently 'might could'. The epistemic-
before-root ordering constraint appeared to be general at least within his