Date: Tue, 17 Oct 1995 09:19:53 EDT


Subject: Double/Multiple Modals

Sounds like a must read. Let me just add to Bethany's comment--

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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

Standard English."

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