Date: Tue, 17 Oct 1995 13:02:26 EDT
From: Larry Horn LHORN[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]YALEVM.CIS.YALE.EDU
Subject: Re: Double/Multiple Modals
Dan Alford writes,
A great discussion! Kudos to all. I remember talking to James Sledd in
the summer of 1971, where he taught summers at Montana State University,
Bozeman. I was fresh out of Chomskyan UCLA training, and couldn't figure
out this old coot, a dyed-in-the-wool structuralist who would have
nothing to do with this new-fangled transformational stuff. And guess
what?! He pointed to the existence of double modals as an Achilles heel
for TG -- which I guess today would extend to GB and others as well.
Gee--I wonder if Moonhawk and I were attending the same UCLA back then. I
remember a far less monolithic department, and I also remember double modals
constituting an interesting empirical challenge for any position claiming that
every dialect of English contains modal auxiliaries whose distribution is
constrained in accordance with the analysis of Chomsky (1957). (WAS there any
such position?) I remember bringing up multiple modal dialects as an
indirect argument for Haj Ross's analysis in his "Auxiliaries as Main Verbs"
paper (1967), an analysis just as "TG"ish as the Syntactic Structures approach,
and I remember others pointing out that one way to distinguish the standard
dialect from the multiple modal dialect is precisely in terms of whether
modals constitute a distinct category (a la Chomsky) or just a specialized
"defective" instance of verbs. I don't "do" GB now anymore than I "did"
standard-brand TG back then, but I don't see why a set of data from a dialect
of English that can't be handled by a particular analysis of another dialect
of English demonstrates a flaw in that analysis (although it may well have
one), much less an Achilles heel in the theory in which that analysis is
couched. And now I will step down from the pulpit, after noting that formal
grammarians are very much aware of the variation in the distribution of
auxiliary verbs in general--indeed, the structure of auxiliaries has been a
hot topic for 20 years--and, as Edwin Battistella's recent work show, of mul-
tiple modal dialects in particular.