Date: Tue, 17 Oct 1995 13:02:26 EDT


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.