LINGUIST List 5.258

Sun 06 Mar 1994

Disc: Double Modals

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  1. Ecological Linguistics,Anderson,PRT, Re: 5.253 Double modals
  2. Michael Picone, double modals

Message 1: Re: 5.253 Double modals

Date: 05 Mar 94 05:45 GMT
From: Ecological Linguistics,Anderson,PRT <>
Subject: Re: 5.253 Double modals

In the discussion of double modals by a couple of linguists recently, there is
a question oddly not asked. Using Larry Horn's example:

>The maximum number of modals in attested sequences was three,
>and 'should' and 'will' were found in addition to the others. Thus,
> He'll can come. 'He will be able to come'

It would seem we should ask whether "can" here is truly a modal? If it is "be
able to" under a different surface form (which it seems semantically to be),
then it is not a modal, even though it looks just like what is in other
dialects or even other sentences in the same dialects (?) a modal.

So we then would not have three in a row (in some other examples) ??

Lloyd Anderson
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Message 2: double modals

Date: Sat, 05 Mar 94 12:14:04 CSdouble modals
From: Michael Picone <MPICONEUA1VM.UA.EDU>
Subject: double modals

Tom King says:

>Concerning the forms which you did not hear, such as
>'may can', 'should could', etc.: 'may' and 'might' are the only elements
>which can occur first in a double modal, since they (esp. 'might') have
>the strongest sense of expressing possibility as opposed to certainty.
>Therefore, they are used to express the subjunctive senses. The second
>element can only be 'could' or 'should' since these alone are ambiguous;
>'may can' is unlikely, since 'can' only has an indicative sense.

Contrary to what the above would seem to imply, `can' does appear as a
element in the American South. A contact in Krotz Springs, Louisiana said
the following to me over the phone: "I'm not sure if I can help you, but I
might can." (I made immediate note of it for a colleague studying double
modals.) June 1992.

Mike Picone
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