Academic journal article Scottish Language

Negated and Inverted Syntax of Modal Combinations in the Scottish Borders: Traditional Double Modals, Hybrid Double Modals and Exotic Triple Modals

Academic journal article Scottish Language

Negated and Inverted Syntax of Modal Combinations in the Scottish Borders: Traditional Double Modals, Hybrid Double Modals and Exotic Triple Modals

Article excerpt

1. Introduction: General Theories and Questionnaire Survey

Contrary to single modals in which only one modal auxiliary can be added in a Standard English sentence, multiple modality is a series of two or three adjacent modal expressions in a vernacular English syntax. It is possible to find different assemblings of modal expressions (Quirk 1985: 137) such as:

Traditional combinations:

CENTRAL MODAL         CENTRAL MODAL

MAY                       CAN
MIGHT                     CAN
WILL                      CAN

Hybrid combinations:

MARGINAL MODAL        CENTRAL MODAL

USED TO                  COULD

SEMI MODAL            CENTRAL MODAL

WOULD LIKE TO            COULD

CENTRAL MODAL         SEMI MODAL

MIGHT                 WOULD LIKE TO

Exotic combinations:

CENTRAL MODAL   CENTRAL MODAL   CENTRAL MODAL

WILL                SHOULD          CAN

CENTRAL MODAL   MARGINAL MODAL   CENTRAL MODAL

WILL                NEED TO         CAN

Hundreds of Double Modal (DM) and Triple Modal (TM) combinations can be created and several types of semantic orderings (Battistella 1995: 31) are possible.

The first set of these features is Epistemic-Root (E-R), representing the most common semantic ordering:

a--You might could fool some people. (Butters 1996: 271)

DM combinations also have other semantic ordering possibilities such as:

R-R: b--You used to could do that in the old house. (Butters 1996: 274)

R-E: c--Yes, we ought to might go now. (Coleman 1975: 96)

E-E: d-1 wonder if you may would help me. (Mishoe's corpus 1991: 15) And for TMs:

E-R-R: e--He might used to could run the marathon. (Mashburn 1989: 133)

E-E-R: f--He 7/ might can come the morn. (Brown 1991: 78)

R-E-R:

g--Oh well, if you're planning a trip we should might better go ahead have a look. How's Wednesday for you? (Montgomery 1994: 16)

Based on these seven possible semantic combinations, dialectal interpretations in general are quite numerous, especially when a single MM can adopt more than one semantic ordering. It depends on the social and cultural contexts in which a modal combination is used. Dialectal properties of MMs have regularly been considered as a problem for generative linguists such as Chomsky:

The English double modal auxiliaries such as might could pose significant problems for most formal syntactic theories, from Chomskyan generative varieties (e.g., Government-Binding theory) to phrase-structure grammars (e.g., Generalised Phrase Structure Grammar). In the Phrase Structure Grammar Approach, the English modals are heads of a V projection, [...], then, modal combinations are essentially ruled out. (Nagle 1995: 207)

Standard English grammatical rules of modality cannot be applied in this vernacular environment. The problem in Chomsky's theorisation resides in the non-connection between peripheral or extralinguistic factors and core internal linguistic factors. The separation of the core and the periphery should never occur since every dialectal phenomenon such as Multiple Modality is generated in the first place by individuals or human groups in a society. The reverse is not possible, as Tagliamonte (2012: 1) clearly states:

The domain of inquiry of sociolinguistics is the interaction between language, culture, and society. Depending on the focus, virtually any study of language implicates a social connection because without this human component language itself would not exist. (Tagliamonte 2012: 1)

Regarding the first appearance of these vernacular structures in the written medium, some authors, such as Nagle (1994: 202), consider that they are of recent use based on the earliest attestations of Multiple Modals (MMs) found in two Scottish texts written by Calderwood in 1756 and Alexander Ross in 1768:

If we get a German doctor, not one of us will can speak to him. (1756)
                                          E    R
The youth himself may can to rule the rost. … 
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