double modals (was: fronted /oU/)

Donald M. Lance LanceDM at MISSOURI.EDU
Mon Nov 6 20:24:50 UTC 2000

There was a lengthy discussion of double modals on ADS-L several years ago.  There's an
excellent ESL book -- THE GRAMMAR BOOK -- that has a thorough discussion of modals.
Modals may express possibility/probability ('might' in 'might could') and some kind of
social interaction or potential social contract such as expressing willingness etc. ("I
might could help you").  Double modals in everyday speech are not rare in Missouri or
Texas, but rather are used when the communicative situation calls for them.  Fussier
people might prefer to say "I may/might be able to help you," opting for the phrasal
modal, which tends to occur in second position when there are two.  There may be a
politeness feature to either the possibility or the social function.

P2052 at AOL.COM wrote:

> I've never perceived a "politeness" function of these "serial modals."  In
> fact, I have sensed more of a "doubt" or "hesitancy" motive on the part of
> the speakers--a phenomenon quite similar to the ever-increasing pairing of
> "kinda" and "sorta," as in "I kinda (=kind of) sort a (=sort of) think I'll
> be able to do it."  These serial modals occur in the same context (Cf. I
> think I might could/can/would do it.)
>                                      PAT

More information about the Ads-l mailing list