Multiple modals

Alice Faber faber at HASKINS.YALE.EDU
Fri Dec 29 16:45:49 UTC 2006

RonButters at AOL.COM wrote:
> In a message dated 12/28/06 3:29:13 PM, faber at HASKINS.YALE.EDU writes:
>> When you say that folks in your area find double modals confusing and
>> even unintelligible, is that in response to a direct question?
> 1. Generally, multiple modals do not appear in a questions, in my experience.

Agreed. But, somehow, I must have not made my intention clear. I wasn't
referring to a potentially confusing syntactic construct. Rather, I was
addressing the point that non-DM speakers find the construction
confusing, and wondering whether this confusion is evident in in vivo
conversational interactions or only when these speakers are asked
(metalinguistically) what a DM-containing sentence might mean.

> 6. All of this, of course, is in the archives, since this topic has been
> discussed many times here. This is not to say that I am complaining about re-do's,
> just that anyone who wants to check the archives can find more information.
> (I can also send anyone who wants it an offprint of an old article I did no
> this subject.)

I recall much discussion over the years of the geographic distribution
of double modals (in the US and in Scotland) as well as of which modals
combine and how. I don't recall a comparable amount of discussion of the
actual cross-dialect comprehension of double modals (though I do recall
comparable discussion of positive anymore).

Alice Faber                                     faber at
Haskins Laboratories                          tel: (203) 865-6163 x258
New Haven, CT 06511 USA                             fax (203) 865-8963

The American Dialect Society -

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