Double modal

RonButters at AOL.COM RonButters at AOL.COM
Sat Dec 30 15:47:11 UTC 2006

In a message dated 12/29/06 8:03:42 PM, laurence.horn at YALE.EDU writes:

> At 5:37 PM -0500 12/28/06, Paul Johnston wrote:
> >An interesting thing about double modals:  they apparently violate
> >certain "inviolable constraints" in GB grammar (I don't know about
> >even more modern Chomskyan models), since you're not supposed to be
> >able to (or, to can) negate on the second modal, and whether it's
> >Tennessee, Tyrone (N Ire) or Tranent (Scotland) that's EXACTLY what
> >happens.
> >
> >I might could do that for you  >>  I might couldn't do that for you
> >
> >A might cuid dae that for ye >>  A might cuidnae dae that for ye
> >My ex-mother-in-law, from Southern  Lanarkshire, had a million of
> >these so-called "performance errors", which were, of course, totally
> >systematic.  I'm sure there are many more throughout our South as well.
> >
> >
> >Paul
> I don't understand what constraints this would violate, especially if
> the first (epistemic) modal can be analyzed as an adverb (=
> "Perhaps/Maybe I couldn't do that for you").*  The negation on the
> modal would indicate that that's the highest predicate.  I'm also
> unclear on who, exactly, would (so-)call these performance errors, if
> they're systematic.  I'm no Chomskyan, nor do I play one on TV, but
> this has always been precisely the point of drawing the
> competence/performance distinction, as I understand it:  If it's part
> of one's grammar, it's not a performance error.  Am I missing
> something?
> LH
> *At least in the dialects I'm familiar with, the first modal in the
> sequence is indeed an external, epistemic one (= it MODAL be
> that...), and when it's "may/might" it can be paraphrased as
> "perhaps" or "maybe".

And--again--since people don't seem to negate the multiple modals (at least 
in the US--am I wrong about this?), how is this an issue? I'm obviously missing 
something here.

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list