Article published in:The Dynamics of Linguistic Variation: Corpus evidence on English past and present
Edited by Terttu Nevalainen, Irma Taavitsainen, Päivi Pahta and Minna Korhonen
[Studies in Language Variation 2] 2008
► pp. 129–145
The English modals and semi-modals: Regional and stylistic variation
This paper reports a study of the uses of modal auxiliaries (can, may, will, shall,must, ought and need), plus a set of related semi-modals (need (to), have got (to),have (to), be going (to) and want (to)), in three parallel corpora of contemporary American, British, and Australian English. Quantitative findings relating to regional and stylistic variation are presented, and consideration is given to the possible influence upon the relative popularity of modal uses of ‘Americanization’, ‘colloquialization’ and ‘democratization’. It is suggested that these external processes provide possible explanations for, inter alia, the differing fortunes of the moribund shall on the one hand and on the other those of the popular semimodalsbe going to and want to, the relative popularity of deontic have to andshould over must, and the differing fortunes of must and have got to.
Published online: 03 December 2008