A transatlantic perspective of variation and change in English deontic modality

Bridget Jankowski


This work presents the results of a corpus-based variationist analysis of the English modal verb must and the periphrastic constructions have to, have got to and got to, focusing on the variability and ongoing change in the use of deontic modality to express obligation or necessity in British and American English. The primary question of interest is whether the factors which are conditioning the variation in deontic modality are the same in both varieties of English, or if British and American English are undergoing different processes of change. The analysis shows that must specialized into identical grammatical contexts as it obsolesces in both varieties of English. However, comparison of constraint rankings for the three periphrastic variants shows that over time, they are being redistributed differently within the grammars of British and American English, and are continuing their process of grammaticalization.


English; Modal Verb; Periphrasis; Grammaticalization; Language Change

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