Chapter published in:English Historical Linguistics 2008: Selected papers from the fifteenth International Conference on English Historical Linguistics (ICEHL 15), Munich, 24-30 August 2008.. Volume I: The history of English verbal and nominal constructions
Edited by Ursula Lenker, Judith Huber and Robert Mailhammer
[Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 314] 2010
► pp. 165–182
Current change in the modal system of English
A case study of must, have to and have got to
This paper takes the variation between must, have to and have got to as a window through which to view changes in the modal system in Present-Day British English (1960s–1990s). The results from this study show a dramatic decrease in frequency of the core modal must and a significant increase in frequency of the semi-modal have to in the Diachronic Corpus of Present-Day Spoken English (DCPSE). Changes in the modal system affect both epistemic and root uses of must, although have to is only an active rival to root must; epistemic instances of have to (and have got to) are rare in the corpus. We suggest that a tendency to avoid expressions of strong commitment is the cause of the decline in must. This is supported by similar falls in the frequency of should and ought found by Leech et al. (2009).
Published online: 28 October 2010
Cited by other publications
Amador-Moreno, Carolina P., Karen P. Corrigan, Kevin McCafferty & Emma Moreton
Penry Williams, Cara & Minna Korhonen
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