Simplification and redistribution
An account of modal verb usage in Tyneside English
This article considers patterns of modal verb usage, based on data collected from twenty informants from Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the north-east of England, which show differences from material taken from the Survey of English Usage, used as data in Coates (1983, 1995). The paper therefore attempts to describe and explain differences in the use of the modals between authoritative accounts of Standard English on the one hand and the informal spoken English of a sample of speakers from Tyneside on the other. I argue that the reason for these differences may be in part due to increased markedness (systemic, sociolinguistic and stylistic) of certain forms, which induces simplification (the (re)creation of regularity within the system, through focussing) and redistribution (where modalities previously expressed by certain modal verbs come to be expressed by other modals within the system). Throughout, I try to suggest an approach to variation which considers language-internal and language-external factors.
Published online: 05 December 2003
Cited by 8 other publications
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