Variation between modal adverbs in British English
The cases of maybe and perhaps
Daisuke Suzuki | Japan Society for the Promotion of Science | Setsunan University | Kyoto University
This study investigates the use and distribution of the synonymous adverbs maybe and perhaps in
order to determine their functional similarities and differences. After extracting usage data from the British National Corpus
(BNC), this study explores the following factors by analyzing the target adverbs in a larger context: (i) the kind of register,
(ii) the kind of NP chosen as the subject in maybe/perhaps clauses, (iii) the kind of modal verb used in the same
clause, and (iv) the position occupied by the target adverbs in a clause. The corpus analysis demonstrates that
maybe is more prone to subjective use while perhaps is a more strongly grammaticalized item,
and that the factors related to a highly subjective context contribute much to the variation between the adverbs. In addition, I
suggest that both maybe and perhaps (in combination with modal verbs or in final position) can
be used in an intersubjective context.
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