Multiple Modality is a rich and complex dialectal system which is spoken in many areas of the English-speaking world, notably in Central and Southern Scotland, Ulster, Northern England and in the American South. My study centered on the use of Modal combinations, viz. Double and Triple Modals in a region located in the South-Eastern part of Scotland, called the Scottish Borders. It is above all a dialectal research that is attempting to get a better understanding of the syntax of these combinations, in other terms describing the grammatical system of Multiple Modals in the region. What types of modal elements are present in Scottish Multiple Modals? Can we find sequences of modals that have no Scottish ties in the Scottish Borders? How modals are ordered in these combinations? Can additional grammatical elements accompany all the Scottish Multiple Modals? Based on the position and identity of each modal in the combinations, what are the possible semantic interpretations for the clauses themselves? Answers to these questions can shed light on a much clearer description of the reality of the Multiple Modality system in Southern Scotland. Such research has mostly been carried out in the United States, especially in North and South Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas since the 1970’s. Most researchers were Americans and focused exclusively on these four areas of the English-speaking world. The doctoral study I conducted for three years in the Borders has as a main goal to determine the current presence and development of Multiple Modals in this European territory where these dialectal constructions originate. Three surveys were conducted from 2011 to 2013 in the four counties of the Scottish Borders which are:
Roxburghshire (2011), Selkirkshire and Peebleshire (2012), Berwickshire (2013).
This research shows that this dialectal phenomenon is still present in this region. It is recognized by a great number of Scottish people in the 12 main towns of the Borders but spoken in reality by a minority only. The 165 questionnaires distributed for three years and the recordings of conversation led to this first conclusion. What is particularly surprising is the diversity of combinations spoken by the minority of informants. Based on their completion of the questionnaire, they have in their own Scots and (Scottish)-English dialects an amazing spectrum of different types of Double Modals. The most common combinations recognized and used in the English speaking world are termed core double modals which are might could as the “Queen of Combinations” (De la Cruz 1995: 82) and “Ubiquitous” will can (Nagle and Montgomery 1993: 102). The adjective core is used to mean that both combinations are exclusively composed of central modals based on the terminology of Quirk (1985: 137). This research revealed that the use of Double Modals by the population of the Borders goes beyond this classical type. Informants had the possibility to indicate, in several tasks of the questionnaire, their own combinations by replacing those that were already listed in these tasks. The reasons of choosing the questionnaire method are to let the informant have a free interpretation of this dialectal phenomenon. Informants are the main actors of this research and these questionnaires have been especially prepared to give the informants the means to express their own knowledge and general experience in the use of these combinations. The minority of informants who uses the Multiple Modality system indicates a path that is going to a great heterogeneity regarding the types of modal expressions used, the syntactic and semantic orderings of modals in these combinations. Quirk’s (1985: 137) scale of grammatical identities of modal expressions contributed greatly to the grammatical and syntactic analysis of Southern Scottish Multiple Modals. Of course this does not mean that all the combinations used at present have a typical Scottish origin. The reality of the field surveys allowed me to classify five different types of combinations used in the Scottish Borders:
By order of importance in the frequency, there is what can be called Hybrid modal combinations (used to could, should ought to). Contrary to core Double Modals, they are composed of diverse modal expressions that take the following grammatical identities such as Marginal Modal, Quasi Modal, Semi Modal, Comparative Modal. They are not many but they are spoken by the informants using Multiple Modality in their daily lives. One of the two elements of the combinations is always a Central Modal. Hybrid combinations remain a mix of modal elements.
The second most common type of modal combinations used by the minority of informants is traditional Scots Multiple Modals. Most of them are core Double Modals and are partly written with diverse spelling variants of the Scots language. The following combinations such as wull can, ‘ll no can, wunni can have been proposed by the informants themselves. They have never been listed in the questionnaire survey for the simple reason that they have never been mentioned in any combination lists located in previous European or American papers dealing with the Multiple Modality system. This already throws light on the potential extent of this research in Southern Scotland. Many more types of combinations never seen before can be detected in other regions of Scotland via the questionnaire survey. Like in the American South, it may lead to the creation of unique lists with a series of specific spellings that would reveal the true aspect of Multiple Modals in Southern Scotland.
The remaining three types of modal combinations do not know the popularity of the first two ones. They are mostly not Scottish and their use is more limited in the Scottish Borders’ society. However they need to be taken into account because they are now present in the communities of the Borders. They simply take part in the current development of the Multiple Modality system in Scotland which explains its diversity in the types of modal elements used. Northern English double modals such as might not could’ve or wouldn’t could are good examples to show the presence of Northumberland dialectal culture in the Borders. Both regions have been neighbors for centuries, which explains why informants easily recognized in the three surveys these English combinations even for those who never use a single modal combination. There is also a short list of American combinations such as may not could, may should and might better which have a limited use among the minority of informants who gets used to using combinations regularly. May and better are modal elements typically located in Texas (Montgomery and Mishoe 1994: 10) and North Carolina (Montgomery and Mishoe 1994: 9) lists of Multiple Modals. To finish, the group of Triple Modals such as will might can, will should can, may might can, might should ought to are barely recognized in the four counties of the region. Most informants did not know what to make of it except for the first two Triple Modals above because they are Scottish combinations particularly used in the town of Hawick (Brown 1991: 78). Their syntactic complexity based on the number and type of modals in presence does not reflect a natural use of these combinations for the majority of the informants.
This high concentration of modal combinations used by a minority of informants in this region is heterogeneous. This diversity implies a specific grammatical usage for each of them. Most of these combinations can be accompanied by English or Scottish negative adverbs such as never, not, nae, no, ny but their frequency of use in this type of syntactic form is always lower than in the affirmative form. The results obtained in the field indicate these lower frequencies in both the negative and interrogative forms for all the combinations contrary to the affirmative form. Negators have very precise positions in these selected combinations, especially “ubiquitous will can”. Informants in this research proposed two main alternatives to negate will can which are ‘ll no can and won’t can. The first one is the most frequent for the informants who use modal combinations regularly in their dialects. The rules are precise. The Scottish negator no, positioned between both central modals implies a contraction of the first modal. Will no can has never been found in any lists of modal combinations, not in this field research either. Regarding interrogative forms, modal combinations rarely invert in Yes-No or WH-Questions and this research clearly notice that in the questionnaires distributed, there are no modal combinations found in Tag Questions. This research tested 30 combinations for three years which in reality represents a small fraction of the total network of Multiple Modals. In this system, only a limited number of them in the Scottish Borders can be negated or inverted but it would not be surprising to notice the same situation in other regions of Scotland. The changes would intervene in the type of double modals that would be negated or inverted and/or the changes would be characterized by a change of position of negators or adverbs while the double modals would remain identical. For each combination accepting these other forms other than the affirmative, one or two syntactic variants are possible most of the time. Each variant can lead to a specific interpretation in the meaning of the sentence due to the position of one or two negators in the combination or the inversion of the selected modal. Thanks to this first extended dialectal research on the syntactic aspect of Multiple Modals in the Scottish Borders, I can already get a detailed outlook of the overall grammatical system of Multiple Modals in Southern Scotland. Beside Brown’s research on the syntactic understanding of Double Modals in Hawick Scots, no other detailed research on this European dialectal phenomenon has been investigated since then. The Scottish Borders represents the first step in a series of on-going field surveys in other regions of Scotland with the purpose to fully describe the syntactic and semantic specificities of the grammar of Multiple Modals spoken in Southern Scotland.