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      The semantics, sociolinguistics, and origins of double modals in American English: New insights from social media

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          Abstract

          In this paper, we analyze double modal use in American English based on a multi-billion-word corpus of geolocated posts from the social media platform Twitter. We identify and map 76 distinct double modals totaling 5,349 examples, many more types and tokens of double modals than have ever been observed. These descriptive results show that double modal structure and use in American English is far more complex than has generally been assumed. We then consider the relevance of these results to three current theoretical debates. First, we demonstrate that although there are various semantic tendencies in the types of modals that most often combine, there are no absolute constraints on double modal formation in American English. Most surprisingly, our results suggest that double modals are used productively across the US. Second, we argue that there is considerable dialect variation in double modal use in the southern US, with double modals generally being most strongly associated with African American Language, especially in the Deep South. This result challenges previous sociolinguistic research, which has often highlighted double modal use in White Southern English, especially in Appalachia. Third, we consider how these results can help us better understand the origins of double modals in America English: although it has generally been assumed that double modals were introduced by Scots-Irish settlers, we believe our results are more consistent with the hypothesis that double modals are an innovation of African American Language.

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          The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language

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            Language in the Inner City

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Data curationRole: Formal analysisRole: InvestigationRole: MethodologyRole: Project administrationRole: ResourcesRole: SoftwareRole: SupervisionRole: ValidationRole: VisualizationRole: Writing – original draftRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Data curationRole: Formal analysisRole: InvestigationRole: MethodologyRole: Project administrationRole: ResourcesRole: SoftwareRole: SupervisionRole: ValidationRole: VisualizationRole: Writing – original draftRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: Editor
                Journal
                PLoS One
                PLoS One
                plos
                PLOS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
                1932-6203
                2024
                24 January 2024
                : 19
                : 1
                : e0295799
                Affiliations
                [1 ] Department of English, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, Lyon, France
                [2 ] Department of English Language and Linguistics, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom
                The University of Lahore, PAKISTAN
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Author information
                https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7079-449X
                https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3630-7349
                Article
                PONE-D-23-12281
                10.1371/journal.pone.0295799
                10807846
                60e54c33-51cd-4157-a192-3be479747078
                © 2024 Morin, Grieve

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                History
                : 25 April 2023
                : 30 November 2023
                Page count
                Figures: 6, Tables: 5, Pages: 33
                Funding
                Funded by: Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK)
                Funded by: Economic and Social Research Council (UK)
                Funded by: Jisc (UK)
                Award ID: 3154
                Funded by: Institute of Museum and Library Services (US)
                The research reported in this article was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK), the Economic and Social Research Council (UK), Jisc (UK) (Jisc grant reference number 3154), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (US), as part of the Digging into Data Challenge (Round 3). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Categories
                Research Article
                Social Sciences
                Linguistics
                Semantics
                People and places
                Population groupings
                Ethnicities
                African American people
                Social Sciences
                Sociology
                Communications
                Social Communication
                Social Media
                Twitter
                Computer and Information Sciences
                Network Analysis
                Social Networks
                Social Media
                Twitter
                Social Sciences
                Sociology
                Social Networks
                Social Media
                Twitter
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Neuroscience
                Cognitive Science
                Cognitive Psychology
                Language
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Psychology
                Cognitive Psychology
                Language
                Social Sciences
                Psychology
                Cognitive Psychology
                Language
                Social Sciences
                Linguistics
                Sociolinguistics
                Dialectology
                Social Sciences
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                Grammar
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                Social Sciences
                Linguistics
                Linguistic Morphology
                Social Sciences
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                Sociolinguistics
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