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<i>May</i> and <i>might</i> in nineteenth century Irish English and English English

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Abstract

This paper discusses the use of <i>may </i>and <i>might </i>in 19th century Irish English and English English. It builds on Van Hattum (2012a), which found that in 18th and 19th century Irish English <i>might Vinf </i>was used in contexts requiring <i>may</i>/<i>might have Ven </i>in present-day English. This paper aims to find out if this development is due to regional or diachronic variation via a corpus-based study of these modals in 19th century Irish English and English English. The data shows no change in objective possibility contexts, but in subjective possibility contexts <i>might </i>loses the ability to signal past time, and thus requires a perfect to create a back-shifted interpretation of the proposition. Though the data show some small differences between Irish English and English English, generally it seems that the change identified in Van Hattum (2012a) is due to diachronic variation. Keywords: may, might, Irish English, 18th century, 19th century

References

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