“A cannot get a loan for more than six years now”

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This paper discusses three constructions that express past time reference with modal verbs, as documented in a corpus of 18th and 19th century Irish English: (1) instances of the extended-now perfect with the modal verb can; (2) a past tense modal verb (e.g. <sc>could</sc>, <sc>might</sc>, <sc>should</sc>, etc.) followed by an infinitive of the main verb in contexts where present-day Standard English would expect a perfect construction; and (3) counterfactuals where a past tense modal verb is followed directly by a past participle, in which the perfect auxiliary <i>have</i> seems to have been reduced to zero. Thus, this paper adds to existing knowledge of the verb group in historical Irish English and of regional variation in English modality in general. Keywords: modality; tense and aspect; Irish English; corpus linguistics


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