The interplay of modal verbs and adverbs
As Hoye (1997) points out, harmonic combinations of modal verbs and modal adverbs are not uncommon in Present-Day English. The present paper explores semantic and syntactic aspects of one of such combinations, namely <i>mæg</i> <i>eaþe</i> ‘may easily’, from a diachronic perspective. The collocation is attested at the earlier stages of the development of the language, that is, in Old English and Middle English. I aim to show that as early as in Old English, the adverb <i>eaþe</i> ‘easily’ helps to reinforce possibility-based meanings of <i>mæg</i> ‘may’, including epistemic possibility. The Middle English range of contexts in which <i>mæg eaþe</i> ‘may easily’ occurs is more limited, which ultimately leads to the demise of the combination toward the end of the Middle English period. I also examine the issue of the extent to which the collocation is lexicalized in the respective periods, especially with evidence from such factors as decomposition of meaning, productivity and substitutability.