Modals and quasi-modals

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The findings of the present study of selected modals and quasi-modals in matching corpora of Australian, New Zealand, British and American English reinforce those of diachronic investigations attesting to the rising popularity of the quasi-modals and declining fortunes of the modals in recent decades. That these two developments are connected is suggested by the near symmetrical results obtained across the four regional varieties and across the spoken versus written categories. American English appears to be in the vanguard of change, both in simple frequency terms and in the extent of the gulf in stylistic preferences between the quasi-modals and modals. New Zealand English emerges as the most conservative of the four varieties, with Australian and British English in between.


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