English Comparative Modals



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The English Comparative Modals – A Pilot Study* Johan van der Auwera and Astrid De Wit University of Antwerp 1 Introduction English has a number of modal constructions which could be called ‘comparative’. The core examples of these comparative modals contain an auxiliary and an adverbial of comparison. There are three subtypes, depending on whether the adverb is a superlative (1a), a comparative (1b) or an expression of equality (1c). Within each subtype, one can distinguish further subtypes, depending on the type of auxiliary or the type of adverbial. (1) a. b. c. had best, ’d best had better,’d better, better would rather, ’d rather, had rather, should rather would sooner, ’d sooner, had sooner, should sooner would (just)as soon as may (just)as well might (just)as well (2), (3), and (4) offer some illustrations: (2) “Then we had best waste no more time,” Hiran said, reaching for his communicator. (FROWN M03 197) (3) Years back, he intimated that - after more than 20 years in the business - he would still rather sing than do anything else. (LOB E11 160) (4) Not many people round here come about this house these days. Sarah is it. For the rest, it might as well be a leper colony. (FLOB K12 101) These constructions have not attracted much attention and, to our knowledge, they have not been considered as constituting a kind of (marginal) paradigm.1 Quirk et al. (1985: 141-142), for instance, do discuss the constructions with better and rather, but they are considered on a par with have got to and be to, and are called ‘modal idioms’, presumably because they are all multi-word constructions. As for the superlative and equative constructions, Quirk and collaborators are unsure and suggest that these constructions “might be placed in the same category” (Quirk et al. (1985: 142)). The most important classical English modality worker, Frank Palmer (e.g. Palmer (1990: 82, 167)) sees a loose connection between better and rather constructions, and earlier even with let’s (Palmer (1979: 164-165, 1989: 171)).2 Perhaps the most recent study is Mitchell (2003): he argues for a connection between comparative had better and equative might as well, but he does not discuss any of the other constructions. In this paper we focus on some aspects of the usage of the comparative modals in late twentieth century UK and US English. Our sources are the LOB and FLOB corpora for UK English, and the BROWN and FROWN corpora for US English. All corpora have 1 million 1 Moreover. This is shown in Table 2. In general. do not show that any one construction is more typical of either US or UK English. Table 1 documents the frequencies of the comparative modals in the LOB. 2 Frequencies We have already said that the comparative modals are relatively understudied. We do agree with Leech (2003: 229-230) that the frequency of the better modals has declined on both sides of the Atlantic. we also abstain from significance tests. For reasons of space. the work reported here cannot offer more than tentative hypotheses. etc. the longer had better and the shorter better are among the least infrequent and if we cluster frequencies only on the basis of the adverbial component – thus comparing constructions with better. rather. and in FROWN it yields the top position to had better.5 2 . Note also that our findings. It wins out in LOB.4 LOB UK 60s 0 had best 0 ’d best 8 had better 27 ’d better 5 better 8 would rather ’d rather 13 0 had rather 0 should rather 1 would sooner 1 ’d sooner 0 had sooner 0 should sooner would (just) as soon as 1 2 may (just) as well 9 might (just) as well 75 FLOB UK 90s 0 0 6 19 6 8 10 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 10 59 BROWN US 60s 0 0 11 15 10 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 9 58 FROWN US 90s 2 0 12 11 10 5 9 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 11 62 Totals 2 0 37 72 31 27 38 0 1 1 1 0 0 1 5 39 254 Superlative Comparative Equative Totals Table 1: Comparative Modals: Frequencies Table 1 shows that the most frequent of these infrequent constructions is ’d better. FLOB. but is still very close. we have restricted ourselves to the description of the better and the rather families. given the low frequency of the comparative modals.words and document written English from the 1960s (LOB and BROWN) and the 1990s (FLOB and FROWN). which can serve as guidelines for follow-up in-depth work. BROWN and FROWN corpora. FLOB and BROWN. This does not confirm the claim in Biber et al. limited though they are. in several respects.3 This study is limited in scope. This is no doubt partly due to the fact that they are not used very much. Because of the low numbers in this pilot study. (1999: 487) that the better modals would be “considerably more common” in UK English than in US English. done on larger corpora and with ‘(de)cleric(k)al’ precision (as in Declerck (2006)). its longer version. – it is better that wins. Jacobsson (1980: 52). which also deals with as well. this is the register that is typical of the constructions with clitic and zero auxiliaries. Declerck (1991: 355). Perkins (1983: 63). Table 3 makes this clear for had better vs. 3 The better Modals There is a fair consensus in the literature (e. This might indicate that the tendency to use shorter forms in conversational contexts is perhaps less pronounced in US English than in UK English. and for would rather and ’d rather. given the modest numbers in this pilot study. a clitic or. a zero form. Palmer (1990: 82). Collins 2009). (5) is a simple example: Mrs Cupply advises Madame Noel to go. The comparative and superlative constructions all vary as to whether the auxiliary is a full word. this difference might very well be a coincidence. whereas the constructions with the full auxiliaries are more typical of other registers. as in (2). in that it shows a relatively low number of conversational direct speech attestations of ’d rather. But of course. LOB UK 60s 2/8 26/27 5/5 3/8 12/13 FLOB UK 90s 2/6 18/19 6/6 3/8 9/10 BROWN US 60s 5/11 14/15 6/10 2/6 4/6 FROWN US 90s 4/12 9/11 8/10 2/5 3/9 Totals 13/37 67/72 25/31 10/27 28/38 had better ’d better better would rather ’d rather Table 3: Better and Rather Constructions in Conversational Direct Speech n/m. Clustered on the Basis of the Adverbial Not incidentally. 3 . in the case of the better construction. Although the four corpora document written language. it is better that has been the subject of a few specialized articles: next to Mitchell (2003).better rather (just) as well best as soon as sooner Totals LOB UK 60s 40 22 11 0 1 1 75 FLOB UK 90s 31 18 10 0 0 0 59 BROWN US 60s 36 12 10 0 0 0 58 FROWN US Totals 90s 33 140 15 67 12 43 2 2 0 1 0 1 62 254 Table 2: Frequencies of the Comparative Modals. Palmer (1979: 69). one should mention Jacobsson (1980) and Altman (1986) and it is better which is included in two studies that treat recent changes in the expression of modality in general (Leech 2003. the texts do contain conversational direct speech. ’d better and better. with n for occurrences in conversational direct speech and m for the total number of occurrences Note that FROWN constitutes an exception. Huddleston and Pullum (2002: 196)) to treat the better constructions as deontic modals expressing advice. Not surprisingly.g. In (7). We are thus dealing with a use that is not easily classifiable as deontic. typically with it or this as the subject and be as the predicate. considers the better modals to be discourse-oriented. In section 3. an adviser and an advisee. (6) By that time I was chilled to the bone. subjective deontic modals. in that it is the speaker who gives the advice. (BROWN G32 0600) Mitchell (2003: 145) claims that better modals can also be epistemic. and it is objective in that the deontic source is not (directly) identifiable as the speaker. a modality that is grounded in the speaker is called ‘subjective’ (contrasting with ‘objective’) or ‘performative’ (contrasting with ‘descriptive’).1 On the Adviser There are suggestions in the literature that the deontic modality of the better modals has to be subjective. This had better be good. the latter term reflecting the fact that the speaker does not report the advice. at least primarily if not exclusively. Since hope is a kind of wish. who is normally the subject of the better modal. but the advice does not come from the speaker (writer).2 we will study the advisee. even though he mitigates the claim with a hedge (our italics): “What seems to emerge from this is that had better and might as well are. In section 3. but we fail to see any reason to call it ‘epistemic’.” (Mitchell (2003: 142)) Mitchell thereby explicitly disagrees with Perkins (1983). Huddleston and Pullum (2002: 196) claim that the better constructions are “generally subjective”. but that is not at issue for our categorization. an indirect speech or indirect thought constellation and with respect to the original speaker/thinker.(5) “Madame Noel. I think you had better go” said Mrs Cupply. are indeed somewhat special and we agree with Mitchell (2003: 145) that they express hope rather than advice. exhausted from the relentless battering of the traffic. which is to mean that “the speaker expresses what he thinks is preferable. for instance. an opinion shared by Collins (2009: 79). the modality was subjective. (FLOB K03 72) Such uses. but objective uses occur as well. (7) is. with the deontic source identifiable as the speaker. Palmer (1990: 167).1 we will have a closer look at the adviser. but gives it.”7 Mitchell (2003) is of the same opinion. King Leopold.” (Perkins (1983: 63)) Similarly. who states that: “HAD BETTER can be used only to express deontic modality. for instance. sullen and depressed. the technical term one would want to associate with these uses should be ‘optative (modality)’. In the literature on deontic modality. 4 . thereby offering an analysis for examples such as (6). 3. it is advisable for King Leopold to grab a colony.6 Offering a piece of advice normally involves two human participants. In (5) the adviser is the speaker and the advisee the hearer. Our corpus findings show that the large majority of the attestations is indeed subjective. I thought grimly as I crossed the road and walked up the cul-de-sac to the Parsonage. of course. (8) On the other hand. Not surprisingly therefore. (LOB L13 144) Table 4 clearly shows that the better modals are overwhelmingly subjective. LOB UK 60s 7/8 27/27 5/5 39/40 FLOB UK 90s 6/6 18/19 6/6 30/31 BROWN US 60s 9/11 15/15 8/10 32/36 FROWN US 90s 8/12 9/11 8/10 25/33 Totals 30/37 69/72 27/31 126/140 had better ’d better better Totals Table 4: Better Modals: Subjective Modality n/m. a clear correlation with temporal reference: the better modals are overwhelmingly subjective in the present.(7) The man was King Leopold. better modals Subjective Objective Totals Present 122 4 126 Past 4 7 11 Totals 126 11 137 Table 5: Better Modals: Subjective vs.8 5 . he certainly wasn’t Richardson’s clerk. of the Belgians. with n for subjective occurrences and m for the total number of occurrences Some attestations are unclear. but also of the subject. In (8). The preference does not seem to depend on the choice between had better. the speaker himself/herself (1SG) or the combination of speaker and addressee(s) (1PL). whereas examples in the past are more frequently objective. Objective Modality and Tense (Not included are the four attestations where it is unclear whether the modality is subjective or objective. the advisability of speaking could be the opinion of the speaker. however. ’d better and better and appears to be stable over time and space. As far as had better is concerned. for example. So he had better say so. but we will see that it is interesting to distinguish between had better.) 3. Such ambiguous cases have not been counted as subjective. There is. (BROWN A41 0050) Table 4 tabulates the findings. who in 1885 concluded that he had better grab a colony while the grabbing was still good. ’d better and better. the advisees are predominantly third person subjects.2 On the Advisee Who is the advice addressed to? Collins (2009: 79) answers the question for the better category as a whole. rather than any of the conversational partners: the addressee(s) (2SG or 2PL). it will be remembered from Table 3 that it is typical of registers other than conversational direct speech. Our pilot study indicates that this use is more frequent in the FLOB corpus than in the other corpora. which could be another indication that the full forms are more associated with conversational direct speech in the US than in the UK – an idea put forward in the discussion of Table 3. ’d better LOB UK 60s FLOB UK 90s BROWN US 60s FROWN US 90s Totals 1SG 9 6 4 2 21 1PL 7 2 2 0 11 2 SG & PL 11 9 8 6 34 3 SG & PL 0 2 1 3 6 Totals 27 19 15 11 72 Table 8: The Advisee for ’d better better LOB UK 60s FLOB UK 90s BROWN US 60s FROWN US 90s Totals 1SG 0 0 1 2 3 1PL 0 1 0 1 2 2 SG & PL 5 5 8 6 24 3 SG & PL 0 0 1 1 2 Totals 5 6 10 10 31 Table 9: The Advisee for Better 6 . but further research will have to show whether this is a mere coincidence or whether these optative uses are indeed more common in the UK English of the 1990s. Optative with inanimate 3SG 1 3 1 1 6 Deontic with animate 3SG or 3PL 3 0 3 8 14 had better LOB UK 60s FLOB UK 90s BROWN US 60s FROWN US 90s Totals Table 7: Had Better: Optative vs.had better LOB UK 60s FLOB UK 90s BROWN US 60s FROWN US 90s Totals 1SG 2 0 1 0 3 1PL 2 1 0 1 4 2 SG & PL 0 2 6 2 10 3 SG & PL 4 3 4 9 20 Totals 8 6 11 12 37 Table 6: The Advisee for Had Better The BROWN corpus constitutes an exception. but instead the impersonal subjects of wishes of the type illustrated in (6). Deontic Tables 8 and 9 document the nature of the advisee with ’d better and better constructions. It is worthwhile noting that some of the third person ‘advisees’ are not really advisees at all. there are few third person advisees. For each form and for each corpus the advice most frequently goes to the addressee(s). if you know what’s good for you.” (FLOB L07 67) Since this double bare better construction is exclusively used for the second person. the one that seems most robust is the one about the strong dedication of UK bare better to 2nd person advisee uses. and more specifically for the UK better constructions. LOB UK 60s FLOB UK 90s BROWN US 60s FROWN US 90s ’d better 16/27 8/19 6/15 2/11 better 0/5 0/6 1/10 3/10 Table 11: 1st Person Advisees for ’d better and Better n/m. but. with n for 1SG & 1PL occurrences and m for the total number of occurrences Of all the observations relating to the nature of the advisee. they also all lack a subject. bare better can presumably be analyzed as an imperative marker or more generally as a marker of mood rather than of modality.As expected. given the association of both ’d better and better with conversational direct speech (see Table 3). (9) Drewitt hesitated. This observation is extracted from Tables 8 and 9 and put into Table 10. LOB UK 60s FLOB UK 90s BROWN US 60s FROWN US 90s: ’d better 11/27 9/19 8/15 6/11 Better 5/5 5/6 8/10 6/10 Table 10: 2nd Person Advisees for ’d better and Better n/m. these constructions are bare in yet a second sense. You better get back up here now. interestingly. So that’s it! Better get your uniform on and report to the duty sergeant. ’d better is more frequently used in the UK corpora and better seems more common in the US ones. In fact. with n for 2SG & 2PL occurrences and m for the total number of occurrences To express a piece of advice to oneself or to oneself and the addressee(s). We extract this information from Tables 8 and 9 and put it into Table 11. as illustrated in (9). “I would like to go on. Not only do they lack the had auxiliary or its clitic version ’d. (10) is a FROWN example and Table 12 supplies the figures. In BROWN the bare better examples all lack an explicit subject as well. (10) “What? The hell you ain’t. most clearly so for better. in FROWN all the examples do have overtly expressed 2nd person subjects.” “I wouldn’t like you to.” (FROWN N03 35) 7 . The alternative would be to consider it an adverb or a particle and to interpret the lexical verb as an imperative rather than as an infinitive. it makes sense to analyze the word better as the auxiliary. Examples in which the lexical verb is negated. Sally. In the other corpora the dedication of bare better to the second person is much higher. This point of view has been proposed in the literature for the construction with an explicit subject. Sally. the subjectless better construction does allow both of the analyses shown in (12). b. however. On the web. bettn’t I? No such example is found in the corpora. it goes.2nd person better LOB UK 60s FLOB UK 90s BROWN 60s FROWN 90s Covert subject 5 5 8 0 Overt you subject 0 0 0 6 Totals 5 5 8 6 Table 12: Covert vs. (FLOB L14 130) (13) shows a normal infinitival negation. it is in the FROWN corpus that we find the full range of overt non-second person advisees. both analyses are reasonable. Note that for both bare better constructions. BetterAUXILIARY getINFINITIVE your uniform on … BetterADVERB getIMPERATIVE your uniform on … For positive constructions. *Better don’t book him for any more. plead for the auxiliary analysis. When it goes. (13) Better not book him for any more. Consider (13). usually with reference to tag evidence. once more. but these types are not attested in the corpora. When it goes. If book were an imperative. since at least Sturtevant (1947: 104) (see also Visser (1969: 1827). however. the one with an overtly expressed subject and the one without. The example in (11) is given by Sturtevant (1947: 104). both in the UK and in the US. it goes. one would rather expect the constructions in (14). When it goes. 8 . and on the web the construction is very rare too. (11) I better [bεtə] go now. Palmer (1965: 40). b. Overt 2nd Person Subjects with Better Not surprisingly – although. So perhaps in most recent English. (12) represents both the auxiliary and the adverb/particle analyses of the example sentence in (9). the type shown in (14a) seems rather frequent. it goes. (14) a. (12) a. Sally. the numbers are modest –. Jacobsson (1980: 49)). *Don’t better book him for any more. and hence explicit second person subjects can more easily be omitted. The auxiliary analysis is plausible for the subjectless better construction as well. 4 The rather Modals While the better modals have forms with a full. the standard of comparison – the state of affairs that is comparatively worse – is expressed only twice. the rather modals only have full or clitic auxiliaries. a clitic or a zero auxiliary. which is also shown by the fact that (16) uses rather than. (19) This is not to say that the appetite for reading autobiography isn’t very strong. (18) *You’d better do your homework than watch this rubbish on television. in the 140 attestations of the better modals. (BROWN F18 1570) (16) […] things are moving. should also makes a (one time) appearance. which Poutsma (1928: 159) still approved of: (17) You had better murder him than marry him.9 Looking at different UK and US (and also Australian) corpora. So possibly ’d better and better have indeed lost all comparative meaning. we had better move gracefully. (15) I insisted on taking the field and prevailed – thinking that I had better die by rebel bullets than by Union quackery. Mitchell (2003: 140) discusses the non-occurrence of than phrases and he calls (18) “positively ungrammatical”. Perhaps those would be even rarer: according to Jacobsson (1980: 52). however marginal. but as Table 1 has already shown. He cites one outdated example (found in Dickens). whereas had better has not gone quite that far.3 On the Standard of Comparison We have called the better constructions “comparative” on account of the fact that better is the comparative of good and well. Another difference is that. instead of a simple than conjunction. both have full had better and that the starred (18) features a clitic ’d. rather normally comes with would (in 27 out of the 28 occurrences of a full auxiliary). Perhaps it is no coincidence that (15) and (16). (FROWN G71 152) 9 . so much so that autobiography is the only kind of book I should rather read than write. In the same vein. However. Note that neither uses an infinitive for expressing the standard of comparison. Collins (2009: 78) only found one example with an overt standard of comparison and this example also features the full had better phrase. such infinitival expressions of the standard are unattested nowadays. (LOB G61 56) This means that the comparative meaning of better has nearly completely faded.3. rather than perforce. whereas the full auxiliary for better is always had. Certainly it is with me. would/should rather LOB UK 60s FLOB UK 90s BROWN 60s FROWN 90s Totals 1SG 2 3 2 2 9 1PL 0 0 0 0 0 2 SG & PL 2 1 1 0 4 3 SG & PL 4 4 3 4 15 Totals 8 8 6 6 28 Table 13: The Subject of Would/Should Rather Constructions The short ’d rather construction.1 On the One Who Prefers The would/should rather constructions are typical of registers other than conversational direct speech. our corpora do not yield any examples of had rather. Hence. FLOB and BROWN.Interestingly. (BROWN P14 1610) As to the meaning. 1990: 167)). and preference can be understood as comparative volition: one wants one thing rather than another. 4. Declerck (1991: 356)). Quirk et al.1 we briefly discuss the person of the rather auxiliary and section 4. this is clearly the case for LOB and FLOB. ’d rather LOB UK 60s FLOB UK 90s BROWN 60s FROWN 90s Totals 1SG 8 7 3 4 22 1PL 0 0 0 0 0 2 SG & PL 5 3 1 1 10 3 SG & PL 0 0 2 4 6 Totals 13 10 6 9 38 Table 14: The Subject of ’d Rather Constructions 10 . so one would expect it to occur with fewer 3rd person subjects in LOB. the rather modals express a preference of the subject of the sentence (e. Table 13 shows this expectation to be borne out. The modality is dynamic (e.g. (20) I’d much rather he wasn’t destroying something at the same time though! (LOB K11 112) (21) No.g.g. on the other hand. In section 4. we would expect there to be many 3rd person subjects. despite the fact that current grammars (e. Palmer (1989: 171. contrasting strongly with the deontic and optative modality expressed by the better modals. A further difference with the better modals – which always have identical subjects in the main clause and the complement – is that the bare infinitive is not the only complementation pattern: two of the 68 occurrences show a bare complementizer finite clause. darling I’d rather you didn’t come out. As Table 14 shows. just like for had better. Declerck (1991: 356)) do mention the existence of had rather and associate it with US English. is characteristic of conversational direct speech – at least in all corpora except FROWN –.2 is devoted to the expression of the standard of comparison. (1985: 142). We have commented on their frequencies in UK and US corpora of the 1960s and 1990s (LOB. (24) is an illustration with would rather and (25) is one with ’d rather. (FLOB J38 211) That the comparative meaning is still very present is also indicated by the fact that the comparative can be graded by much. For better the most interesting claims are the following: (i) the better modals are overwhelmingly deontic. FROWN).LOB and FLOB further show a relatively high number of 1SG subjects. Further research will show whether this is a genuine property of UK English ’d rather uses. the rather constructions regularly express the standard of comparison. BROWN. the expression of the standard of comparison might well be more typical of US English than of UK English. expressing advice. (BROWN K22 1180) (25) I’d rather be their friends than fight them. with n for an overt standard and m for the total number of occurrences Table 15 suggests the following hypotheses. (22) I’d rather see him alone.2. 11 . at least when the preferred state of affairs is realistic and desirable. thereafter focusing on the two most frequent sets of modals. However. those containing better and rather. the standard of expression is not always expressed with the same frequency. (24) She would rather live in danger than die of loneliness and boredom. FLOB. 4. a point also made by Collins (2009: 18). 5 Conclusion In this brief paper we have described some properties of a marginal class of modal expressions which could be called ‘comparative’.10 LOB UK 60s FLOB UK 90s BROWN US 60s FROWN US 90s: would/should rather 3/8 2/9 5/6 5/5 ’d rather 0/13 1/10 0/6 4/9 Table 15: The Standard of Comparison with Would/Should Rather and ’d Rather n/m. (23) I’d better see him alone. First. expressing hope. and marginally optative. as in (20). Second. On the Standard of Comparison Unlike the better constructions. In these 1SG uses ’d rather comes close to ’d better. the shorter and more conversational ’d rather more frequently goes without the expression of the standard. expressing the speaker’s advice. the had pattern is not attested in our corpora. Benita Lašinytė. on both sides of the Atlantic.(ii) (iii) (iv) (v) (vi) they are most often subjective. Adinda Robberechts. Van der Gaaf (1904. Notes * This work was done within the ‘Grammaticalization and (Inter)Subjectivity’ project (Belgian Federal Government – Interuniversity Attraction Poles P6/44). whereas rather is not. the better modals overwhelmingly omit the expression of the standard of comparison. Occasionally the corpora cite passages of earlier English. is Denison and Cort (in print). Special thanks are due to Folker Debusscher. it seems clear the comparative modals form a nice testing ground for the one language. Earlier still. Of course. But even with the four small corpora studied in this pilot study. which are even more infrequent. in that they always have a covert subject. and this is even more strongly the case for comparative modals other than the better and rather modals. the latter are bare in a second sense. Daniel Van Olmen. the latter especially when the advice is situated in the past. 1912). are best analyzed as new auxiliaries. most strongly so the UK bare better constructions. the short constructions with ’d or with a zero auxiliary most frequently convey advice to the hearer(s). these frequencies make more sense if one can compare them to those of other modal constructions. Palmer (1965: 40) also groups better together with let’s. 12 1 2 3 4 .g. possibly. Non-modal comparative rather has recently received some attention (e. Rohdenburg and Schlüter 2009). These passages have not been included in our descriptions. for instance. two grammars research on US and UK English (see e. Gergel (2009)). and Dirk Noël (the latter for making the penultimate version of this paper take account of Collins (2009)). For the rather modals: (i) (ii) (iii) we accept the consensus view that the rather modals express a preference of the subject. too recent to take acount of in our contribution. Need and need to. whether they are accompanied by a subject or not.g. UK and US English differ with respect to the preference for expressing the standard of comparison. the bare better forms. We offer these hypotheses and a few minor ones for further testing. but this time be going to is also included. Mariela Gonzalez Gomez. More attention has been devoted to the history of the better and rather modals as they find their origin in impersonal constructions – see e. A very recent study. The low frequencies require bigger corpora.g. so it would appear at best to be very rare. and marginally objective. together account for 130 and 234 occurrences in LOB and FLOB. respectively (see van der Auwera and Taeymans (2009)). for instance. the modality of what is necessary or possible given the circumstances. Kaitakusha. Often. 8 9 10 Only examples with a than-conjunction have been included in this table. A Grammar of the English Tense System. i. Mouton de Gruyter. he continues. Tokyo. Palmer (1990: 82) also claims that. In the same study. 80-87. but unlike us he still considers them deontic. it is not clear that the speaker is responsible: “It would seem rather that he is more concerned with hinting at the consequences” (see also Huddleston and Pullum (2002: 196)). Stig Johansson. His figures are (unexplainably) different though. the modality would not be deontic but ‘neutral dynamic’. Renaat. however. Be that as it may. with Susan Reed and Bert Cappelle (2006) The Grammar of the English Tense System: A Comprehensive Analysis. Longman. London. Renaat (1991) A Comprehensive Descriptive Grammar of English. even the highest figure in Table 1 (27 for LOB ’d better) is relatively low.” Studies in Second Language Acquisition 8. Biber. however. Berlin/New York. Susan Conrad and Edward Finegan (1999) Longman grammar of spoken and written English. References Altman. Collins (2009: 19) discusses these examples too. 13 . the distinction between deontic and neutral dynamic modality is a small one: in the framework of van der Auwera and Plungian (1998). 5 6 7 This is not too surprising since Leech (2003) studies the same corpora (see also Mair and Leech 2006: 328). Like us. Volume 1. Amsterdam/New York.. he does not consider them epistemic. The bleaching of the comparative meaning may be part of the reason for why the presumably equally bleached superlative constructions had best and ’d best are very infrequent: the originally comparative and superlative constructions now express the same meaning. Declerck. Collins. although it is the speaker who advises. both deontic and neutral dynamic are cases of ‘participant-external non-epistemic modality’.e. Roann (1986) “Getting the Subtle Distinction: Should Versus Had Better. a ‘we’ that excludes the addressee(s). There are no attestations of an exclusive first person plural use. A Comprehensive Analysis. 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