You are on page 1of 15

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 lets (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

words and document written English from the 1960s (LOB and BROWN) and the 1990s (FLOB and FROWN).3 This study is limited in scope, in several respects. For reasons of space, we have restricted ourselves to the description of the better and the rather families. Moreover, given the low frequency of the comparative modals, the work reported here cannot offer more than tentative hypotheses, which can serve as guidelines for follow-up in-depth work, done on larger corpora and with (de)cleric(k)al precision (as in Declerck (2006)). Because of the low numbers in this pilot study, we also abstain from significance tests. 2 Frequencies We have already said that the comparative modals are relatively understudied. This is no doubt partly due to the fact that they are not used very much. Table 1 documents the frequencies of the comparative modals in the LOB, FLOB, BROWN and FROWN corpora.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. It wins out in LOB, FLOB and BROWN, and in FROWN it yields the top position to had better, its longer version, but is still very close. In general, 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, etc. it is better that wins. This is shown in Table 2. Note also that our findings, limited though they are, do not show that any one construction is more typical of either US or UK English. This does not confirm the claim in Biber et al. (1999: 487) that the better modals would be considerably more common in UK English than in US English. We do agree with Leech (2003: 229-230) that the frequency of the better modals has declined on both sides of the Atlantic.5

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, Clustered on the Basis of the Adverbial Not incidentally, it is better that has been the subject of a few specialized articles: next to Mitchell (2003), which also deals with as well, 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, Collins 2009). The comparative and superlative constructions all vary as to whether the auxiliary is a full word, a clitic or, in the case of the better construction, a zero form. Although the four corpora document written language, the texts do contain conversational direct speech, as in (2). Not surprisingly, this is the register that is typical of the constructions with clitic and zero auxiliaries, whereas the constructions with the full auxiliaries are more typical of other registers. Table 3 makes this clear for had better vs. d better and better, and for would rather and d rather. 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, with n for occurrences in conversational direct speech and m for the total number of occurrences

Note that FROWN constitutes an exception, in that it shows a relatively low number of conversational direct speech attestations of d rather. This might indicate that the tendency to use shorter forms in conversational contexts is perhaps less pronounced in US English than in UK English. But of course, given the modest numbers in this pilot study, this difference might very well be a coincidence. 3 The better Modals There is a fair consensus in the literature (e.g. Palmer (1979: 69), Jacobsson (1980: 52), Perkins (1983: 63), Palmer (1990: 82), Declerck (1991: 355), Huddleston and Pullum (2002: 196)) to treat the better constructions as deontic modals expressing advice. (5) is a simple example: Mrs Cupply advises Madame Noel to go.

(5) Madame Noel, I think you had better go said Mrs Cupply. (BROWN G32 0600) Mitchell (2003: 145) claims that better modals can also be epistemic, thereby offering an analysis for examples such as (6). (6) By that time I was chilled to the bone, exhausted from the relentless battering of the traffic, sullen and depressed. This had better be good, I thought grimly as I crossed the road and walked up the cul-de-sac to the Parsonage. (FLOB K03 72) Such uses, typically with it or this as the subject and be as the predicate, are indeed somewhat special and we agree with Mitchell (2003: 145) that they express hope rather than advice. We are thus dealing with a use that is not easily classifiable as deontic, but we fail to see any reason to call it epistemic. Since hope is a kind of wish, the technical term one would want to associate with these uses should be optative (modality).6 Offering a piece of advice normally involves two human participants, an adviser and an advisee. In (5) the adviser is the speaker and the advisee the hearer. In the literature on deontic modality, a modality that is grounded in the speaker is called subjective (contrasting with objective) or performative (contrasting with descriptive), the latter term reflecting the fact that the speaker does not report the advice, but gives it. In section 3.1 we will have a closer look at the adviser. In section 3.2 we will study the advisee, who is normally the subject of the better modal. 3.1 On the Adviser There are suggestions in the literature that the deontic modality of the better modals has to be subjective, in that it is the speaker who gives the advice. Palmer (1990: 167), for instance, considers the better modals to be discourse-oriented, which is to mean that the speaker expresses what he thinks is preferable.7 Mitchell (2003) is of the same opinion, 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, at least primarily if not exclusively, subjective deontic modals, with the deontic source identifiable as the speaker. (Mitchell (2003: 142)) Mitchell thereby explicitly disagrees with Perkins (1983), who states that: HAD BETTER can be used only to express deontic modality, and it is objective in that the deontic source is not (directly) identifiable as the speaker. (Perkins (1983: 63)) Similarly, Huddleston and Pullum (2002: 196) claim that the better constructions are generally subjective, an opinion shared by Collins (2009: 79). Our corpus findings show that the large majority of the attestations is indeed subjective, but objective uses occur as well. In (7), for instance, it is advisable for King Leopold to grab a colony, but the advice does not come from the speaker (writer). (7) is, of course, an indirect speech or indirect thought constellation and with respect to the original speaker/thinker, King Leopold, the modality was subjective, but that is not at issue for our categorization. 4

(7) The man was King Leopold, of the Belgians, who in 1885 concluded that he had better grab a colony while the grabbing was still good. (BROWN A41 0050) Table 4 tabulates the findings. 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, with n for subjective occurrences and m for the total number of occurrences

Some attestations are unclear. In (8), for example, the advisability of speaking could be the opinion of the speaker, but also of the subject. Such ambiguous cases have not been counted as subjective. (8) On the other hand, he certainly wasnt Richardsons clerk. So he had better say so. (LOB L13 144) Table 4 clearly shows that the better modals are overwhelmingly subjective. The preference does not seem to depend on the choice between had better, d better and better and appears to be stable over time and space. There is, however, a clear correlation with temporal reference: the better modals are overwhelmingly subjective in the present, whereas examples in the past are more frequently objective. better modals Subjective Objective Totals Present 122 4 126 Past 4 7 11 Totals 126 11 137

Table 5: Better Modals: Subjective vs. Objective Modality and Tense


(Not included are the four attestations where it is unclear whether the modality is subjective or objective.)

3.2 On the Advisee Who is the advice addressed to? Collins (2009: 79) answers the question for the better category as a whole, but we will see that it is interesting to distinguish between had better, d better and better. As far as had better is concerned, it will be remembered from Table 3 that it is typical of registers other than conversational direct speech. Not surprisingly therefore, the advisees are predominantly third person subjects, rather than any of the conversational partners: the addressee(s) (2SG or 2PL), the speaker himself/herself (1SG) or the combination of speaker and addressee(s) (1PL).8

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, 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. It is worthwhile noting that some of the third person advisees are not really advisees at all, but instead the impersonal subjects of wishes of the type illustrated in (6). Our pilot study indicates that this use is more frequent in the FLOB corpus than in the other corpora, 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. Deontic Tables 8 and 9 document the nature of the advisee with d better and better constructions. 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

As expected, given the association of both d better and better with conversational direct speech (see Table 3), there are few third person advisees. For each form and for each corpus the advice most frequently goes to the addressee(s), most clearly so for better, and more specifically for the UK better constructions. 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, 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), d better is more frequently used in the UK corpora and better seems more common in the US ones. We extract this information from Tables 8 and 9 and put it into Table 11. 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, 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, the one that seems most robust is the one about the strong dedication of UK bare better to 2nd person advisee uses. In fact, these constructions are bare in yet a second sense. Not only do they lack the had auxiliary or its clitic version d, they also all lack a subject, as illustrated in (9). (9) Drewitt hesitated. I would like to go on. I wouldnt like you to. So thats it! Better get your uniform on and report to the duty sergeant. (FLOB L07 67) Since this double bare better construction is exclusively used for the second person, bare better can presumably be analyzed as an imperative marker or more generally as a marker of mood rather than of modality. In BROWN the bare better examples all lack an explicit subject as well, but, interestingly, in FROWN all the examples do have overtly expressed 2nd person subjects. (10) is a FROWN example and Table 12 supplies the figures. (10) What? The hell you aint. You better get back up here now, if you know whats good for you. (FROWN N03 35)

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. Overt 2nd Person Subjects with Better Not surprisingly although, once more, the numbers are modest , it is in the FROWN corpus that we find the full range of overt non-second person advisees. In the other corpora the dedication of bare better to the second person is much higher, and hence explicit second person subjects can more easily be omitted. Note that for both bare better constructions, the one with an overtly expressed subject and the one without, it makes sense to analyze the word better as the auxiliary. This point of view has been proposed in the literature for the construction with an explicit subject, usually with reference to tag evidence, since at least Sturtevant (1947: 104) (see also Visser (1969: 1827), Palmer (1965: 40), Jacobsson (1980: 49)). The example in (11) is given by Sturtevant (1947: 104). (11) I better [bt] go now, bettnt I? No such example is found in the corpora, and on the web the construction is very rare too. The auxiliary analysis is plausible for the subjectless better construction as well. 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. (12) represents both the auxiliary and the adverb/particle analyses of the example sentence in (9). (12) a. b. BetterAUXILIARY getINFINITIVE your uniform on BetterADVERB getIMPERATIVE your uniform on

For positive constructions, both analyses are reasonable. Examples in which the lexical verb is negated, however, plead for the auxiliary analysis. Consider (13). (13) Better not book him for any more, Sally. When it goes, it goes. (FLOB L14 130) (13) shows a normal infinitival negation. If book were an imperative, one would rather expect the constructions in (14), but these types are not attested in the corpora. (14) a. b. *Better dont book him for any more, Sally. When it goes, it goes. *Dont better book him for any more, Sally. When it goes, it goes.

On the web, however, the type shown in (14a) seems rather frequent, both in the UK and in the US. So perhaps in most recent English, the subjectless better construction does allow both of the analyses shown in (12).

3.3 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. However, in the 140 attestations of the better modals, the standard of comparison the state of affairs that is comparatively worse is expressed only twice. (15) I insisted on taking the field and prevailed thinking that I had better die by rebel bullets than by Union quackery. (BROWN F18 1570) (16) [] things are moving, we had better move gracefully, rather than perforce. (LOB G61 56) This means that the comparative meaning of better has nearly completely faded, which is also shown by the fact that (16) uses rather than, instead of a simple than conjunction. Note that neither uses an infinitive for expressing the standard of comparison. Perhaps those would be even rarer: according to Jacobsson (1980: 52), such infinitival expressions of the standard are unattested nowadays. He cites one outdated example (found in Dickens), which Poutsma (1928: 159) still approved of: (17) You had better murder him than marry him. In the same vein, Mitchell (2003: 140) discusses the non-occurrence of than phrases and he calls (18) positively ungrammatical. (18) *Youd better do your homework than watch this rubbish on television. Perhaps it is no coincidence that (15) and (16), however marginal, both have full had better and that the starred (18) features a clitic d. So possibly d better and better have indeed lost all comparative meaning, whereas had better has not gone quite that far.9 Looking at different UK and US (and also Australian) corpora, Collins (2009: 78) only found one example with an overt standard of comparison and this example also features the full had better phrase.

4 The rather Modals While the better modals have forms with a full, a clitic or a zero auxiliary, the rather modals only have full or clitic auxiliaries. Another difference is that, whereas the full auxiliary for better is always had, rather normally comes with would (in 27 out of the 28 occurrences of a full auxiliary), but as Table 1 has already shown, should also makes a (one time) appearance. (19) This is not to say that the appetite for reading autobiography isnt very strong. Certainly it is with me, so much so that autobiography is the only kind of book I should rather read than write. (FROWN G71 152)

Interestingly, our corpora do not yield any examples of had rather, despite the fact that current grammars (e.g. Quirk et al. (1985: 142), Declerck (1991: 356)) do mention the existence of had rather and associate it with US English. 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. (20) Id much rather he wasnt destroying something at the same time though! (LOB K11 112) (21) No, darling Id rather you didnt come out. (BROWN P14 1610) As to the meaning, the rather modals express a preference of the subject of the sentence (e.g. Declerck (1991: 356)), and preference can be understood as comparative volition: one wants one thing rather than another. The modality is dynamic (e.g. Palmer (1989: 171, 1990: 167)), contrasting strongly with the deontic and optative modality expressed by the better modals. In section 4.1 we briefly discuss the person of the rather auxiliary and section 4.2 is devoted to the expression of the standard of comparison. 4.1 On the One Who Prefers The would/should rather constructions are typical of registers other than conversational direct speech. Hence, just like for had better, we would expect there to be many 3rd person subjects. Table 13 shows this expectation to be borne out. 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, on the other hand, is characteristic of conversational direct speech at least in all corpora except FROWN , so one would expect it to occur with fewer 3rd person subjects in LOB, FLOB and BROWN. As Table 14 shows, 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

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. In these 1SG uses d rather comes close to d better, at least when the preferred state of affairs is realistic and desirable. (22) Id rather see him alone. (23) Id better see him alone.

4.2. On the Standard of Comparison Unlike the better constructions, the rather constructions regularly express the standard of comparison, a point also made by Collins (2009: 18). (24) is an illustration with would rather and (25) is one with d rather. (24) She would rather live in danger than die of loneliness and boredom. (BROWN K22 1180) (25) Id rather be their friends than fight them. (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, as in (20). However, the standard of expression is not always expressed with the same frequency.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, with n for an overt standard and m for the total number of occurrences

Table 15 suggests the following hypotheses. First, the shorter and more conversational d rather more frequently goes without the expression of the standard. Second, the expression of the standard of comparison might well be more typical of US English than of UK English. 5 Conclusion In this brief paper we have described some properties of a marginal class of modal expressions which could be called comparative. We have commented on their frequencies in UK and US corpora of the 1960s and 1990s (LOB, FLOB, BROWN, FROWN), thereafter focusing on the two most frequent sets of modals, those containing better and rather. For better the most interesting claims are the following: (i) the better modals are overwhelmingly deontic, expressing advice, and marginally optative, expressing hope; 11

(ii) (iii) (iv) (v) (vi)

they are most often subjective, expressing the speakers advice, and marginally objective, the latter especially when the advice is situated in the past; the short constructions with d or with a zero auxiliary most frequently convey advice to the hearer(s), most strongly so the UK bare better constructions; the latter are bare in a second sense, in that they always have a covert subject; the bare better forms, whether they are accompanied by a subject or not, are best analyzed as new auxiliaries; the better modals overwhelmingly omit the expression of the standard of comparison.

For the rather modals: (i) (ii) (iii) we accept the consensus view that the rather modals express a preference of the subject; the had pattern is not attested in our corpora, so it would appear at best to be very rare, on both sides of the Atlantic; possibly, UK and US English differ with respect to the preference for expressing the standard of comparison.

We offer these hypotheses and a few minor ones for further testing. The low frequencies require bigger corpora, and this is even more strongly the case for comparative modals other than the better and rather modals, which are even more infrequent. But even with the four small corpora studied in this pilot study, it seems clear the comparative modals form a nice testing ground for the one language, two grammars research on US and UK English (see e.g. Rohdenburg and Schlter 2009).

Notes * This work was done within the Grammaticalization and (Inter)Subjectivity project (Belgian Federal Government Interuniversity Attraction Poles P6/44). Special thanks are due to Folker Debusscher, Mariela Gonzalez Gomez, Benita Lainyt, Adinda Robberechts, Daniel Van Olmen, and Dirk Nol (the latter for making the penultimate version of this paper take account of Collins (2009)). More attention has been devoted to the history of the better and rather modals as they find their origin in impersonal constructions see e.g. Van der Gaaf (1904, 1912). Non-modal comparative rather has recently received some attention (e.g. Gergel (2009)). A very recent study, too recent to take acount of in our contribution, is Denison and Cort (in print). Earlier still, Palmer (1965: 40) also groups better together with lets, but this time be going to is also included, whereas rather is not. Occasionally the corpora cite passages of earlier English. These passages have not been included in our descriptions. Of course, these frequencies make more sense if one can compare them to those of other modal constructions. Need and need to, for instance, together account for 130 and 234 occurrences in LOB and FLOB, respectively (see van der Auwera and Taeymans (2009)). 12

2 3 4

Compared to these figures, even the highest figure in Table 1 (27 for LOB d better) is relatively low. 5 6 7 This is not too surprising since Leech (2003) studies the same corpora (see also Mair and Leech 2006: 328). His figures are (unexplainably) different though. Collins (2009: 19) discusses these examples too. Like us, he does not consider them epistemic, but unlike us he still considers them deontic. In the same study, however, Palmer (1990: 82) also claims that, although it is the speaker who advises, 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)). In that case, he continues, the modality would not be deontic but neutral dynamic, i.e., the modality of what is necessary or possible given the circumstances. Be that as it may, the distinction between deontic and neutral dynamic modality is a small one: in the framework of van der Auwera and Plungian (1998), for instance, both deontic and neutral dynamic are cases of participant-external non-epistemic modality. There are no attestations of an exclusive first person plural use, a we that excludes the addressee(s). 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.

8 9

10 Only examples with a than-conjunction have been included in this table. Often, however, the standard of comparison the situation that is less preferred can easily be derived from the context.

References Altman, Roann (1986) Getting the Subtle Distinction: Should Versus Had Better, Studies in Second Language Acquisition 8, 80-87. Biber, Douglas, Stig Johansson, Geoffery Leech, Susan Conrad and Edward Finegan (1999) Longman grammar of spoken and written English, Longman, London. Collins, Peter (2009) Modals and Quasi-Modals in English, Rodopi, Amsterdam/New York. Declerck, Renaat (1991) A Comprehensive Descriptive Grammar of English, Kaitakusha, Tokyo. Declerck, Renaat, with Susan Reed and Bert Cappelle (2006) The Grammar of the English Tense System: A Comprehensive Analysis. Volume 1. A Grammar of the English Tense System. A Comprehensive Analysis, Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin/New York.

13

Denison, David and Alison Cort (in print) Better as a verb. Subjectification, Intersubjectification and Grammaticalization, ed. by Davidse, Kristin, Lieven Vandelanotte, Lieven and Hubert Cuyckens, 219-254. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin/New York Gergel, Remus (2009) Rather. On a modal cycle. Cyclical Change, ed. by Van Gelderen, Elly, 243-264, John Benjamins, Amsterdam/Philadelphia. Huddleston, Rodney and Geoffrey K. Pullum (2002) The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Jacobsson, Bengt (1980) On the Syntax and Semantics of the Modal Auxiliary Had Better, Studia Neophilologica 52, 47-53. Leech, Geoffrey (2003) Modality on the move: The English modal auxiliaries 1961-1992. Modality in contemporary English, ed. by Facchinetti, Roberta, Frank Palmer and Manfred Krug, 225-240. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin/New York. Mair, Christian and Geoffrey Leech (2006) Current changes in English syntax.Handbook of English Linguistics, ed. by Aarts, Bas and April McMahon, 318-342, Blackwell, Oxford. Mitchell, Keith (2003) Had better and might as well: On the margins of modality. Modality in comptemporary English, ed. by Facchinetti, Roberta, Frank Palmer and Manfred Krug, 131-149, Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin/New York. Palmer, F.R. (1965) A Linguistic Study of the English Verb, Longman, London. Palmer, F. R. (1979) Modality and the English Modals, 1st edition, Longman, London. Palmer, F. R. (1989) The English Verb, 2nd edition, Longman, London. Palmer, F. R. (1990) Modality and the English Modals, 2nd edition, Longman, London. Perkins, Michael R. (1983) Modal Expressions in English, Frances Pinter, London. Poutsma, Hendrik (1928) A grammar of Late Modern English. Part 1. The sentence. First half. The elements of the sentence, Noordhoff, Groningen. Quirk, Randolph, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech and Jan Svartvik (1985), A comprehensive grammar of the English language. Longman, London. Rohdenburg, Gnter and Julia Schlter, eds. (2009) One Language, Two Grammars. Differences between British and American English, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Sturtevant, Egdgar H. (1947) An Introduction to Linguistic Science, Yale University Press, New Haven. van der Auwera, Johan and Vladimir Plungian (1998) Modalitys semantic map, Linguistic Typology 2, 79-124. 14

van der Auwera, Johan and Martine Taeymans (2009) The need modals and their polarity. Corpora and Discourse and Stuff. Papers in Honour of Karin Aijmer (Gothenburg Studies in English. Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis), ed. by Bowen, Rhonwen, Mats Mobrg and Slve Ohlander, XXXX-YYYY, Gothenburg University Press, Gothenburg. Van der Gaaf, Willem (1904) Transition from the Impersonal to the Personal Construction in Middle English, Winter, Heibelberg. Van der Gaaf, Willem (1912) The origin of would rather and some of its analogues, Englische Studien 45, 381-396. Visser, F. Th. (1969) An historical Syntax of the English language. Part three. First half. Syntactical units with two verbs, Brill, Leiden.

Corpora BROWN = Kucera, Henry and W. Nelson Francis, compilers (1961) Brown University Standard Corpus of American English, Brown University, Providence RI. FLOB = Mair, Christian, compiler (1997) Freiburg/LOB Corpus of British English, University of Freiburg, Freiburg. FROWN = Mair, Christian, compiler (1999) Freiburg Brown Corpus of American English. University of Freiburg, Freiburg. LOB = Leech, Geoffrey N., Stig Johansson and Knut Hofland, compilers (1978) Lancaster/Oslo-Bergen Corpus, Norwegian Computing Centre for the Humanities, Bergen.

15