Linguistics Colloquium: Dr. Lauren Whitty (The Graduate Center, CUNY)

MAR 21, 2019 | 4:15 PM TO 6:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




March 21, 2019: 4:15 PM-6:00 PM




Dr. Lauren Whitty (The Graduate Center, CUNY) presents:

The distribution of the English modal auxiliaries can and may: A corpus-based analysis through a Columbia School lens

In this paper, I analyze the English words can and may. I use a Columbia School lens to understand the distribution of these forms in terms of the expressive contributions they make to communication.  Following a brief review of previous studies, I propose a sign-based analysis of can, along with may, might, could, etc. to account for their distribution. Data for this study are drawn from the book The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters (Parker 2018), which provides rich, expanded context for interpretation, illustrating the important role that context plays in the usage and interpretation of modals, and demonstrates the need for analyses to go beyond the sentence level to understand the communicative functions of modals.