Modal would as a pragmatic softener in ICE Ireland

in Corpus Linguistics and Variation in English
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Abstract

This paper investigates the attested pragmatic uses of would in selected spoken and written components of ICE Ireland. Different uses are discerned and the prominence of would as a marker of tentativeness, particularly in the spoken genres investigated, is noted. Innovative use of modal categories ties in with the assumption that change in the use of modal verbs happens in spoken genres, and it suggests that the use of would as a marker of tentativeness could be a rising use pattern in Irish English. Comparisons of frequency with research on other varieties of English show that some usage patterns differ from patterns so far observed in British English and can be compared to select Outer Circle varieties. These deviant uses in non-past non-hypothetical contexts seem to be due to an extension of tentative marking rather than a lack of distinction between modal would and future or volitional will marking.

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