Freiburg University, Germany
Past possession and past obligation in traditional British English dialects: the case of had got to
This paper investigates the connections between possessive HAVE GOT and obligational HAVE GOT TO in spoken traditional British English dialects. The data is comprised of four subcorpora of 180,000 words each from the Freiburg Corpus of English dialects (FRED), representing the Southeast, the Southwest, the North and the Midlands. It will be argued that the non-standard past tense obligation marker had got to found in the dialect data cannot be explained as an extension of present tense have got to but developed independently as an extension of the subcategorization frame of the possessive past tense construction had got.
The development of the strong obligation marker HAVE GOT TO in English has been explained as an extension of the subcategorization frame of possessive HAVE GOT from nominal to infinitival complements. The extension is motivated by an analogy of the subcategorization frame of HAVE GOT to that of HAVE, where HAVE + NP and HAVE + infinitive yield possessive and obligational meaning respectively (Groenemeyer 1999: 34; Krug 2000: 64).
HAVE GOT TO is restricted to the present tense in Standard English (Krug 2000: 108; Coates 1983: 54). While the Southwest and the North share this restriction, the Midlands and the Southeast allow for non-standard had got to which competes with had to and accounts for 30% and 15% of all past tense obligation contexts respectively.
At first glance, had got to might be interpreted as an extension of have got to to past tense contexts. Evidence from the dialect data, however, suggests that had got to developed independently of have got to.
While the presence of obligational had got to correlates with the presence of possessive had got in the Midlands and the Southeast, neither of the two can be found in the North and the Southwest material, where past tense possession and past tense obligation are rendered by had and had to exclusively. An account postulating a simple extension of have got to to past tense contexts fails to capture the obvious correlation of occurrence between had got and had got to.
It is argued here that had got to developed as an extension of the subcategorization frame of had got from nominal to infinitival complements in the same way that its present tense counterpart have got to developed as an extension of the subcategorization frame of have got. This account provides a principled explanation of the correlation between the presence of possessive had got and obligational had got to in the dialect data and allows a unified account of the use of HAVE GOT TO in both Standard and non-standard varieties of British English.
Coates, Jennifer. 1983. The Semantics of the Modal Auxiliaries. London: Croom Helm.
Groenemeyer, Claire. 1998. On deriving complex polysemy: the grammaticalization of GET. English Language and Linguistics 3 (1): 1 – 39.
Krug, Manfred. 2000. Emerging English Modals. A Corpus-Based Study of Grammaticalization. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Session: Paper session
Variation 6 (Syntactic)
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 15:45-17:15