Dialects "haven’t got to" be the same: modal microvariation in English

Richard Stockwell, Carson T. Schütze


This paper concerns itself with dialectal differences between British Eng-lish (BrE) and American English (AmE) regarding modal have-got and its scope with respect to sentential negation. Modal haven’t got is perfectly acceptable in BrE, meaning ‘not obligated to’ in the standard variety. In AmE, modal have-got is somewhat degraded when the have has unambiguously raised, and especially so when it is negated, as shown in a preliminary acceptability judgement survey of American English speakers. An analysis in terms of polarity sensitivity is inadequate, and Iatridou & Zeijlstra’s (2013) syntax for modals is overly restrictive in the face of scopally ambiguous have not (got) to in non-standard varieties of BrE. We propose an analysis in terms of the locus of modality: whereas have and got are separate in BrE, in AmE have-got is a scopally indivisible whole. Finally, we evaluate how well this analysis extends to an additional dialectal difference in verb phrase ellipsis (LeSourd 1976), where the have of have-got survives ellipsis in BrE but not AmE.


English dialect syntax; "have got to"; modality; negation; ellipsis; polarity sensitivity

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/plsa.v4i1.4538

Copyright (c) 2019 Richard Stockwell, Carson T. Schütze

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