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What is the structure of might + verb (in past tense) called?

I might said it. (Instead of I might have said it.)

I might did it. (Instead of I might have done it.)

I might did say it. (Instead of I might have said it., with did as an auxiliary verb.)

The verbs said and did are not modal, and so these examples are not double modal. But I don’t know whether these are speech errors, and I myself might have said it (and it might not sound entirely unnatural). What is this structure?

I thought it would be nice to have a name to the structure when people discuss this type of construction, unlesse it’s No English at all but a form of (non)standard dialect.

Prior to this posting, I came across an article, titled might didn’t, about a similar structure of double modals. I was in hope of making a valid question for the Forum.

This type of structure is not listed in commonly available references, while it is also difficult for lay people to ascertain the facts that its usage is common in particular dialects.

I don’t think the study of its usage is particularly useful for English learners. Learners may get a wrong idea that English speakers in general are receptive to nonstandard usages.

  • It's pretty much nonstandard English. "He might did want" in place of "He might have wanted" (standard) or "He might've wanted" – Mari-Lou A May 28 '18 at 6:53
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    @Mari-Lou “He might did want” is double modal but I don’t find any examples of “might + modal do” in dictionaries and grammar books. Do you mean that “He might did want” is acceptable while “He might did” isn’t? – wordsalad May 28 '18 at 10:47
  • No, it's nonstandard English, a dialect with which I am very unfamiliar. – Mari-Lou A May 28 '18 at 11:27
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    In most cases the "have" is there in spirit, it's just been swallowed. First "might 'ov", next "might've", then "might'a", until eventually "have" is gone entirely, or only present as a slight change in tone or pace. And in your second example you have a "done" -> "did" exchange which is not uncommon in "illiterate" speech. – Hot Licks May 28 '18 at 12:24
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    @wordsalad - I use "illiterate" here to mean "unschooled" -- the individual was raised by similarly-illiterate individuals and did not attend enough school (or pay enough attention) to absorb "proper" syntax. You can't really connect it with a specific dialect. – Hot Licks May 28 '18 at 13:06
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In standard English, might + verb (past) is ungrammatical. (If you think you're hearing this, it's probably "might've" you're hearing not just "might".)

For some native speakers (not me though), might did may be acceptable. Some studies have recorded a very small handful of hits for might did (and similar):

Table 4 includes five combinations of may/might/must with did, three of which are given in (10)-(12) below. This type of construction is not [a multiple modal], but it provides important information on the possible grammatical status of the initial modal in combinations. It is attested elsewhere in the literature only in Labov et al. (1968, 262), who claim that it is evidence of a type of do-support distinctive to Black Vernacular English in New York City and that the modal thus functions as an adverb. Di Paolo reports complete rejection of sentences like She still might don't like it for her 62 white speakers in Texas (nor did she observe any examples of might don't in her years of collecting data: Di Paolo, letter to the authors).

However, all examples in our corpus come from white South Carolinians, raising considerable doubt about the claim of Labov et al. that the initial modal has achieved adverbial status in Black English but not in Southern White English. Whereas our corpus from the Carolinas has five combinations of may, might, and must with did, it lacks any with do like those cited in New York City. Butters (1991, 173) notes that "must/might + do + neg. could be viewed as an early instance of linguistic divergence of [Black English Vernacular] in New York City," but, citing the occurrence of such forms in Gullah (as reported in Cunningham 1970, 84), he asserts that this is certainly open to question (see also Butters 1989, 101-03).

  1. There weren't no way to be sure; could be he MAY DIDN'T want to come.
  2. You MIGHT DID already do that.
  3. We waited as long as we could cause we thought he MIGHT DID want to go with us.

The Pragmatics of Multiple Modal Variation in North and South Carolina

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    Good answer! Thank you. I’m not black but I’ve only lived in New York, and lived for the most of my life, in New York City, where I hear all sorts of native speakers speak their dialects. Calling it “the modal in adverbial function (or state)” makes sense to me, but I wonder if this construction is commonly accepted. – wordsalad May 28 '18 at 5:20

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