CGEL page 108: "CAN" reduced form

Discussion in 'English Only' started by xorg, Jul 24, 2015.

  1. xorg Member

    Portuguese Brazil
    CGEL book is here

    Page 108 says:

    Highlighting this:
    "Can and will are the most straightforward of the modal auxiliaries; they have all the above properties"

    have they all the above properties?

    But and property ?

    She will be here soon. =====> She'll be here soon.
    She can be here =======> (?)
  2. Giorgio Spizzi Senior Member

    What a very strange way of tackling the problem of the meanings and uses of the English modal auxiliaries.

  3. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    can't (the full form is the single word is cannot)
  4. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I'm not 100% sure I've understood your question, xorg.

    But yes, "can" certainly has a weak/reduced form as well as a strong form. It's sometimes, as a form of "eye dialect" written as c'n. But the fact that we don't usually write c'n doesn't mean that we don't usually pronounce the word "can" as c'n: that's exactly how we usually pronounce it!:)
  5. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    I agree with Giorgio: it's very strange. But, since the sentence in question refers to "modal auxiliaries", I'm wondering if "all the above properties" means "all the above modal auxiliary properties" [I]-[M], and not all the properties [A]-[M].

    Agreed, Loob, that an unstressed can is pronounced as you describe it, though I wonder whether it's actually a contraction, or simply a schwa. The same thing happens with some: "I can get some apples". But I suspect the authors are talking about written reduced forms.

    If they are, then works for cannot, but not for can. And I can't see how [E] applies to can — but then I haven't a clue what [E] means anyway!:eek: ... does anybody understand it?

  6. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Looking a few paragraphs further back in The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, I found this (page 102, end of paragraph 2.1.5):
    Negative inflection and reduced forms
    Auxiliaries differ from lexical verbs in that they have an inflectional contrast between negative and neutral forms [...] [M]ost of them have phonologically reduced forms when unstressed - weak forms such as /həv/ or /əv/ for have, or clitics such as /v/ (as in I've seen it): see Ch.18, §§6.1-2.

    And when I looked at Ch 18 para 6.1, I found a table listing "around fifty words that have one or more weak forms as well as a strong form", which included this:
    ITEM ........... STRONG ........... WEAK
    can............. /kæn/ ................/kən/

    So, yes, Reduced Form in the table in post 1 does mean phonologically reduced form, whether or not that reduced form is represented by a contraction in writing.


    PS to Wordsmyth: Given explanations earlier in the book, it seems that [E] Exclusion of do in code means When the main verb is understood, you don't use "do", you just use the modal: eg John can swim and I can too {no "do"}; compare John swims and I do too.
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2015
  7. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Many thanks for that, Loob. I did look at xorg's link, but the invitation to pay £190 didn't appeal to me!;)

    So all is clear now. With that interpretation of and that explanation of [E], it seems the "all the above properties" statement is true.


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