Hold on a minute, buddy, it might be gonna rain.Took me a second to realize that this was suspiciously like a double modal, widespread in the South. That is, you've got a modal plus an auxiliary plus a main verb here. The Dictionary of American Regional English (under may B6) talks about these things as "multiple modals" or "non-std multiple auxiliaries", with examples like:
- I might could enjoy myself.
- You might better keep out.
- He may didn't want to come.
Given how tremendously stigmatized these constructions are in areas where they're known, not just regionally but also socially (marked as lower class, uneducated, etc.), it's hardly a surprise that an educated speaker working in the professional job up here would lose them. There may be a communicative reason too: When I've talked about these constructions to Wisconsinites, sometimes people say they wouldn't know how to interpret such things if they heard them. (I assume that means interpret pragmatically — they seem unlikely to trigger tragic miscommunication.)
But really, the sentence at the start of this post is more like quasi-modal used to (so some people call it), as in:
You used to could buy gas cheap.The used to could construction strikes the speaker as less salient, and might be gonna + V as off the radar — not something he'd think twice about using and something he thinks he uses often. Now, my judgments are so fried on this kind of point that I just asked a Wisconsinite about them. Her response was that these are all equally "alien", so weird that they can't count as 'stigmatized' for her. But all equally weird.
If this is right, the speaker is suppressing a set of forms as stigmatized, but doesn't get the generalization about what the full set is. So, I'm wondering if he's ended up using some of the less common parts of it while losing only the real stereotypical parts.
More generally, I wonder if there's work on this particular construction, the fringes beyond double modals?
Image from here, the website of the band Might Could.
UPDATE, November 20: See this new post on the topic.