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  1. #1
    ModernDickens Guest

    Default account for the use of "mought" in the below sentence?

    "What you mought call me? You mought call me captain"
    (RL Stevenson, Treasure Island, chapter 1)

    Perhaps it has to do with Stevenson's Scottish origins reflected in his writings; perhaps the answer lies in some sort of "pirate idialect".

    I've asked my English teacher as well as other specialists of the English language, but none of them provided a definitive, satisfactory explanation. That's why I'm now appealing to you, unknown English buffs ! You are my last hope !

    PS: Even if you are no scholar, please have a try ! The more answers offered, the more the chances to sort out the puzzle.

    PS2: I submitted the matter to yahoo.uk users. They provided some surprisingly shrewd answers. You may refer to them as a starting point. (no need for further debate if someone has already got the right answer)

    Thank you.

  2. #2
    ModernDickens is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: account for the use of "mought" in the below sentence?

    Wow, no-one wants to have a try..

  3. #3
    bhaisahab's Avatar
    bhaisahab is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: account for the use of "mought" in the below sentence?

    It's a mixture (dialectical) of "might" and "ought".

  4. #4
    ModernDickens is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: account for the use of "mought" in the below sentence?

    That's interesting, as I remember someone putting forward that same explanation. May I ask you to give your sources, unless you have fathomed it out yourself without resorting to any ? As far as I know, such a mixture of modal verbs are not common in the English language, hence my reluctance to accept this hypothesis.

    Thank you for showing some insight bhaisahab.

  5. #5
    crclee is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: account for the use of "mought" in the below sentence?

    Quote Originally Posted by ModernDickens View Post
    "What you mought call me? You mought call me captain"
    (RL Stevenson, Treasure Island, chapter 1)
    My trusty, well-thumbed dictionary tells me that "mought" is an archaic past tense form of "may". And Wiktionary defines it as an archaic form of "might": mought - Wiktionary. In either case, it appears to be a standard, though no longer used, modal.

    As for the lack of inversion in the opening question above, that's most likely Stevenson's attempt to show piratical dialect. Arrrr.

  6. #6
    Tdol is online now Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: account for the use of "mought" in the below sentence?

    Quote Originally Posted by ModernDickens View Post
    As far as I know, such a mixture of modal verbs are not common in the English language, hence my reluctance to accept this hypothesis.
    Should a hypothesis really stand or fall according to whether it's describing something that is common? Also, are you comparing modal verbs now or in history?

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