In light of Mishoe and Montgomery's 1994 analysis of the double modal's pragmatic function in mitigating face-threatening situations this article assesses the perception of the double modal in the context of a medical consultation. In an experiment using a modified matched-guise technique and a between-subjects design, a group of respondents listened to a recording of a doctor using a naturally occurring double modal in consultation with a patient, while a control group heard the same recording with one of the modals removed. Attitudes of the respondents were measured indirectly though responses to a semantic differential test, and the ratings of the two groups were compared. While previous language attitude studies of nonprestige varieties show the usage of nonstandard features has a downgrading effect on the perception of a speaker's competence, this study found no downgrading effects. Instead, double modal guises were rated significantly higher for adjectives measuring solidarity, particularly the single adjective Polite. That is, a doctor heard using a double modal was perceived as being more polite than the same doctor when the double modal was removed with no downgrading of the competence of the doctor, indicating that the double modal perceived—at least in doctor-patient consultations—as a good faith means to negotiate an imbalanced and face-threatening situation.

You do not currently have access to this content.