Modality And The Expression Of Future Time In English: 'will', 'would', 'shall' & 'should'

4745 words - 19 pages

I. Introduction1.1 It is impossible to make definite reliable statements about future happenings asis the case in statements about the past and present. For this reason all futureforms express certain attitudes or speakers' intentions.Therefore futurity, modality, and aspect are closely interrelated, and this isreflected in the fact that future time is rendered by means of modal auxiliaries,by semi-auxiliaries, etc.Since future reference is a dangerous and controversial area, some scholarswho talk of 'will' and 'shall' alone, speak of a maze through which the nativespeaker seems miraculously to be able to walk with a kind of "sixth organ"(Poutsma 1928:11) which enables him to know exactly when to use them.Jesperson 1909, revised 1961:24) attributes this inherent complexity to thefact that the future by its nature is uncertain. R.A. Close, when considering theuse of 'shall' and 'will' is provoked to admit the "tangle of idiomatic andconflicting usage among native speakers.The content of this paper will deal with an attempt to try to untangle thedifficulties and to break down 'myths' which have come into being over thetime, by examining historical and present day approaches to 'shall' and 'will',and further, by looking at common use of both, as well as special cases, andfinally by considering and comparing the approaches of scholars like Quirk,Leech, and Smith.II. Definitions2.1 In order to illustrate the difficulty that automatically arises when we try to dealwith the presentation of future reference, it is helpful to define some ofthe terms that create the problems we have expressing futurity.2.2 Modality may be defined as the manner in which the meaning of a clause isqualified so as to reflect the speaker's judgement of the likelihood of theproposition it expresses being true (Quirk).2.3 Future may be defined as i) the time yet to comeii) undetermined events that will occur in that timeiii) the condition of a person or thing at a later dateiv) likelihood of later improvement or advancementv) Grammar. a) a tense of verbs used when theaction or event described is to occurafter the time of the utterance.b) a verb in this tense (DCE)2.4 Time can be defined as a continuous measurable quantity from the past,through the present, and into the future. (DCE)2.5 Tense is any of the forms of a verb that show the time and continuance orcompletion of the action or state expressed by the verb. (DCE)III. History of 'Shall' & 'Will'3.1 A close look at the various and many-fold historical definitions of 'shall' and'will' vividly shows the problematic approach people have had over the centuriestrying to grasp futurity. Apart from these historical definitions a glance at thepresent situation (that is the 20th century) will illustrate the difficult perceptionof 'shall' and 'will' and thus of futurity.3.2 According to Bishop John Wallis, who lived in the 17th century, 'shall' in thefirst person predicts. 'Will', in the first person does things like...

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