Seminar 1, Week 3

Seminar 1: Her Majesty comes to Balliol

We advanced a series of reasons for our claim that the doctrine that English has a future tense, with ‘will’ as its marker, is just a mistake.  Empirical grammarians of English have been saying so on and off for more than 200 years, and the view we are espousing has been more or less standard since Frank Palmer published his A Linguistic Study of the English Verb (London; Longman) in 1965.  Evidently it takes a long time for the considered warblings of the grammarians to percolate down through our education system.

Never mind.  You can read Stingray’s summary of our presentation here.  You may also find it helpful to read through two related pieces by Mark (2006) and Amyas (2008).

The audience proffered several thoughts in defence of the view that ‘will’ nonetheless encodes for future time, and also several thoughts as to what the meaning of ‘will’ might be if not future time.  We have some sympathy with several of these thoughts, for the better ones did at least offer some hope of a univocal account of ‘will’.  They will be dealt with via blog posts, in the fullness of time.  Look for posts on:

Will’ and uncertainty
Will’ and probability
Will’ and later discovery

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