LINGUIST List 4.751

Sat 25 Sep 1993

Disc: Shall

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Susan Ervin-Tripp, shall
  2. "Leslie Z. Morgan", shall and shan't
  3. lc22, Shall
  4. mmackenz, shall
  5. Gregory Ward, the modals they are a-changin'?

Message 1: shall

Date: Tue, 21 Sep 93 23:13:43 -0shall
From: Susan Ervin-Tripp <ervin-trcogsci.Berkeley.EDU>
Subject: shall

>From Benji Wald:
 AMERICAN ENGLISH? That's my impression -- it's only used to sound Biblical.

In the collection of spoken materials in the Berkeley Disclab, there were
about half as many uses of 'shall' as of 'ought' or 'oughta', which certainly
is not dead. Here are some examples:

Following examples of "shall" from informal conversations: shall we talk about *baseball? you don't *like baseball
(San Francisco electronics technician). 150 A: oh ~i ~dealt, well in that case... i shall bid
Male California college student in fraternity bridge game. .. shall i just talk to your sister?
Korean-American male from Minnesota and said what shall i do?
Italian-American woman about 50 from New Jersey E: shall we talk about spores and fungus now? [ironic]
Female student from Indiana and Southern California well we shall find out but i think you .. are more capable
23 year old American male student directing a game group

T.SKS02.a:529 H: ... ok fine, we'll do that then, shall we?
T.SKS03.a:369 H: he needs to do a little bit of ehh.. research, shall we
T.SKS05.a:477 H: eh i think he got to the.. eh panic stage, shall we say.
(In England) English skills instructor discussing interview.

T.JOB01.a:50 M: oh, ehhmm it varied/ but eh, shall we say, in between six...
(In England) English male engineer.

Susan Ervin-Tripp
University of California, Berkeley
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Message 2: shall and shan't

Date: Thu, 23 Sep 1993 19:48 ESTshall and shan't
From: "Leslie Z. Morgan" <MORGANLOYOLA.EDU>
Subject: shall and shan't

I'd like to ask about the presumed death of "shall"-- I think
it goes with "shan't". When someone reminds me to do something,
"I shall" and "I shan't" are normal responses to me (though I
had to unlearn them in school after much mockery). I think
they come from a North Carolina mother, who still says both--
not to mention all of us who fall back into it quickly after
a day or so of visiting.
Are the areas of shall/shan't related to y'all? If NC is the
domain, they would seem to be....

Leslie Morgan
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Message 3: Shall

Date: Thu, 23 Sep 93 21:19 EDT
From: lc22 <>
Subject: Shall

To respond to Benji Wald's question, _shall_ is not only not dead, but very
much alive in interrogatives, at least for some speakers. I hear questions

 Shall we get started now?
 Shall we go?

all the time. "Will we get started now?" and "Will we go?" mean something
altogether different, and "Should we get started now?" and "Should we go?",
while they can be used to convey a suggestion that the activity begin
(like the "shall" forms), can also be interpreted, unlike the "shall"
forms, as simple requests for information ("Do you think we ought to go?")

Linda Coleman
Department of English
University of Maryland
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Message 4: shall

Date: Fri, 24 Sep 1993 13:00:11 shall
From: mmackenz <>
Subject: shall

Well, I used to believe that 'shall' was dead except in 'biblical' contexts.
that was until I recently caught myself using it a couple of times. I only
have used it in the phrase "I shall...." and it seems to mean a bit more
determination than "I will..." to do what I said I would do.

I don't know if this could be influence from 'biblical' contexts. I am very
little exposed to the venerable King James translation of the Bible anymore
as I read a modern translation and my pastor preaches from a different
modern translation -- neither of which use 'shall'.

Mike MacKenzie
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Message 5: the modals they are a-changin'?

Date: Fri, 24 Sep 93 15:17:14 CDthe modals they are a-changin'?
From: Gregory Ward <>
Subject: the modals they are a-changin'?

In response to Paul Kershaw's posting about possible shifts in modal
meanings, I will like to point out that `should' may have some
company. I've noticed that in both of my principal sources of news,
the Chicago Tribune and ABC World News Tonight, reporters often use
the simple future (`will') in what would seem to be clearly
conditional contexts. However, consequents of explicit conditionals
are (invariably?) marked with `would'.

I've noticed this usage most recently in connection with the
discussion of Clinton's health plan (e.g., "The plan will insure 37
million Americans who currently have no health insurance", "Smith
announced his opposition to the plan, saying it will be bad for small
businesses", cp. "If enacted, the plan would..."). This seems to be
more than a not-so-subtle strategy on the reporter's part to assert,
rather than conditionalize, the futurity of the health plan.
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