Featured Linguist!

Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

Donate Now | Visit the Fund Drive Homepage

Amount Raised:


Still Needed:


Can anyone overtake Syntax in the Subfield Challenge ?

Grad School Challenge Leader: University of Washington

Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

New from Oxford University Press!


What is English? And Why Should We Care?

By: Tim William Machan

To find some answers Tim Machan explores the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is fascinating and important, for definitions of English have influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the identities of those who live in them.

New from Cambridge University Press!


Medical Writing in Early Modern English

Edited by Irma Taavitsainen and Paivi Pahta

This volume provides a new perspective on the evolution of the special language of medicine, based on the electronic corpus of Early Modern English Medical Texts, containing over two million words of medical writing from 1500 to 1700.

Summary Details

Query:   sum: will and shall in journal writing
Author:  M Shuib
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Syntax
Text/Corpus Linguistics

Summary:   A few weeks ago I posted the following question:

**I am doing a study on the use of modals by journal writers. Among
other things, I found that many of the writers in my data employ
the modals will and shall in volitional sense interchangeably .
i.e. One of the writers, for example, at the beginning of his article
uses volitional will as in :


and then, at a later stage of his article, he changes to volitional shall,
as in:


What I would like to know is whether you yourself adopt this approach
in your journal or dissertation writing If you do, could you please
offer some explanation. **

Some of the people who responded said that the use of will/shall in
journal writing is a matter of style and consistency. M. Fryd, for
example , puts down such fluctuations to 'straightforward bad
writing'. others gave the following comment:

1. Sherri Condon (condo@usl.edu)
Most Americans do not distinguish shall and will

2. Rick Mc Callister (rmccalli@sunmuv1.MUW.Edu)
In American English the use of shall sounds archaic or pedantic

3. J. DeChicchis ( jed@ue.ipc.hiroshima-uac.jp)

It is difficult for the reader to perceive a semantic difference for
shall/will. This difficulty is not a reflection of the language
proficiency differences of foreign and native readers. This kind of
inderminacy has been reported for modal usages in cross-dialectal
contact situation.

Some of the people who responded argue that the two examples i gave
above have no volitional overtone at all. They state that the modals
above are simply used to indicate futurity.

While I agree that there is some element of futurity in the examples,
there is also, in my view, a sense of volition involved. Both of the
modals above can be paraphrased as '....intend to ...' which I take
as the chief feature of volitional meaning. For those who think that
the idea of volition for will and shall is a wishful thinking on the
part of older grammarians, I would recommmend you to refer to
1. Coates, J (1983) The semantics of modals and modality
2. Butler, C. (1990) Modals in scientific writing, in Nash (ed) The
writing scholar

Thank you for everybody who responded to my query

LL Issue: 8.93
Date Posted: 23-Jan-1997
Original Query: Read original query


Sums main page