by John Lawler


[Prof. Lawler'in bu çalışmasını dilbilim ile doğrudan ilgilenen ve advanced düzeyde İngilizce bilen üyelerimiz için buraya alıyorum. Bu konuyu, diğer üyelerimiz için, farklı bir bakış açısı ile açıklama getirerek zaman zaman Dergimizde ele alıyorum.]


... [T]he usual oppositions are those between

will  -  and  -  be going to  /g@n@/

  |                          |

and                      and

  |                           |

must and  -  have to  /haeft@/

[Lawler burada American "gonna" okunuşunu veriyor]




A four-way distinction; and as well between the logical classes of Deontic (two-place, social permission/obligation) modals, and Epistemic (one-place, logical possibility/necessity) modals;

[as] between the logical classes of Necessity (social obligation, universal, "square") modality, and Possibility (social permission, existential, "diamond"); another four-way distinction.

Lacking a four-dimensional HyperSpace Markup Language, I cannot provide a graphic for the intersection, of these two four-way distinctions, alas.

Will and must are both Necessary-class modal auxiliary verbs, and are, like most modals in most languages, ambiguous between the Deontic

a) If he will do it, ... [means "If he's willing to", not simple future "will", banned in 'if'-clauses]

b) Cinderella must be home by midnight.

and the Epistemic:

a) It will rain tonight. [certainty in expression of the future; logical, not social]

b) This must be the place. [certainty in expression of logical conclusion]

As modal auxiliaries, both will and must have a morphosyntactic peculiarity in English: they are defective verbs in that they do not possess all the forms ("principal parts") of other verbs. There is no infinitive, participle, or gerund; moreover, modal auxiliaries may not be inflected for tense. Since modals cannot be inflected, and since all auxiliary verbs in an English verb phrase (except the first) must be inflected, whether finite or not, modals are limited to first position in the verb phrase (where they must be followed by an infinitive).

There is also another opposition among the formal auxiliaries, between historically "preterite" and historically "present" forms:

could   -    can

might   -    may

should  -    shall

would    -    will


Although must is based on a preterite, it has no preterite sense; indeed, the "preterite" usages of these forms are quite rare, limited to sentences like:

When I was young, I could do 30 chin-ups; now I can only do 29.

All of which goes to show that one must use other means than inflection to express preterity with a modal. Not really surprising; English has been abandoning its old inflections like a snake shedding its skin since the Great Vowel Shift, and replacing them with periphrasis of one kind or another.

One variety of such periphrasis is the use of the Perfect have [+ Past Participle]: I should have punched out his lights... I may have discovered it...

This is becoming an inflection in (American) English, as the frequent confusion of "have" with "of" in spelling, and the very idiosyncratic phonology of these constructions (like all modal phenomena) attest.

But it's not the only kind of modal periphrasis, and it doesn't cover all the logically and socially necessary cases. To take up the slack, there are a number of idiomatized ("canonical") paraphrases, often paradigmatically related to real modal auxiliaries.

The canonical paraphrase for will is be going to, idiosyncratically (but universally, in America) pronounced /g@n@/, with varying degrees of prefixal agreement: Singular Plural

1 /aNG-g@n@/ /w@R-g@n@/

2 /y@R-g@n@/

3 /z-g@n@/ /@R-g@n@/

It has preterite forms, based on those for be, and in this case it is more flexible than will, since it can express tense:

I was going to tell him, but since you already have...

and thereby provide the means for a nice distinction, as against:

I would have told him, but since you already have...

Note, the have solution doesn't work for will itself, only would:

?? I will have told him, but since you already have...

The oddity in juxtaposition of the clauses here is due to the future perfect sense of will have, logically Future [Perfective [Vb]] where was going to is Perf [Fut [Vb]]. Hence the second clause doesn't make sense, since it refers to a different construal of the modality and aspect. "Would", in its "preterite" sense is equivalent to used to /yust@/, another periphrastic construction. They're all over the place.

The canonical paraphrase for must is have to, idiosyncratically (but universally, in America) pronounced /haeft@/. It, too, has inflected parts: /haeft@/, /haest@/, /haedt@/, since these are only semantically but not (yet) syntactically modal auxiliaries, they appear with do-Support when negated:

You don't have to /haeft@/ do that. NOT [OBLIGED [Vb]]

He didn't have to /haeft@/ say that.

The first of these are very different from the negated modal must:

You must not do that. OBLIGED [NOT [Vb]]

and the second uses both negation and Perfective to provide a very different meaning:

He must not have said that. NECESSARY [NOT [Perf [Vb]]] "must" must precede a negative or a Perfective have, producing NECESSARY/OBLIGED [NOT [V]], and NECESSARY [Perf [Vb]]. The laws of causality, and the limits of the imperative mood ("Canute's Law") prohibit OBLIGED [Perf [Vb]], and the rules of English syntax prohibit most other configurations with true modal auxiliaries.

"Have to" furnishes a quasi-pseudo-semi-hemi-demi-must for such purposes, and an alternative must available for occasional contrasts.

In sum, it is very useful, one may even say vital, to English speakers to have this degree of flexibility in the modality department. English may have only remnants of its mood (=modality) inflections left, like the various subjunctives, but it has lots more nascent morphology that's already almost paradigmatic. As with the Northern Cities Chain Shift, one can see an actual language change in progress here.

The keyword for this phenomenon in the linguistic literature, by the way, is "grammaticalization".


Additional Notes:

A couple of references that might be useful to those interested in this subject are:

A pair of papers from CLS (Publications from the Nth Regional Meeting, Chicago Linguistic Society, annual (4 < N < 30 (= 1995)) volumes that explicate the semantic and syntactic distinctions between the (American) English usage of 'will' and 'be going to' /g@n@/, written by Robert Binnick. They are called, surprisingly, "Will and Be Going To" and "Will and Be Going To II", and they were published in the 70's (if memory serves, 6 <= N <= 10). They should be available in any university library, and can be bought from the Society (parenthetically, they're cheap)...

They're both quite clear and readable, and give plenty of examples. And, for *my* money (I'm a linguistics professor [Caution: your money may vary; references on request, some assembly required, batteries not included]), they are the closest thing to what I could consider definitive authority on this topic.

Chapter 9, "Negation and Modality", in Frawley's _Linguistic Semantics_ [1992, Lawrence Erlbaum], which is one of the standard textbooks (I just finished teaching with it last week). It seems to me from about a month's attention to a.u.e that a large number of the questions and disputes have to do with negation (and negative polarity items like 'any( )more') and modality ('must', 'will', 'have to', 'going to', subjunctives, et very complex cetera), and especially to their interaction. Negation and modality are very closely related to one another in semantics in all kinds of ways.

Frawley's discussion of them and other topics is very thorough and has many, many interesting examples from a lot of languages summarizing most of the issues. Here's the table of contents of Frawley:

1. Semantics and Linguistic Semantics: Toward Grammatical Meaning

2. Five Approaches to Meaning

3. Entities

4. Events

5. Thematic Roles [e.g, "Agent", "Patient", "Receiver", etc.]

6. Space

7. Aspect

8. Tense and Time

9. Modality and Negation

10. Modification

I'd reckon it as a good authority for semantics. For English syntax, by the way, a very good grammar that's as authoritative as Jesperson is McCawley's relatively recent two-volume "The Syntactic Phenomena of English" [University of Chicago Press].