14.679, Qs: Modal/Auxiliary Verbs

LINGUIST List linguist at linguistlist.org
Mon Mar 10 15:56:09 UTC 2003

LINGUIST List:  Vol-14-679. Mon Mar 10 2003. ISSN: 1068-4875.

Subject: 14.679, Qs: Modal/Auxiliary Verbs

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Date:  Mon, 10 Mar 2003 02:01:09 +0900
From:  "sm-myoga" <sm-myoga at hyper.ocn.ne.jp>
Subject:  query

Date:  Mon, 10 Mar 2003 02:46:09 +0900
From:  "sm-myoga" <sm-myoga at hyper.ocn.ne.jp>
Subject:  query

-------------------------------- Message 1 -------------------------------

Date:  Mon, 10 Mar 2003 02:01:09 +0900
From:  "sm-myoga" <sm-myoga at hyper.ocn.ne.jp>
Subject:  query

Dear Linguists,

Can we understand that (1) and (2) are interchangeable (in its exact sense)?

(1) ... so that X will not ...
(2) ... so that X does not...

At least, no native speakers of English will see any serious difference
between (3a) and (3b) [or would you?]

(3) a. You have to work hard now so that you won't fail the test.
     b. You have to work hard now so that you don't fail the test.
[cf. *You have to work hard now so that you cannot fail the test. (I'll take
this problem somewhere else.)]

I assume that we can rephrase (3a) as (4).

(4) You have to work hard now so that it is certain that you will not fail
the test.

This means that the "will" in (3a) is epistemic while the "will" in (4)
stands for simple futurity.  (As long as we have good reason to assume that
(3a) means (4)), as we can easily infer from the form of "is" in "it is
certain," the speaker's assessment is made at the time of his/her utterance
that there is no possibility of you failing the test.

If we are right on the track, we could put it generally as follows:
when the speaker has enough information to make an accurate judgment or
prediction of the course of an action or event in the future, at the very
time of his/her utterance,  it is only optional to choose an epistemic
"will" or a supported "do."

Diachronically, my attendant question is,
Is (2) a new comer or late comer?

The possible replacement somehow reminds me of this phenomenon.

(5) [See (to it)/Make sure/Ensure] that you lock the door when you go out.

These days, we can use "will lock" in place of the simple present "lock"
(though this "will" itself means simple futurity.)

In short, what I wonder is whether (1) and (2) can coexist in peace or there
is an ongoing shift from (1) to (2).

Thank you in advance
Best regards

Seiichi MYOGA

e-mail address: sm-myoga at hyper.ocn.ne.jp

-------------------------------- Message 2 -------------------------------

Date:  Mon, 10 Mar 2003 02:46:09 +0900
From:  "sm-myoga" <sm-myoga at hyper.ocn.ne.jp>
Subject:  query

Dear Linguists,

Which do you think is the unit for possibility, can or will?

Needless to say this here, but it would not be so bad an idea to remind
ourselves that something that is high on the scale is generally chosen for a
unit, as we see in (1).

(1) a. How long is the bridge?
     b. That bridge is as long as this one.
       =That bridge has the same length as this one does.

So far as we are concerned, however,  with "positive" purpose that a
"before"-clause stands for (roughly, "before S can/will..." can be replaced
with "so that S can/will..."),  "can" seems to be the unit for possibility
which covers from 1% to 99%.

(2) a. We have to introduce the new system before we [will/can] reduce labor
     (b.=We have to introduce the new system so that we [will/can] reduce
labor costs.)
     (c.=We have to introduce the new system before it is [certain/possible]
that we will reduce labor costs.)
     d. You must just sign here before you [?will/can] get your insurance
     (e.=You must just sign here so that you [will/can] get your insurance

Unlike (2a), "will" in (2d) is closer in meaning to "agree to" and seen from
an illocutionary act, the whole sentence suggests that the speaker is
demanding you sign here.  I think this is why "will" sounds strange here.

Given the general understanding that "can" has a lower status on the scale
of possibility, I think that this might posit an interesting question.

What I don't know is whether this is the exception only for a
"before"-clause used to mean positive purpose or this is the rule.

Do you have any idea?

Thank you in advance
Best regards

Seiichi MYOGA

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