Skip to main content
×
Home

The changing future: competition, specialization and reorganization in the contemporary English future temporal reference system 1

  • DEREK DENIS (a1) and SALI A. TAGLIAMONTE (a2)
Abstract

The English future temporal reference system has long been recognized as a variable system undergoing change. The main variants in contemporary English (will and be going to) have both been argued to have gone through (and to potentially still be undergoing) grammaticalization. At the same time, be going to has been gradually increasing in frequency relative to will over the last 500 years. However, investigation of the ongoing development of this system has been sparse. This article makes use of a large contemporary sociolinguistic corpus of a mainstream variety of North American English and the apparent-time construct. Several factors that have been implicated in the development of this system (Sentence Type, Clause Type, Proximity, Verb Type, and the Animacy and Grammatical Person of the Subject) are considered and a multiplex series of changes are uncovered. Underlying an overall, albeit slow, change in frequency towards be going to, we find evidence for specialization of one or the other variant in different linguistic contexts, neutralization of a constraint consistent with ongoing loss of variant nuances through semantic bleaching, and the persistence of constraints consistent with morphological doublet competition.

Copyright
Footnotes
Hide All
1

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for Postdoctoral Fellowship no. 756-2015-0557 (to Denis) and Research Grants from 2001 to the present (to Tagliamonte). We would also like to thank our colleagues from the University of Toronto Language Variation and Change Group for their suggestions, especially J. K. Chambers, Aaron Dinkin, Matt Hunt Gardner, Ruth Maddeaux, Alex Motut and Naomi Nagy. An earlier version of this manuscript was presented at LSA in Minneapolis (2014), where we gained important insights from questions and comments from the audience, especially Bronwyn Bjorkman and Brian Joseph. Lastly, we'd like to thank our editor, Bernd Kortmann, and two anonymous ELL reviewers for their invaluable comments and suggestions.

Footnotes
References
Hide All
Bailey Charles-James N. 1973. Variation and linguistic theory. Arlington, VA: Center for Applied Linguistics.
Bailey Guy, Wikle Tom, Tinnery Jan & Sand Lori. 1991. The apparent time construct. Language Variation and Change 3 (3), 241–64.
Berglund Ylva. 1997. Future in present-day English: Corpus-based evidence on the rivalry of expressions. ICAME Journal 21, 719.
Binnick Robert I. 1971. ‘Will’ and ‘be going to’. Chicago Linguistic Society 7, 4053.
Bybee Joan. 2001. Main clauses are innovative, subordinate clauses are conservative: Consequences for the nature of constructions. In Bybee Joan & Noonan Michael (eds.), Complex sentences in grammar and discourse: Essays in honor of Sandra A. Thompson, 117. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Bybee Joan L., Perkins Revere D. & Pagliuca William. 1994. The evolution of grammar: Tense, aspect, and modality in the languages of the world. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Copley Bridget. 2001. Be going to as a case of High Aspect. In Hastings Rachel, Jackson Brendan & Zvolenszky Zsofia (eds.), Proceedings of SALT XI, 95113. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University.
Copley Bridget. 2009. The semantics of the Future. New York and London: Routledge.
D'Arcy Alexandra & Tagliamonte Sali A.. 2015. Not always variable: Probing beneath the vernacular grammar. Language Variation and Change 27, 255–85.
Danchev Andrei & Kytö Merja. 1994. The construction be going to + infinitive in Early Modern English. In Kastovsky Dieter (ed.), Studies in Early Modern English, 5977. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Denis Derek. 2011. Innovators and innovation: Tracking the innovators of and stuff in York English. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics 17 (2), 6070.
Denis Derek. 2015. The development of pragmatic markers in Canadian English. PhD thesis, University of Toronto.
Fries Charles Carpenter. 1925. The periphrastic future with shall and will in modern English. Publications of the Modern Linguistic Association of America 40, 9631024.
Haegeman Liliane. 1989. Be going to and will: A pragmatic account. Journal of Linguistics 25, 291317.
Hopper Paul J. 1991. On some principles of grammaticization. In Traugott Elizabeth Closs & Heine Bernd (eds.), Approaches to grammaticalization, vol. 1: Focus on theoretical and methodological issues, 1735. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Hopper Paul J. & Traugott Elizabeth Closs. 2003. Grammaticalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Huddleston Rodney & Pullum Geoffrey K.. 2002. The Cambridge grammar of the English language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Janda Richard D. 2001. Beyond ‘pathways’ and ‘unidirectionality’: On the discontinuity of language transmission and the counterability of grammaticalization. Language Sciences 23, 265340.
Kroch Anthony S. 1989. Reflexes of grammar in patterns of language change. Language Variation and Change 1, 199244.
Kroch Anthony S. 1994. Morphosyntactic variation. In Beals Katie (ed.), Proceedings of the Thirtieth Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistics Society, vol. 2, 180201. Chicago: Chicago Linguistics Society.
Labov William. 1972. Sociolinguistic patterns. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Labov William. 1982. Building on empirical foundations. In Lehmann Winfred P. & Malkiel Yakov (eds.), Perspectives on historical linguistics, 1792. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Labov William. 2001. Principles of linguistic change, vol. 2: Social factors. Oxford: Blackwell.
Leech Geoffrey, Hundt Marianne, Mair Christian & Smith Nicholas. 2009. Change in contemporary English: A grammatical study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mair Christian. 1997. The spread of the going-to-future in written English: A corpus-based investigation into language change in progress. In Hickey Raymond & Puppel Stanislav (eds.), Language history and linguistic modelling, 1537–43. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Mair Christian. 2004. Corpus linguistics and grammaticalisation theory: Statistics, frequencies and beyond. In Lindqvist Hans & Mair Christian (eds.), Corpus approaches to grammaticalization in English, 121–50. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Nesselhauf Nadja. 2012. Mechanisms of language change in a functional system. Journal of Historical Linguistics 2, 83132.
Nevalainen Terttu & Raumolin-Brunberg Helena. 1996. Sociolinguistics and language history: Studies based on the corpus of Early English correspondence. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
Pichler Heike & Stephen Levey. 2011. In search of grammaticalization in synchronic dialect data: General extenders in north-east England. English Language and Linguistics 15, 441–71.
Poplack Shana & Tagliamonte Sali A.. 2000. The grammaticalization of going to in (African American) English. Language Variation and Change 11, 315–42.
Poplack Shana & Tagliamonte Sali A.. 2001. African American English in the diaspora. Oxford: Blackwell.
Poplack Shana & Turpin Danielle. 1999. Does the FUTUR have a future in (Canadian) French? Probus 11, 134–64.
Roy Joseph. 2007. Peering into the future: The emergence of going to in the 18th century. Presented at New Ways of Analyzing Variation 36, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
Sankoff David. 1988 Sociolinguistics and syntactic variation. In Newmeyer Frederick J. (ed.), Linguistics: The Cambridge survey, 140–61. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sankoff David & Thibault Pierrette. 1981. Weak complementarity: Tense and aspect in Montreal French. In Syntactic change, 205–16. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Szmrecsanyi Benedikt. 2003. ‘Be going to’ versus ‘will/shall’: Does syntax matter? Journal of English Linguistics 31, 295323.
Tagliamonte Sali A. 1998. Was/were variation across the generations: View from the city of York. Language Variation and Change 10 (2), 153–91.
Tagliamonte Sali A. 2000. The story of KOM in Nigerian Pidgin English. In McWhorter John (ed.), Theoretical issues in pidgin and creole studies, 353–82. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Tagliamonte Sali A. 2002. Comparative sociolinguistics. In Chambers J. K., Trudgill Peter & Schilling-Estes Natalie (eds.), Handbook of language variation and change, 729–63. Malden, MA, and Oxford: Blackwell.
Tagliamonte Sali A. 2003. ‘Every place has a different toll’: Determinants of grammatical variation in cross-variety perspective. In Rohdenberg Günter & Mondorf Britta (eds.), Determinants of grammatical variation in English, 531–54. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Tagliamonte Sali A. 2006a. ‘So cool, right?’ Canadian English entering the 21st century. Canadian English in a global context, special issue of Canadian Journal of Linguistics 51, 309–31.
Tagliamonte Sali A. 2006b. Analysing sociolinguistic variation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Tagliamonte Sali A. 2008. So different and pretty cool! Recycling intensifiers in Toronto, Canada. English Language and Linguistics 12, 361–94.
Tagliamonte Sali A. 2012. Variationist sociolinguistics: Change, observation, interpretation. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
Tagliamonte Sali A. & Baayen Harald R.. 2012. Models, forests and trees of York English: Was/were variation as a case study for statistical practice. Language Variation and Change 24, 135–78.
Tagliamonte Sali A. & D'Arcy Alexandra. 2007. The modals of obligation/necessity in Canadian perspective. English World-Wide, 28, 4787.
Tagliamonte Sali A. & D'Arcy Alexandra. 2009. Peaks beyond phonology: Adolescence, incrementation, and language change. Language 85, 58108.
Tagliamonte Sali A. & Denis Derek. 2010. The stuff of change: General extenders in Toronto, Canada. Journal of English Linguistics 38, 335–68.
Tagliamonte Sali A., Durham Mercedes & Smith Jennifer. 2014. Grammaticalization at an early stage: Future ‘be going to’ in conservative British dialects. English Language and Linguistics 18, 75108.
Torres Cacoullos Rena & Walker James A.. 2009. The present of the English Future: Grammatical variation and collocations in discourse. Language 85, 321–54.
Traugott Elizabeth Closs. 2003. Constructions in grammaticalization. In Joseph Brian D. & Janda Richard D. (eds.), The handbook of historical linguistics, 624–47. Oxford: Blackwell.
Visser Fredericus T. 1963/73. An historical syntax of the English language. Leiden: E. J. Brill.
Wagner Suzanne Evans & Sankoff Gillian. 2011. Age grading in the Montréal French inflected future. Language Variation and Change 23, 275313.
Wekker H. C. 1976. The expression of future time in contemporary British English. Amsterdam: North Holland.
Whyte John. 1944. The future tense in English future and modal auxiliaries: ‘Shall’ and ‘will’, ‘to be going’. College English 5, 333–7.
Williams Christopher. 2014. Changes in the verb phrase in legal English. In Aarts Bas, Close Joanne, Leech Geoffrey & Wallis Sean (eds.), The verb phrase in English: Investigating recent language change with corpora., 353–71. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

English Language & Linguistics
  • ISSN: 1360-6743
  • EISSN: 1469-4379
  • URL: /core/journals/english-language-and-linguistics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 12
Total number of PDF views: 71 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 439 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 31st January 2017 - 20th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.