Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Thy will be done

As evident in my continual misuse of grammatical standards and as I periodically restate here, I am no professional student of English.

But although it is self-evident that Indo-European languages share common ancestry, I vaguely recall that some serious scholars have alleged that language shapes culture and perhaps there are little-known languages such as Hopi that have no real concept of time; or at least no past, present and future tense as we recognise them today in our western European world.

It's very predictable that I'd recommend The Language Instinct for an excellent overview of this subject. Of course the Hopi theory is debunked there. But that book is a decade old. What I noted just today was that Geoff Pullum reminded us that English has no future tense.

"The fact that there is a stubborn tendency in English grammar books to misrepresent will be as the future tense of be doesn't make it right. "

The word will is not a marker of future tense, it is an auxilliary verb that can indicate a future tense, but only sometimes depending on context. Other English modifiers can equally be used. But reduce to common sense. English has no future tense.

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