May 29, 2014

Elizabeth Cowper at Spring Reunion

Elizabeth Cowper is giving a lecture entitled 'Looking Into the Future' which will take place as part of Spring Reunion on Thursday, May 29 from 7-9 pm in the Linguistics Lounge at the University of Toronto. This lecture is open to all students, alumni, faculty and friends!

Abstract: Currently, linguists disagree as to whether the future is best seen as a tense, along with present and past, or as a modal element, along with notions like possibility, necessity, obligation, and ability. For example, present-day English marks the future with the modal element will, whereas in Romance languages there is typically a morphological future tense form. I will discuss my ongoing research into how the expression of futurity in English has changed since the 10th century. English modals (can, will, may, might, etc.) emerged as a special class only around 1500, and will and shall began to be used as future markers only in Middle English. Comparing four versions of the Gospels (the 10th-Century Anglo-Saxon Gospels, the 14th-Century Purvey version of the Wycliffe Bible, the 16th-Century King James version, as well as the Vulgate Latin Bible from which the other three were translated), I will talk about how the expression of futurity developed, and what this says about whether the future is a tense or a mood.

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