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Thread: who is online

  1. #11
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    Default Re: who is online

    Tdol: Tensed, tenseless, adverbs- modals get described as many things, so we'll probably have to agree to differ here. However, I don't think that pragmatism is a redundant argument. Let's take an imaginary class- I do one lesson, you go in and say they have no tenses, and teacher three rushes in and says they're not verbs at all but adverbs. How on earth are the students going to respond?

    I still don't get what you're driving at, Tdol. Have you not set up a strawman here? We can dispense with teacher three as he/she's an idiot. Now, as to teacher one. Why keep describing the modals as past and present tense when they just won't operate as they're described.

    What happens when students are told that modals have past and present tense? They produce all sorts of ungrammatical sentences. They fail to grasp what, arguably, is the most important crucial system of English meaning.

    What happens when students are told that modals are tenseless? They can use all the modals in a natural manner and they don't produce these false-grammar induced errors.


    Tdol: I don't like the use of present and past as tense labels, and go for the two tense/form view of the English verb, yet how many textbooks have you got or seen that talk of a future tense, perfect tenses, etc? How do you handle this?

    The same way as I handle the modals. I tell them the truth, back it up by pointing to how language is really used and let them see the light.

    Tdol: There is a lack of consensus on this issue but it is clear that those who wish to change things have not managed to carry the industry with them, a fact that I don't think can be ignored.

    That's the way of the world. Those who have a great deal invested in old falsehoods often cling to those falsehoods with a tenacity that is truly amazing.

    All you have to do is look at language and how it's used. Years ago, and time after time, I've asked ENLs to provide one sentence where 'might' is the past tense of 'may'. I'm still waiting. How can something that is so true be so difficult to illustrate.



    Tdol: BTW- out of interest, where do you teach, have you taught?

    Yes, I have, right down there in the trenches, for a good number of years now.

  2. #12
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    Default Re: who is online

    ... an example of 'would' operating as a past tense of 'will'...
    Hello DBP, let me interrupt your discussion for a minute, I'm interested in your view.
    I'd like to ask you: can the following sentence be a candidate?

    # John said he would be happy.

    ...or it's different?

  3. #13
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    Default Re: who is online

    Quote Originally Posted by Roro
    Hello DBP, let me interrupt your discussion for a minute, I'm interested in your view.
    I'd like to ask you: can the following sentence be a candidate?

    # John said he would be happy.

    ...or it's different?
    Hello, Roro,

    Actually, these types of examples have been the only proof put forward that modals have tense but a quick look will show that it's clearly not a past tense.

    The backshifting that we see in Reported Speech has nothing to do with past tense. What happens when we change from 'will' to 'would' or from 'may' to 'might' or from 'can' to 'could' only signals to a native speaker's brain that the speaker is not saying exactly what the original speaker said.

    We can see that it has nothing to do with tense because we can also report the speech as a direct quote;

    John said, I'll be happy."

    The only thing that has past, that is actually past tense, that is actually finished, is 'said'. 'would' in "would be happy" has likely not even come to pass or John's happiness is ongoing. This is as it is with most reported speech events; what is being reported is still a future event or an ongoing one.

    DBP: I'll go to bed soon.

    Roro: DBP said he would go to bed soon.

    You've reported my speech, Roro, using 'would' but I'm still here typing away. The 'would' refers to an action that is still sometime in the future. It most definitely does NOT say anything about a past time, ergo, 'would' is not a past tense.

    "This is how backshift is to be interpreted, not as converting one tense into another." [The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language]

    Think about another important aspect. Why would we report speech of events that are finished? They lack importance if they're finished. The vast majority of reported speech informs us of things that have not yet happened.

    Look at a newspaper. Reported speech is often used to tell what a politician intends to do. What would be the use of newspapers reporting politician's plans that were over and done with?

  4. #14
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    Default Re: who is online

    Quote Originally Posted by dalaqo
    I usually [get] confused [with] the meaning of "would" grammatically, particularly when it's past tense, present tense and future tense. Does it mean be, been, being?
    would does not express 'present tense';i.e., non-past, nor does it express 'future tense';i.e., aspect. There are two woulds: would1, an auxiliary verb, and would2, a modal auxilairy, and there are six (known) semantic "flavours".

    Auxiliary Verb: expresses past tense
    [1] past of will
    EX: "I will go," said Max. (reported speech: Max said he would go.)

    Modal Auxiliary: expresses a mood
    [2] to express a condition
    EX: They would have been killed if they had gone.
    [3] to express habitual action
    EX: She would wait every evening for the bus.
    [4] to express a polite request
    EX: Would you like some more cake?
    [5] to express probability
    EX: She would be over fifty by now
    [6] to express consent
    EX: They would not help.

    All the best,

  5. #15
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    Default Re: who is online

    Hello DBP, thank you so much for your detailed reply.
    I'd like to take some time to study the whole thread before composing my reply
    Talk to you soon,

  6. #16
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    Default Re: who is online

    Quote Originally Posted by DBP
    In modern English, the modal verbs are tenseless. This allows them to operate in all tenses, past, present and future.
    True, and we're dealing with homonyms here: (the) past and past (tense). I must have missed the word 'tense' in tdol's post, or maybe I failed to infer it. I saw examples based on the semantics of modal logic: "the past", a temporal adverb, and "past tense", a grammatical term, differ in function, yet both express what is known. (Modal Logic works from a similar stance; i.e., G = known/past; H = unknown/future). Similarly, ESL texts list the following 'modals' under the columns, "Present" and "Past", respectively,

    may, might
    shall, should
    can, could
    will, would

    The reason being, verbs that change their form - in the true Latin sense, "flex", bend - are either Present or Past in form, regardless of whether they carry grammatical tense or not. Semantics is the culprit here. Modals, as you mentioned, do not carry tense, and yet they do in fact express "the past", what is known, which is why it's possible to discuss them and even define them using the word "past".

    Quote Originally Posted by DBP
    Think about another important aspect. Why would we report speech of events that are finished? They lack importance if they're finished. The vast majority of reported speech informs us of things that have not yet happened.
    Yes, I agree, and yet from a different perspective, it's "the known" that's being reported, not the event's status. For example,

    Max: Will you help me with my assignment?
    Pat: Yes, I will help.
    (Later that day)
    Sam: Is Pat going to help you?
    Max: She said she would help, but she's not here yet.


    All the best,

  7. #17
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    Default Re: who is online

    Casiopea:True, and we're dealing with homonyms here: (the) past and past (tense). I must have missed the word 'tense' in tdol's post, or maybe I failed to infer it. I saw examples based on the semantics of modal logic: "the past", a temporal adverb, and "past tense", a grammatical term, differ in function, yet both express what is known. (Modal Logic works from a similar stance; i.e., G = known/past; H = unknown/future).

    Similarly, ESL texts list the following 'modals' under the columns, "Present" and "Past", respectively,

    may, might
    shall, should
    can, could
    will, would

    The reason being, verbs that change their form - in the true Latin sense, "flex", bend - are either Present or Past in form, regardless of whether they carry grammatical tense or not. Semantics is the culprit here. Modals, as you mentioned, do not carry tense, and yet they do in fact express "the past", what is known, which is why it's possible to discuss them and even define them using the word "past".


    Yes, I agree, and yet from a different perspective, it's "the known" that's being reported, not the event's status. For example,

    With the greatest of respect, Casiopea, you given us a great deal of theory but I'm afraid that this theory just doesn't meet any objective reality test. You seem to be trying to explain away centuries of a flat out mistake. Traditional grammar has long described these changes in reported speech as a shift to past tense.

    This has always been done with the same meaning as that given past tense to say, 'kicked' as the past tense of 'kick'. I've never come upon the reasoning you've laid out here and again, with respect, you seem to be creating new reasoning simply to defend an old mistake. Or it could well be that I've not fully understood your remarks.


    Casiopea:
    Max: Will you help me with my assignment?
    Pat: Yes, I will help.
    (Later that day)
    Sam: Is Pat going to help you?
    Max: She said she would help, but she's not here yet.


    Let's subject this example to a bit of scrutiny. Clearly, as Pat's not even here, the 'would' does not reflect a past in any way, shape or form.

    To reiterate, 'would' is substituted for 'will' because we ENLs often, though not always, [this is crucial] choose to mark things said to us as, "I'm giving the gist of what was said, not the actual words". That's all that happens with these shifts. There's no change in tense because there's no event that has finished.

    This is what ESLs expect a past tense to do, denote a finished action. The action being described thus, "She said she would help," is an action that has not occurred. It can hardly be regarded as a past or a past tense.

    All 'would' is doing here is marking reported speech. Again to show that this is the case, we can see that, as is often the case, for things like this that are especially current, native speakers [ENLs] don't always backshift, in this case, make the change to 'would'. In the fourth line of your dialogue, where Max said,

    Max: She said she would help, but she's not here yet.,

    he could just as easily have stayed with 'will',

    Max: She said she'LL help, but she's not here yet.

    So, in reported speech, the shift does not indicate any past tense or even a past. These changes occur in English for one reason and one reason only;

    TO LET LISTENERS KNOW THAT THE WORDS ARE NOT THE ORIGINAL SPEAKER'S ACTUAL WORDS, BUT MERELY A REPRESENTATION OF THEM.

    [no yelling there, just emphasis]

    Further, if 'would' were a past tense, as it has been long described by traditional grammar, we could actually take it and use it as a past tense. Let's try:

    Max: Will you help me with my assignment?
    Pat: Yes, I will help.
    (Later that day)
    Sam: Is Pat going to help you?
    Max: She said she would help, but she's not here yet.
    Pat: Hi guys, sorry I'm late. Let's get started. [Pat helps, then leaves]
    Sam: *Pat would help you.*
    Max: *Yup, Pat would help me.*

    No one would ever say what Max and Sam said in the last lines [that's why I've marked them as ungrammatical] to state that Pat did help/helped. The past tense of this action or any action can only be stated by a true past tense, ie. "Pat helpED Max" OR "Pat didn't help Max".



    All the best,

    And to you too, Casiopea.
    Last edited by DBP; 29-Sep-2005 at 06:11. Reason: correct a writing mistake

  8. #18
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    Default Re: who is online

    Interesting!
    Sorry to butt in again without closely examining the whole thread. Just a word.
    {DBP} In modern English, the modal verbs are tenseless. This allows them to operate in all tenses, past, present and future.
    I'm almost convinced by DBP's argument. The quote above reminded me of one passage from *Cutrer1994:

    .................................................. .................................................. .....

    The 'will' Future(sic) may also be used for past events, as in (1.6).
    (1.6) Professor Smith graduated from Harverd in 1957. In 1957, he went on to a professorship at Yale. From Yale he will join the National Academy of Sciences and go on to a brilliant research career.
    The use of the Future tense(sic) for past events is a common practice in French obituaries.

    .................................................. .................................................. .....

    * L.M. Cutrer. Time and Tense in Narrative and in Everyday Language. (1994:5-6)

  9. #19
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    Default Re: who is online

    This use of 'will' in (1.6) has no modal meaning, I'm afraid... ??
    Then it may be a different question. Stylistic, maybe.
    But ... I'm simply interested in whether we can change this 'will' into 'would.'

  10. #20
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    Default Re: who is online

    I have a vague feeling that I'm merely bringing on a confusion
    Let me add another one. I'm not so sure as to 'would' as a marker of reported speech. Because:

    [1] He said yesterday, 'I'm happy.' => He said yesterday he was happy.
    [2] He said yesterday, 'I'll be happy.' => He said yesterday he would be happy.


    Both are reporting some speech ... no? (Maybe I missed your point, DBP, I'll reread this thread again.)
    Cannot we take this 'would' as a result of changing 'will' into past tense? (This view is simple.)

    With my best regards,

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