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Thread: The use of "shall" in English versions

  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adelphos View Post
    If he does, it should be decreed that the newly appointed Secretary of Grammar SHALL be accurate!
    Amen to that. Je suis d'accord.

  2. #12
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    By the way, Ingo, Webster states that our shall is a derivative of the German schulden and thus carries the same force in English as it does in German.

    In other words, shall intimates the force of a debt, and is therefore used as an ought, which is to say, as I said at the first, that shall is a bit more emphatic than will.

  3. #13
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    Since the Webster 1828 electronic version is lacking a great deal of material -- and it appears several places are missing in the electronic version on just this one word -- I have typed in the following preliminary data from the print edition, a book which everyone in our field should possess, IMO. I have in the past been interested in this word as well, and I consider the following information very useful. So, again, from the 1828 printed Webster Dictionary --

    "SHAL, SHALL - verb auxiliary. pret. should. [Sax. scealan, scylan], to be obliged. It coincides in signification nearly with ought, it is a duty, it is necessary; D. zal, zul; G. soll; Sw. skola, pret. skulle; Dan. skal, skulle, skulde. The German and Dutch have lost the palatal letter of the verb; but it appears in the derivative G. schuld, guilt, fault, culpability, debt; D. schuld, id.; Sw. skuld, Dan. skyld, debt, fault, guilt; skylder, to owe; Sax. scyld, debt, offense, L. scelus. The literal sense is to hold or be held, hence to owe, and hence the sense of guilt, of being held, bound or liable to justice and punishment. In the Teutonic dialects, schulden, skyld, are used in the Lord's prayer, as "forgive us our debts," but neither debt or trespass expresses the exact idea, which includes sin or crime, and liability to punishment. The word seems to be allied in origin to skill, L. calleo, to be able, to know. See Skill. Shall is defective, having no infinitive, imperative or participle. It ought to be written shal, as the original has one l only, and it has one only in shalt and should." American Dictionary Of The English Language, Noah Webster, 1828

    Moreover, I would suggest that you take a look - ESPECIALLY IN THE GOSPELS -- at the TNT (Tyndale's NT) in BibleWorks, and run through the variations between Tyndale's use of shall and will as employed with their respective Greek equivalents in the SCR, for Tyndale employed the Traditional Text, as Tyndale is WITHOUT QUESTION the architect of the English language in the sense that it is Tyndale's English that serves as the base for all the English that follows in succeeding generations.

    And Tyndale was especially carefull in his translation of the Gospels. The KJV in the Gospels is approximately ninety percent Tyndale as well, the KJV translators merely polishing his words for the most part.

    So if you really want a good feel for the word shall, this is a sound approach.
    Last edited by Adelphos; 01-14-2010 at 10:26 PM.

  4. #14
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    I shall thank all of you for your responses and will study them further.
    The intriguing intricacies of language - sure glad to have found some German roots in all of this

    To take it one step further: I wonder how much particular translation teams were aware of these dynamics, what accounts for the statistical differences in the use of "shall" esp. between NKJV, ESV, and NAU, and why a modern version/revision like ESV or NAU would retain a now archaic term. (I'm not arguing accuracy, dynamic-equivalence, etc. here, just curious about the mind and intentionality of the translators.)

    Thanks again.

    Ingo

    P.S. One day shall we gather at the river . . . and talk the same language?!

  5. #15
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    Let me muddy the waters a bit further.
    When I was taught English grammar (in the 1960s and 70s) based on what my teacher (educated in the 40s) and our textbooks (printed in the 50s & early 60s) said, the usages of shall and will are as follows:
    First person ("I" and "we") is to use "shall" for the simple future:
    I shall go. We shall go.
    Second and third person ("you" and "he, she, it, they") are to use "will" for the simple future:
    You will go. He will go. She will go. It will go. They will go.
    The opposite wording (using "shall" instead of "will" or "will" instead of "shall") is to be used to express a command (roughly equivalent to the cohortative and jussive in Hebrew or perhaps a third person imperative in Greek).
    Thus:
    "I will go" or "we will go" can be used to translate Hebrew cohortatives. This expresses an intention rather than a prediction of what will happen.
    "You shall go" is to express a command. Thus the ten commandments "You shall not..." This was somewhat of a wooden expression of jussives into English. Since Hebrew has no negation of imperative forms, it has to use negations of imperfects. English translations, instead of using our native imperative: "Do not..." kept the indicative "shall" or "will" but expressed the command nature by not using the purely future form. "You will go" would be a prediction of what is going to happen in the future. "You shall go" would be a command to go.
    Having written this, it is clear that many modern translations (including the NKJ, and in places even KJV itself) seem to be almost clueless to this distinction. They seem to thow in "shall" in order to make something sound more authoritative. But they have forgotten to change the first person to "will" for the same reason.
    Technically (though this seems to be almost totally forgotten by English speakers today) "should" and "would" are to follow to same usage as "shall" and "will." This distinction is probably being lost because we are forgetting how to use the subjunctive in general.
    "I should say not!" is not a command, as if someone told me "You should not say that." Instead it expresses a personal desire or intention or even strong emotion. But "You should not say that!" is a form of command, expressing not so much an outright prohibition as a statement that what was said is not proper.
    "If I were a rich man, I should give more to church" expresses a subjunctive idea. Saying the same thing in third person would be:
    "If he were a rich man, he would give more to church."
    Modern murdered American English speakers would probably state the above as follows:
    "If I was a rich man, I would go to the beach more." Such a statement grates on my ears, but it seems to bother very few people. English grammars seem to have given up on rules for word usage since the 70s. Today, standard English is not the historic usage but what the majority considers normal. Grammar has become democratized. So, we are becoming less precise.
    The upshot of this is that the fine distinction between "you shall" and "you will" is lost to most hearers. It is retained in some translations, but not uniformly.
    Perhaps what I was taught, and what I presented above, is a holdover from the Germanic roots of the English language. In German there are different forms of verbs for first, second, and third person. This has almost died out in English, except for really common words, e.g. "I am" "you are" "he is" "we are" they are."
    "Shall" and "will" are another holdover from the Germanic distinction of persons. But few Americans are taught the rules about which verb is to be used with which person, with the result that they are used somewhat indiscriminately.
    For what it's worth,
    Mark Eddy

  6. #16
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    That's why it's a good idea to go through Tyndale, for he used the terms very purposely, and I mean every word. Further, Tyndale was very cognizant of the roots of English and the cognative languages, including the Germanic and Saxon strains.

    For example, Tyndale grew up at the intersection of the amalgamation of all the languages -- I mean he lived in a district where they all came together -- such as from West Germanic to Anglo-Frisian to Old English to Old Frisian to Old German, etc., and he understood very well, probably more than any man before or since, their relationship to each other and their entanglements.

    In short, God raised up the perfect man for translating the Bible into English, for not only was Tyndale a very accomplished linguist, both naturally and professionally, but he was raised up in exactly the right spot at the exactly the right time for all these interrelated languages to coalesce.

    Again, if you want to really understand the employment of the word shall, a walk through Tyndale's NT is the most fertile ground you can find.

    And not to diminish grade school teachers, but Tyndale knew a lot more about the employment of his words than people many centuries later, and so if you want to know the meaning of the words from a biblical perspective, i.e., how they were intended to be used then, in that context, then Tyndale is the master.

    In short, Tyndale is the man who gave many of our English words their original meaning.

  7. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Eddy View Post
    ...
    When I was taught English grammar (in the 1960s and 70s) based on what my teacher (educated in the 40s) and our textbooks (printed in the 50s & early 60s) said, the usages of shall and will are as follows:
    First person ("I" and "we") is to use "shall" for the simple future:
    I shall go. We shall go.
    Second and third person ("you" and "he, she, it, they") are to use "will" for the simple future:
    You will go. He will go. She will go. It will go. They will go.
    The opposite wording (using "shall" instead of "will" or "will" instead of "shall") is to be used to express a command (roughly equivalent to the cohortative and jussive in Hebrew or perhaps a third person imperative in Greek).
    Mark Eddy
    Ha! We must be of similar age and learned from similar grammars! (And some of my teachers were strict about it!)
    They would be disappointed in my lack of attention to this now...
    Mark G. Vitalis Hoffman
    Glatfelter Professor of Biblical Studies
    United Lutheran Seminary at Gettysburg & Philadelphia
    uls.edu - CrossMarks.com
    Biblical Studies and Technological Tools

  8. #18
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    Huddleston and Pullum in their Cambridge Grammar of the English Lanuage provide an account of shall that is still in use today. They argue that there are three deontic uses still in use. First is a constitutive/regulative use used in constitutions, regulations, and legal or quasi-legal documents as in The committee shall meet at least four times per year. A second relates to the speaker's guarantee as in You shall have your money back tomorrow. A third releates to direction questions as in Shall I close the window?

    They also provide an account of non-deontic uses with discussion between shall and will. First is a futurity function as in I shall never understand why she left. A second is a consequence function as in If the rules have changed as much as you suggest we shall have done most of this work for nothing. And a third is a volition function as in I shall do as she says.

    In a footnote they also state that in some legal language shall can be used in an open protasis as in If the tenant shall at any time fail to keep the demised premises as aforesaid the landlord may do all things necessary to effect or maintain insurance. (Sounds like my own rental lease I've recently had to sign again!)

    Regards,
    David Kummerow.

  9. #19
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    Here's why you have to go back to Tyndale, to the dawn of the English language, to properly understand the use of shall...

    The following is from the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary --

    "usage From the reams of pronouncements written about the distinction between shall and will—dating back as far as the 17th century—it is clear that the rules laid down have never very accurately reflected actual usage. The nationalistic statements of 18th and 19th century British grammarians, who commonly cited the misuses of the Irish, the Scots, and occasionally the Americans, suggest that the traditional rules may have come closest to the usage of southern England. Some modern commentators believe that English usage is still the closest to the traditionally prescribed norms. Most modern commentators allow that will is more common in nearly all uses. The entries for shall and will in this dictionary show current usage." http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/SHALL

  10. #20
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    Note that Merriam-Webster is a dictionary and not a grammar. As such, it provides helpful etymology and definitional sketch. You need to read, for example, Huddleston and Pullum for an account of the grammar at work and broader discussion of shall and will. What Huddleston and Pullum have to say isn't in conflict with Merriam-Webster, it just provides more discussion and examples which help to understand shall.

    Regards,
    David Kummerow.

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