(yes, pay attention to the CAPS)
Linguistics is all about questioning what you already think you know about language. And, as I’ve pointed out in other posts, in order to be an effective English instructor, you must also be a linguist — if not by career, at least by your willingness to question your understanding of the language. My first ESL post is what actually led me to become a linguist. I remember being in the classroom as a very green teacher and upon seeing the various looks of confusion on my students’ faces, thinking that there simply had to be a better way to teach English than the method used in that school (Callan Method). I realised at the time that while these purely communicative methods provide learners with an inventory or forms and vocabulary, that they fail to convey any actual understanding of how or why to use this newly acquired knowledge. Of course my next realisation was that neither I nor my fellow teachers really understood the various reasons and logic behind most of the usage we were teaching either. Hence my entry into the field of linguistics, and the beginning of an ever ongoing project to research, classify, and explain the various bits of English grammar and syntax that confuse even the best of us at times.
Over the past three years I have been doing quite a bit of work on sentence structure, word order, and forms which are difficult for language learners to grasp. I owe this to probably the greatest group of students I shall ever have — a class of 16 German engineers to whom I taught a 3 month intensive technical English course. They were great for asking questions I couldn’t answer and for not allowing exceptions to the rules. I made a deal with them at the time that I would research their questions until I found a fool-proof answer for them. Three years later and I am still working on about half of those queries!
Much of my work has resulted in a classification system for modals (found here) that seeks to explain why some verbs, or forms, or other such sentences don’t mesh with the standard ‘rules’. I’ve found that almost every one of the oddball constructions is a modal expression (just like shall, or will, or be going). However, there is one form that I’ve been trying to figure out for well over a year now, and it’s actually the only but of standard grammar I have not been able to fully explain. That form is:
have + yet + infinitive.
Examples include things like “I have yet to finish my homework,” ”he has yet to call home,” “I had yet to cook dinner when the fire broke out.”
These forms differ from other uses of yet and generally have an equivalent form in the perfected informational aspect:
I have yet to finish my homework ≃ I haven’t finished my homework yet.
He has yet to call home ≃ He hasn’t called home yet.
I had yet to cook dinner when the fire broke out ≃ I hadn’t cooked dinner yet when the fire broke out.
Now, modal forms and adverbs both are often used to express mood in English. And many times two completely different forms can be used to express the same mood. Often one form has an added meaning that is perhaps a bit different than the other. That’s probably the case here. I have yet to actually figure out what mood is being expressed by these forms, but I am certain that have + yet is a modal phrase.
Modals in English have certain characteristics that set them apart from other verbs and verb phrases (these are outlined in the modal post below). Certain attributes are only found in some modals though and not in non-modal forms. Have+yet subordinates the verb that follows it into the infinitive form (requiring to); this is a modal-only characteristic. Have+yet cannot be modified by other modals (will have yet is not possible), another modal characteristic. Have+yet has no negative form. This final one is characteristic that only modals and some auxiliaries exhibit. It is also what separates Have+yet from the perfected forms with yet.
Thus, while I have no doubt that have+yet is in fact a modal, I still have no idea what mood (or moods) it expresses.
The German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau, reported recently that the number of full-time jobs in Germany has seen a drastic decline while
part-time positions have been on this rise. Citing a parliamentary inquiry by the socialist Left party, the paper reports that the number of full-time workers had dropped by 1.4 million, or six percent, between 1999 and 2008, while the number of part-time jobs rose by 1.3 million, or 36 percent. The article also points out that more workers are also being forced to work two jobs, citing an increase of 1.8 million dual-job workers between 2002 and 2007. Sabine Zimmermann, an economic expert for the for the party, told the paper that loose government regulations making it easier for businesses to create a part-time based work environment are forcing “millions of people into cheap jobs and poverty.”
While this may be news for many in Germany, a country with great social and worker protections, it’s nothing new for workers in countries like the United States which has seen a massive shift from full-time to part-time employment in recent decades. While the overall global economy may be a bit late to the game on this trend, within the language training industry full-time jobs are now exceedingly rare.
10 years ago it was quite normal for teaching positions, including ESL — teaching English in non-English speaking locales, to be full-time and sometimes even salaried positions. It should be noted that teaching English has never been a high-paying career. But at one time, a teacher could work a reasonable number of hours each week and live a comfortable living in the country in which they were working. Starting in about 2000, many teaching posts began to transition from salaried jobs to freelance positions in which the teacher is classified as a contractor to the school or company in which they teach.
This move from full-time to freelance work has made for major changes in the industry. Primarily it has shifted the cost of doing business from the language school and onto the teacher. It allows employers to avoid paying taxes, pensions, health insurance, and other benefits and expenses required by governments of workers. This of course greatly changes the financial formula for teaching. Originally many schools offered a higher upfront wage to freelancers to cover some of the added expenses incurred over hourly or salaried teachers. My first ESL post was in Poland and it was freelance. At the time I was making 32 Polish Zloty per hour which came with a guarantee of 25 hours per week. So at 3200 zloty (at the time around USD 1500), I was able to live quite well in Poland. Over the years I’ve followed teaching jobs in Poland, and today those same jobs (actually even that SAME job) now pays freelancers the equivalent of around $600 per month, even though the cost of living in Poland is now around three times what it was when I taught there. This does not bode well for teachers.
Germany has by far been the leader in systematically lowering pay among ESL instructors. Strange, as it’s by far the largest ESL market in Europe and equally odd since German students pay more for their English lessons than anyone else, but this is the case. The German government loves to regulate anything and everything — especially anything that has an effect on their citizens. Unfortunately though Germany has shown a bit of a dark side when it comes to language schools. Language schools almost universally hire foreigners. Foreigners are not Germans. And unfortunately for a country which works so hard to protect it’s workers, the German authorities have shown no interest whatsoever in protecting the rights and working conditions of foreign English teachers.
Freelancers, especially non-EU freelancers, pay among the highest income tax rates in all of Germany. They also are responsible for paying mandatory contributions into the German pension system, mandatory social insurance contributions (even though if they lose their jobs, they are not allowed to receive unemployment benefits), and pay for mandatory German health insurance which can easily cost 3-500 euros for a single person. In this mix is an added problem, that being that freelance English teachers are among the lowest paid workers in all of Germany. In Berlin pay for freelance teachers is around €12/ hour. In Nuremberg this rate hovers between €16-22 depending on experience. Munich comes in tops with pay in the 20′s being the norm. Of course, this pay is only based on classroom time. So while a teacher in Berlin would receive €24 for a two-hour class, he would not receive anything for the hour or travel to and from the location of the client, nor any pay for the hour of preparation of materials for that class, nor for the time spent grading assignments, etc.
Overall it makes for a system where a skilled, in-demand worker may work 50 hours a week yet only be paid for 20. That 20 hours will be paid at a rate lower than nationals of that country would make, and of that pay, a large portion of it (often 60-75%) is to be paid back to the government for the privilege of working.
As mentioned above, this does not bode well for teachers. But what school owners and governments fail to recognize is that it doesn’t bode well for them either. Systems such as these create a class of impoverish workers among people with high-demand skills. It puts the very people whom are needed to provide German (and Polish, and French, and Chinese) workers with the invaluable skill of learning the international language of science and business in a very awkward situation. Their willingness to come to these countries, to work long hours, to spend their days educating the very workers the country needs, are rewarded with poverty.
Putting teachers in such a position is a sad affair for these countries and in the end results in a lower quality of education for its workers. Teachers with skills shall inevitably be forced to look to other markets for work which rewards their skills with a living wage, while countries like Germany and Poland will be left with only the lowest quality of teacher.
Germany led the ESL industry down this path from reasonably paid salaried positions, to full-time hourly employment, to part-time employment, and finally to freelancers. They have done this to save money. Now they need to reverse the policies that have made these deplorable working conditions the norm. To save their industry, and to protect their citizens from unscrupulous school owners increasing profits by providing low-quality courses from underpaid teachers, they need to step in, and regulate the Language Training Industry just as they would any other industry.
When do you use shall versus will? And what is the difference between ‘will read’ and ‘going to read’?
Years of teaching English to non-native speakers has given me a sort of insider’s view into this shall versus will phenomenon. What I have found is that asking any two native-speaking English instructors when to use a certain grammatical or lexical construction will often result in three, four, five, or more often conflicting ‘rules.’ What this shows is that not only do students of the language not generally understand the grammar, but most often native speakers and in also those tasked with teaching the language do not fully understand the grammar and proper rules of usage. In surveying speakers of the language, teachers, and the content of method books and grammar guides, it has become quite obvious to me that in regard to futurity in English this confusion and uncertainty goes well beyond the simple issue of shall versus will but that it extends to the entire spectrum of future forms.
This paper discusses the role of tense, aspect, and mood in expressing future in English. It discusses at length the ten ways of expressing the future and provides detailed rules on the usage of forms such as shall, will, be going, be about, etc.
It dispels folk etymology and opinionated theories on when to use one form or the other, instead providing a thorough inventory of all forms with detailed discussion of the roots of these forms, historical changes, and current usage. It is hoped that through a better understanding of the differences in these forms and their usage, that speaker and language educators may better equip themselves to teach this often challenging bit of grammar.
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Have you ever wondered which modals can be used where? Or why ‘will be able to go’ is grammatical but ‘will can go’ is not? Or why some modals require to before the modified verb while others don’t? Then read on…
Structural Classification of English Modals is the fourth in a series of five papers dealing with the basic grammatical structure and behavior of verbal constructions in modern English. These five works: Voice in English: Semantic Implications of the Passive-Active Paradigm (2007), Word Order & Syntactic Hierarchy in English (2007), A Logical Classification of English Aspects (2007), Structural Classification of English Modals (2009), and An Inventory and Discussion of English Futurity (2009) are intended to provide a holistic overview of the core functions of the language and their inherent interactions so that a better understanding of modern English grammar may be attained.
Modality is a contentious topic within the linguistics community with a vast diaspora of theories, approaches, interpretations, and classification schemes – some complementary and some far from it. English relies on modal expressions more than many languages and possesses a vast complexity of mood and modal forms. While there may be much debate as to which moods are or are not present in English usage, there is little to deny that mood plays an integral role in the meaning and structure of utterances in the language. Mood is expressed in English via an ever changing number of marked and unmarked forms. Regardless of specific modal usage being a point of contention among linguists and grammarians, language analysis shows a clear pattern of change in recent centuries toward increased usage of marked modal forms. Many of these marked forms involve specific abnormal word orders, adverbial or prepositional cues, qualifying clauses or phrases, and verbal constructions functioning in an auxiliary manner. It is not the specific moods, nor the meanings expressed by them that are the subject of this paper. Rather, this is a discussion of these various marked verbal auxiliary forms used to manifest modality within the language.
This paper first discusses the auxiliary system of English utterances as outlined in Word Order & Syntactic Hierarchy in English (Ward 2007) and in particular the role modals as auxiliaries within this system. It should be stated that the term modal, as discussed in this paper refers to any single word or words used as a marked form for expressing modality. There is no credence given to terminology such as true modal, semi-modal, modal approximates, or the like. Terminology such as the aforementioned reflect a very limited and closed-minded approach to the study of modality and have more a place in efforts to classify structures based on historical views of modality than on the usage of the forms themselves. As pertains to this discussion, modals express modality, and any marked form – whether a single verb, phrase, or other structure which together or alone expresses modality is a modal. Upon adequate background discussion including word order, auxiliaries, and aspect, an accounting of all currently known structural classes of English modals shall be given with special attention paid to their form, behavior, and effect on the forms they subordinate. Finally as thorough an inventory of modal forms as possible will be provided with reference to their respective structural classifications.
Continue reading, or download the entire paper to your computer: