Edited by Birte Bös and Claudia Claridge
[Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 347] 2019
► pp. 167–190
Letters of the Early Modern period are typically composed of set parts, such as a salutation or letter-closing formulae, and of less conventionalised passages. In both conventional and non-conventional parts predictive and intentional shall and will are regularly used. This comparative study of Early Modern English (EModE) and Older Scots (OSc) official letters investigates how formulaic conventions and pragmatic function influenced the use of shall and will. The findings show that in OSc official letters written between 1500 and 1700 shall, irrespective of whether it has a predictive or an intentional meaning, is favoured over will for conventionalised commissive speech acts. Outside such conventional uses, shall became rare in the 17th century. In the English letters, the commissive uses of shall declined after the first half of the 16th century. Will, by contrast, is preferred for non-commissive uses in both English and Scots letters.