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The term 'raising verb' is potentially confusing. It is not the verb itself that undergoes movement. Rather, it is the complement subject that raises into the matrix clause, as we discuss in detail in a moment. (a webpage)

I understand that the authors use the Present Simple in a way similar to its use in description of scheduled events:

I fly into Bombay at noon, and then speak at the conference at 3:00 p.m.

But since it's due to happen "in a moment", it's unlikely to have been scheduled, so wouldn't it be better to say "we'll discuss"?

Is there any difference in tone between "we discuss" and "we'll discuss" and which construction is preferable in this context (textbook narrative)?

  • 1
    It seems like he moved "in a moment" into the present, and then using "we discuss" as if it were happening now. Or it is just a mistake. – user3169 Jan 22 '15 at 19:40
  • Why isn't it scheduled? It's scheduled for "in a moment" (= "a little bit later"). Since the speaker apparently knows that he/she will speak about it "in a moment." it seems scheduled in the speaker's mind, which is the only schedule that matters. I greatly prefer discuss as the present makes it more vivid (sets something before you now). – user6951 Jan 23 '15 at 0:30
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    We leave for the airport in a moment is natural, scheduled and vivid. {Once I finish reading about referring to "future time" in the current book I'm reading, I can give you a better explanation.} – user6951 Jan 23 '15 at 0:37
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It depends on how the writer wants you to perceive the web page.

If they want you to think of it as a completed document, which you are coming along and reading now that it's done, then the present is appropriate. "My explanation already exists. You haven't gotten to it yet, but it's there."

If they want you to think of it as them talking to you, then the future - "we'll discuss" - would be more appropriate.

Both are correct; they just evoke different tones.

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In the transcript of a lecture, "we will discuss" makes perfect sense. But in a book, not so much. Since we will discuss indicates future intention, it would be a mere masquerade (writing as simulacrum of speech) to use "we will" in a book on grammar; items later in a chapter, or in later chapters, aren't really in the future. Moreover, since they already exist, there can be no intention to discuss them, strictly speaking.

2

The term 'raising verb' is potentially confusing. It is not the verb itself that undergoes movement. Rather, it is the complement subject that raises into the matrix clause, as we discuss in detail in a moment. (a webpage)

I understand that the authors use the Present Simple in a way similar to its use in description of scheduled events:

I fly into Bombay at noon, and then speak at the conference at 3:00 p.m.

But since it's due to happen "in a moment", it's unlikely to have been scheduled, so wouldn't it be better to say "we'll discuss"?

Is there any difference in tone between "we discuss" and "we'll discuss" and which construction is preferable in this context (textbook narrative)?

The style of this webpage, although it is a written text, is very much like the style of spoken discourse, in this case a classroom lecture. So everything written in my answer can apply either to this webpage or to a lecture. With one exception (&), which I will mention in a moment; which I'll mention in a moment; which I mention in a moment; which I am going to mention in a moment; which I'm fixing to mention (Southern); which I'm mentioning in a moment; which I'll be mentioning in a moment; which I am to mention in a moment; which I am about to mention; but which I am not quite yet on the point/verge of mentioning.)

Firstly, when a speaker uses the Simple Present Tense to refer to the future (hereafter: Futurate Present), she is referring to the future as fact. The speaker is giving the future the same degree of certainity as she gives to a present or past event. Compare:

Simple past:
The birthday was yesterday.

Simple present:
The birthday is today.

Futurate present:
The birthday is tomorrow.

It is a small step from this usage to refer to a Plan or Arrangement Considered as Unalterable:

I fly into Bombay at noon, and then speak at the conference at 3:00 p.m.

The present tense form is used here because the speaker considers this "schedule" or "itenerary" as unalterable; this is what is going to happen.

Compare this with the normal way of referring to A Present Arrangment, which is to be plus the present progressive:

I am flying into Bombay at noon, and then speaking at the conference at 3:00 p.m.

When one uses the progressive (here in the Futurate Present Progressive), one allows for the possibility that the Arrangement may not come to pass: the above is my Arrangement, I intend to stick to it, I believe it will come to pass; but of course if it may not work out as planned.

This is also illustrated by the difference between: She gets married next month and She's getting married next month. In the first case, the speaker is expressing as much certainity about the future as one can (stating it in a way that the future event is 100% certain); in the second, the speaker is expressing an Arrangement, but acknowledging that the future is not 100% for certain. If the wedding does not happen next month as scheduled, it is not an unheard of surprise for the second speaker. However, for the first speaker that the wedding may not happen is not even considered a possibility at the moment of speaking.

Thus when the lecturer/textbook/webpage states:

The term 'raising verb' is potentially confusing. It is not the verb itself that undergoes movement. Rather, it is the complement subject that raises into the matrix clause, as we discuss in detail in a moment.

she is referring to the future with the same degree of certainty normally given to a present or past event. That is, the future is assumed to be fact. In terms of a plan/schedule/arrangement, it is regarded as unalterable.

The Futurate Present is not the normal way to refer to the future. So it is a marked future and presents the activity as having something of a dramatic quality. This vividness is similar to, but less intense than, using the Simple Present in such as statements "Here comes the bus!" or "Up we go!"

Indeed, sometimes the reader may not realize that a Futurate Present is in use. Let's take the first paragraph of the website/lecture and look at the verbs after the pronoun we:

In Chapter 4, we introduced subject movement from Spec(VP) to Spec(IP). In this chapter, we address a related type of movement known as subject raising ... The demonstration that English has subject raising relies on the existence of a special class of noun phrases, and we therefore begin our discussion of subject raising with them. We then show that certain verbs trigger subject raising, and we present an analysis of it. We conclude by distinguishing raising from a superficially similar phenomenon called control.

Introduced is simple past. But what about the bolded verbs that have a present tense form. Are these referring to present time or to future time? Hint: are the events happening as the speaker speaks or is the speaker expressing an Unalterable Arrangement or Plan? The instance of we therefore begin makes this trickier than it might seem. But taken as a whole, all the uses except introduced are futurate present, which I sometimes call the "Future Vivid."

Meanwhile we can repeat your question regarding we discuss as applying to this opening paragraph:

Is there any difference in tone between "we discuss" and "we'll discuss" and which construction is preferable in this context (textbook narrative)?

In other words, if the text/speaker had used the future marker will or 'll with all the bolded verbs in the first paragraph, would there be any difference in tone?

(&)First, I will now mention the one exception I alluded to way above. The one exception between this written text and spoken speech is that your we'll does not occur in the text. Apparently the writers felt that using 'll would be going too far in writing the webpage as if it were spoken.

But there are two instances of will as an auxiallary indicating future time. These are

...However, we will continue to use the term 'raising verb' because it is standard in the literature.

and

...In fact, there is no reason to think that they are associated with a subject of their own at all. We will represent this fact by associating raising verbs with elementary trees that have no specifier position, as illustrated for seems in (18).

Now, the "tone" expressed by we will in both these examples has more than one layer. First, since we are referring to future time, we will retains the basic meaning of a prediction. (This is best seen in such sentences as She'll thank me later and He'll trip over the milk bottles tonight.)

Yet, an additional meaning in the uses of (we) will here is to express the speaker's present resolve to do something in the (near) future [Meaning and the English verb, Geoffrey Leech, 3rd ed., upon which much of this answer heavily depends]. The speaker is not only "predicting" something, she is promising something (I'll kiss you when you get home is both a prediction and a promise).

In the uses we will continue to use and we will represent both express the website's/textbook's/speaker's current resolve to make good, def 5 on something in the (near) future.

Now, let's quote your paragraph in full:

The term 'raising verb' is potentially confusing. It is not the verb itself that undergoes movement. Rather, it is the complement subject that raises into the matrix clause, as we discuss in detail in a moment. A better term for the verb class in question might therefore be 'subject raising triggers.' However, we will continue to use the term 'raising verb' because it is standard in the literature.

Voilà! Both uses! Hopefully one can see the difference between expressing a future action as Future-as-fact (an Unalterable Plan)--what I might call the "Future Vivid"--on the one hand, and as expressing current resolve to make good on something, on the other. If not, then ask for more examples. Otherwise, this answer has been an epic fail.

Notice that will do something has many more uses than just this one. And also note that the present tense form has another use regarding future time than that described here (namely the "subordinate future").


One can also change the uses of Futurate Present in this webpage to that of Current Intention and see how the "tone" (meaning) changes. And ask: are these uses interchangeable? One might ask how near in the future can "will as a promise" express? And even: Is there a difference between the futurate present and some other kind of present?

To explore these, one can use the following as starting point

As a result, other semantically conceivable subjects are not possible, as the contrast between (5) and (6) shows. We indicate this by putting weather it in italics (indicating its status as a special subject that needs to be licensed) as well as in green (indicating its own status as a licenser).

The first question to ask is which tense is the bolded verb? It has the Present Simple form; does it refer to present time or to future time? How do you know? Is this any different from uses of the present tense form in the webpage's opening paragraph? Could you use will indicate here?


Main sources include:
Meaning and the english verb, Geoffrey Leech, 3rd ed., Routledge
The English Verb (Longman Linguistics Library), Frank Robert Palmer, Routledge

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