A Fragment on Shall and May

American Journal of Legal History, Vol. 50, p. 453, 2010

6 Pages Posted: 12 Nov 2007 Last revised: 30 Mar 2017

Nora Tillman

Independent

Seth Barrett Tillman

National University of Ireland, Maynooth (NUI Maynooth) - Faculty of Law

Date Written: May 27, 2010

Abstract

This short paper has some comments on the Constitution's use of the verbs "shall" and "may" (and "will"). We suggest that the American English of the founding generation was a more capacious language than its modern successor and that which came into being post-Noah Webster's first dictionary and grade school primer, A Grammatical Institute of the English Language, first published in 1783. As we explain more fully, where a word once had multiple meanings, but only one variant is now remembered and understood, we may be seriously mistaken when we ascribe near certainty to our understanding of how a constitutional term was used.


The American Journal of Legal History is a peer reviewed journal which is available only on Westlaw.

Keywords: shall, may, will, Constitution, Anglo-English, American-English, Madison

Suggested Citation

Tillman, Nora and Tillman, Seth Barrett, A Fragment on Shall and May (May 27, 2010). American Journal of Legal History, Vol. 50, p. 453, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1029001

Nora Tillman (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

Seth Barrett Tillman

National University of Ireland, Maynooth (NUI Maynooth) - Faculty of Law ( email )

Ollscoil na hÉireann, Má Nuad
New House (#306)
Maynooth, County Kildare
Ireland
(353) (0) 1474-7216 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://law.nuim.ie/staff/mr-seth-barrett-tillman

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