This article discusses the synchronic status and diachronic development of will be -ing and shall be -ing (as in I’ll be leaving at noon).2 Although available since at least Middle English, the constructions did not establish a significant foothold in standard English until the twentieth century. Both types are also more prevalent in British English (BrE) than American English (AmE).\ud We argue that in present-day usage will/shall be -ing are aspectually underspecified: instances that clearly construe a situation as future-in-progress are in the minority. Similarly, although volition-neutrality has been identified as a key feature of will/shall be -ing, it is important to take account of other, generally richer meanings and associations, notably ‘future-as-matter-of-course’ (Leech 2004), ‘already-decided future’ (Huddleston & Pullum et al. 2002) and non-agentivity. Like volition-neutrality, these characteristics appear to be relevant not only in contemporary use, but also in their historical expansion. We show that the construction has evolved from progressive aspect towards more subjectivised evidential meaning.
University of Salford Institutional repository (http://usir.salford.ac.uk/16800/4/morris.pdf)