This comprehensive case study of a systematic shift in object expression provides valuable insight into the construal of certain two-place activity verbs in the history of French and how a change in the prepositional system can have dramatic effects on the way their object is realised.
The book focuses on nineteen verbs of helping and hindering whose single internal object shifts from indirect to direct object during the 15th and 16th centuries, describing how these verbs are distinguished from all other verbs in French taking indirect objects and answering why their indirect object was the target of change. Troberg draws on cross-linguistic facts and offers a richly detailed qualitative and quantitative examination of the data to show that contrary to previous approaches to the problem, the shift was not random or a result of low-level analogical changes, but rather that it was decisively systematic and thus unified.
An important outcome of the study links the shift in object expression to other changes in the grammar at the end of the Middle French period. The author argues that the loss of the syntactically derived “Path” meaning, available to simple prepositions in the earlier stages of French, entails not only the shift in object expression, but also the loss of a number of resultative secondary predicates at the same time.