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Academic Paper

Title: Traces of Historical Infinitive in English Dialects and their Celtic Connections
Author: Juhani Klemola
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: University of Tampere
Linguistic Field: Historical Linguistics; Sociolinguistics; Syntax
Subject Language: English
Abstract: A number of nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century dialect descriptions refer to an unusual adverb + infinitive construction in southwestern and west Midlands dialects of English. The construction is most often reported in the form of a formulaic phrase away to go, meaning ‘away he went’, though it is also found with a range of other adverbs. In addition, the same dialects also make use of a possibly related imperative construction, consisting of a preposition or adverb and a to-infinitive, as in out to come! ‘Come out!’ and a negative imperative construction consisting of the negator not and the base form of the verb, as in Not put no sugar in!. These construction types appear to be marginal at best in earlier varieties of English, whereas comparable constructions with the verbal noun are a well-established feature of especially British Celtic languages (i.e. Welsh, Breton, and Cornish). In this article I argue that transfer from the British Celtic languages offers a possible explanation for the use of these constructions in the traditional southwestern and west Midlands dialects of English.


This article appears IN English Language and Linguistics Vol. 13, Issue 2, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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