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Review of  English Historical Syntax and Morphology

Reviewer: Miguel Ayerbe Linares
Book Title: English Historical Syntax and Morphology
Book Author: Teresa Fanego Javier Pérez-Guerra María José López-Couso
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Language Family(ies): Germanic
New English
Issue Number: 14.380

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Date: Mon, 03 Feb 2003 09:25:31 +0100
Subject: English Historical Syntax and Morphology: Selected Papers from 11 ICEHL

Fanego, Teresa, Maria J. Lopez-Couso and Javier Perez-
Guerra, eds. (2002) English Historical Syntax and
Morphology: Selected Papers from 11 ICEHL, Santiago de
Compostela, 7-11 September 2000. John Benjamins Publishing
Company, hardback ISBN 90-272-4731-5, viii+297pp, Current
Issues in Linguistic Theory 223.

Miguel Ayerbe Linares, Department of English and German
Philology, University of the Basque Country.

This book is a selection of papers presented at the 11th
International Conference on English Historical Linguistics held
at the University of Santiago de Compostela from the 7th to the
11th September 2000. In general terms there is not any
thematical organization of the papers, such as morphology or
syntax. The papers are simply presented in alphabetical order.
Nevertheless they can be classified in some way by main issues,
as the editor Fanego (p. 2) says in the general introduction.
These main issues are grammaticalization processes, noun
phrase, word-formation processes, verbs and dialectology and
sociolinguistics. The selected papers are as follows:

* Minoji Akimoto, 'Two types of passivization of 'V+NP+P'
constructions in relation to idiomatization' (pp. 9-22)
* Cynthia L. Allen, 'On the development of 'a friend of mine''
(pp. 23-41)
* Douglas Biber and Victoria Clark, 'Historical shifts in
modification patterns with complex noun phrase structures:
How long can you go without a verb?' (pp. 43-66)
* Laurel J. Brinton, 'Grammaticalization versus lexicalization
reconsidered: On the 'late' use of temporal adverbs' (pp.
* Dieter Kastovsky, 'The derivation of ornative, locative,
ablative, privative and reversative verbs in English: A
historical sketch' (pp. 99-109)
* Lucia Kornexl, 'From 'gold-gifa' to 'chimney sweep'?
Morphological (un)markedness of Modern English agent
nouns in a diachronic perspective' (pp. 111-129)
* Manfred Krug, 'A path to volitional modality' (pp. 131-
* Ursula Lenker, 'Is it, stylewise or otherwise, wise to use '-
wise'? Domain adverbials and the history of English '-wise''
(pp. 157-180)
* Bettelou Los, 'The loss of the indefinite pronoun 'man':
Syntactic change and information structure' (pp. 181-202)
* Anneli Meurman-Solin, 'The progressive in Older Scots'
(pp. 203-229)
* Ruth Möhlig and Monika Klages, 'Detransitivization in the
history of English from a semantic perspective' (pp. 231-
* Julia Schlüter, 'Morphology recycled: The Principle of
Rhythmic Alternation at work in Early and Late Modern
English grammatical variation' (pp. 255-281)

In the first one Akimoto analyses the two possible types of
passivization for 'V+NP+P' in English, i.e. the inner passive,
for example 'Advantage was taken of the students' (Akimoto p.
9) and the outer passive 'The students were taken advantage
of', in a historical perspective. Three are the main issues that
the author examines in the paper: which type of passivization
appeared first? Which one of them is more frequent with the
'V+NP+P' construction? And finally, how is the development
of these types of passivization related to the process of

The sources for this analysis are collected on the one hand
from a list of texts ranging from the 17th to the 20th centuries,
and on the other hand from the Oxford English Dictionary on
CD-ROM (OED) and from the COBUILD CD-ROM (for
Present-day English). The author also presents a brief
discussion about the possibilities of passivization based on
previous studies in this field.

In his analysis the author points out that previous scholars did
not pay attention to certain details which are however
¯according to him¯ very important, such as whether the
preposition is obligatory or not, the distinction between
deverbal nouns with suffixes and those without suffixes. From
his point of view these aspects are very decisive because they
have implications in the structure, and also in the later
development, of the 'V+NP+P' construction.

Cynthia L. Allen directs her attention to the development of
constructions like 'a friend of mine', which has also been called
the 'post-genitive' or 'double genitive' construction. First of all
the author of this second paper mentions some previous
studies about the origins of this construction, although she
focuses on that of Van der Gaaf (1927) (full title at the end of
this review). Two seem to be the aims of Allen's paper: firstly
she attempts to clarify, as much as possible, when this
construction first appeared in English; secondly she suggests
the different stages this construction seems to have gone
through. In this sense it seems to be clear, according to her,
that the first constructions of 'a friend of mine' come from the
middle of the 14th century. At this stage she points out that, if
the term 'partitive' has sometimes been used when dealing with
'double genitive' constructions, yet it is not a very appropriate
term for referring to this kind of constructions. The reason for
that is that 'partitive' usually refers to a set consisting of more
than one member while 'double genitive' constructions do not
imply that one set has necesarily more than one member, as can
be seen in the example (10) on page 28 of her paper: 'It is not
the sort of pleasantry which I like to hear from a daughter of
mine'. The one who says this sentence does so even though he
only has one daughter.

By speaking about the later development of this sort of
constructions Allen suggests that they have gone through the
following stages: a) Early Middle English: Possessive pronoun
used to mean 'people/things associated with pronouns'
combined with partitive 'of' with no nominal head and referring
to part of a set. b) Fourteenth century: partitive meaning shifts
to 'member of a set' meaning; noun headed double genitive
construction arises. c) Fifteenth century: double genitive
extended to demonstratives (and marginally to definite
determiner) (p. 35). Concerning the 'double genitive'
construction with definite determiners, although she includes it
in her investigation, she concludes that it was never firmly
established in English.

In the third paper Douglas Biber and Victoria Clark deal with
historical shifts in modification patterns with complex noun
phrase structures which have long been a distinguishing feature
between formal written language and spoken language.
According to the authors, non-clausal modifiers are much more
common than clausal modifiers in Present-day English, but this
has not always been so: in earlier periods of the English
language the reliance on clausal modifiers in written registers
was greater than in Present-day English, where, as mentioned
above, the non-clausal modifiers are more common. From this
point of view the authors undertake in their paper the tracking
of the historical shifts from clausal modifiers to non-clausal
ones in Present-day English. The corpus of written registers
for this study includes communication texts, such as journals
and personal letters, prose fiction, news, and specialist
registers, such as medical and scientific prose.

Laurel J. Brinton reconsiders the processes of
grammaticalization and lexicalization from both a theoretical
and a practical point of view. According to the author both
processes are not fully understood today and therefore the
distinction between them remains unclear. In this way, the aim
of this paper is firstly to examine these processes as they have
been defined in the scientific literature and secondly to carry
out an attempt to clarify the nature of both processes by
analysing the evolution process of temporal adverbs into
attributive adjectives in English. It must also be pointed out
that the author focuses the investigation on the lexicalization
process and describes the different understandings of this
concept found in previous linguistic works. In fact, this
description provides a general view of how lexicalization has
been understood, which serves the author as starting point for
developing her investigation in this paper.

In another paper Dieter Kastovsky carries out a historical
overview of the derivation of ornative, locative, ablative,
privative and reversative verbs in the English language. This
semantic categories were already established in the Old English
period with some exceptions and this can be seen in affixation
and zero-derivation processes. At this stage it is very important
to note that these derivational processes took place with
'native' affixes, such as 'be-' and 'on-'. Nevertheless, the later
introduction of Latin and French prefixes, such as 'en-, de-,
dis-' strengthened this sort of verbal word formation, including
other semantic categories which were represented to a lesser
extent in earlier periods of English, such as the ablative and the
locative verbs. According to the author, this fact has caused
this set of derivational processes to be much more productive
in Modern English.

The paper 'From 'gold-gifa' to 'chimney sweep'' by Lucia
Kornexl deals with the formation of the Agent category. The
author describes some patterns which are known from Old
English to Modern English and directs her analysis in a special
way to formal unmarkedness ¯in contrast to the markedness
by '-er' suffix¯ of this category in order to explain the
diachronic continuity of this pattern from Old English to
Modern English. For this purpose, she takes into account
previous scholarly studies on this matter and points out where
further investigation is needed.

Manfred Krug talks about the semantic and syntactic
development of 'want', focusing his analysis in Early Modern
and Late Modern English. The reason for giving more
relevance to these periods of English language is that,
according to the author, it was in Early Modern English that
the rise of new constructions with 'want' occurred, two of them
being modal (p. 149). The Late Modern English period is also
relevant because the rapid spread of modal constructions with
'want' took place in this time. Krug describes the different
meanings of this verb throughout the history of English, from
'lack', which was the original meaning, to 'volition', as modal
used in Present-day English.

Domain adverbs and the history of the English suffix '-wise' is
the object of Lenker's paper, which is said, as stated by the
author, to have appeared first in colloquial American English
during the 1940s. Lenker presents the first reactions to the use
of sentence adverbials in '-wise'. At the very beginning there
was a negative response from the point of view of certain
linguists, who severely criticized this new trend. Nevertheless
these new sentence adverbials became usual and quickly
accepted. After giving this external overview, the aim of this
paper is to describe the syntactic and functional properties of
the coming into being, historical development and later use of
the suffix '-wise' in Present-day English. Because of its formal
relationship to German 'Weise' and the suffix '-(er)weise', the
author of the paper carries out a historical comparative analysis
between the German and the English language. At the end of
the paper Lenker comes to the conclusion that sentence
adverbials in '-wise' are not a borrowing from German but
innovations in American English. Among the motivations for
this innovation Lenker points out that the suffix '-wise' is used
for derivation for adverbials from non-Latin roots, which do
not allow the suffix '-(c)ally'.

Bettelou Los deals with the loss of the indefinite pronoun
'man', which, as the author says, was lost in English during the
fifteenth century. In spite of the fact that many previous studies
on this matter already exist, the author states (p. 181) that
there are two factors that have been overlooked when
investigating the loss of this indefinite pronoun: on the one
hand the competition between subjunctive 'that'-clauses and
'to'-infinitives, and on the other hand, the loss of verb-second
place, which also took place during the fifteenth century. Los
briefly describes previous proposals for explaining the loss of
'man' in English and also explains why they are no more

Anneli Meurman-Solin talks about the development of the
progressive in Scots from the middle of the fifteenth century
onwards. This analysis is carried out from various perspectives.
First of all, there were different variants, like forms in '-ing' and
in '-and', and the author attempts to analyse them in order to
see whether each one of these variants really had a
paradigmatic status, so they had specialized distributions. For
this study Meurman-Solin bases the analysis on the Helsinki
Corpus of Older Scots 1450-1700 (HCOS), and also on the
'Criminal Trials of Scotland (1561-1591)' and on letters from
the Corpus of Scottish Correspondence (CSC), from the
seventeenth - and early eighteenth - century. In another section
the different types of progressive are described, and there the
analysis of the type 'be (i.e. copula) + preposition + a verb in -
ing', its development and spread provide some information
about the possibility that insular Celtic had an influence on the
development of the progressive in English due to its formal
similarity with Celtic 'copula + preposition/aspectual marker +

'Detransitivization in the history of English from a semantic
perspective' by Ruth Möhlig and Monika Klages deals with the
processes of verbs which were originally transitive but
developed an additional intransitive use. Since previous studies
of detransitivization have been carried out only from a
syntactic perspective (so the authors p. 231), the aim of this
paper is to focus the analysis on a semantic perspective. At this
point it is important to note that Möhlig and Klages differ from
the traditional definition of transitive verbs ('those governing
an object in the accusative case' p. 231) and suggest for their
study a new definition: 'those verbs which typically take a
Goal-object as their second argument, i.e. verbs which express
an action or process which affects a second participant,
regardless of morphological case' (p. 231). They also
differentiate between 'intransitive use' and 'intransitive verbs';
the former refers to verbs which in certain cases do not have or
do not appear with a Goal-object while the latter refer only to
those verbs which never extend beyond the first participant, i.e.
the subject. The analysis is carried out by following four
patterns of detransitivized use: Co-referential, generic, ergative
and finally middle use. At the end of the paper this study shows
that semantic properties play a relevant role in syntactic change
and therefore future studies from a semantic point of view in
this field are necessary.

The last paper in this volume belongs to Julia Schlüter, who
deals with the role phonological factors play on grammatical
variation. Schlüter focuses her study on the Principle of
Rhythmic Alternation illustrated with the Old English
participial suffix '-en', the suffix '-ly' for adverbs derived from
adjectives, the variable marking of infinitives and, finally, the
variable presence of the 'a-'prefix in '-ing' participles.
Historically the analysis covers the English language from the
sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, although there are also
some references to earlier stages of English, like the Old and
Middle English periods. In her study Schlüter shows how the
Principle of Rhythmic Alternation may determine the presence
or absence of grammatical morphemes and markers. From
another point of view, in other cases in which there are phases
of indecision or indeterminacy affecting grammatical
morphemes or markers, it is this Principle that can in some way
overrule grammatical motivations.

In general, although the object of each paper is different, most
of them seem to share the view that the changes and processes
that they describe take place more or less in the same period of
history of the English language, i.e. from Early Modern
English onwards. Nevertheless the analysis sometimes goes
back to earlier stages of English. The way in which authors
present their papers is very practical because they never deal
with their object directly, as if they were addressing scholars
with a broad knowledge of English historical linguistics, but
instead they always introduce the object of the paper by
defining what they are talking about (for instance, what a
'double genitive construction' is), then discuss the studies that
have been published previously, and finally carry out their own
analysis and draw their conclusions. By doing so, the matter of
the paper is very easy to understand to any scholar, even
though he or she does not have a deep knowledge of historical
linguistics. The analysis of the development of each matter is
presented in most of cases in the form of tables in which one
can get a general overview of the whole process.

Authors often compare the situation of the matter they are
dealing with in English language with that in other Germanic
languages, like Dutch or German, which is very useful because,
by doing so, they provide a broader view of the situation in
order to see whether the change is only local or whether it is
also general and takes place in other Germanic languages as
well. This can also be very helpful to scholars who do not have
a good command of Germanic languages.

Formally there is just one thing to criticize. Although it is not
of great importance, perhaps it would make the reading
somewhat easier to place the notes at the bottom of the page
rather than at the end of the paper. The way in which they are
currently located in the volume causes the reader to go
backward and forward through the paper too often.

To sum up, this volume is of great interest for the study of the
history of the English morphology and syntax, although the
topics, as mentioned above, focus on processes that took place
between the Early Modern and Modern English periods. They
really provide a better understanding of the development of
certain structures of the English language that we know today.

The reviewer works at the Department of English and German Philology at the University of the Basque Country (Spain). He has studied German Philology in Seville, Cologne and Munich. His research interests include historical development of Germanic languages and historical mutual influences between Germanic and Romance languages, especially in their oldest stages, from the perspective of Areal Linguistics.