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Academic Paper

Title: The rise of the to-infinitive: evidence from adjectival complementation
Author: An Van linden
Institution: University of Leuven
Linguistic Field: Historical Linguistics; Morphology
Subject Language: English
Abstract: This article presents a diachronic corpus-based study of the distribution of mandative that- and to-clauses complementing deontic adjectival matrices in the extraposition construction, as in It is essential to work upwards from easier workloads (CB). It shows that the to-infinitive encroaches on the that-clause from Early Middle English onwards and comes to predominate in Late Middle English. It thus adduces evidence for Los's (2005) account of the rise of the to-infinitive as verbal complement: against the generally held view that the to-infinitive replaced the bare infinitive, Los (2005) shows that it spread at the expense of the subjunctive that-clause in Middle English, e.g. after intention verbs and manipulative verbs. After considering various factors such as the distribution of the to-infinitive in the adjectival complementation system, the tense of the matrix of the adjectival constructions and the Anglo-Saxon versus Romance origin of the adjectives, I conclude that the rise of the to-infinitive with adjectival matrices in Middle English has to be explained by analogy between verbal and adjectival mandative constructions. In addition, this study shows that – unlike with the verbal constructions – the to-infinitive with adjectival matrices stabilizes at roughly a 3:1 ratio to the that-clause from Early Modern English onwards. For these later periods, finally, it is proposed that the clausal variation may be motivated by lexical determination, discourse factors such as information structure, and stylistic preferences.


This article appears IN English Language and Linguistics Vol. 14, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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