This book describes the historical emergence and spread of the to-infinitive in English. It shows that to + infinitive emerged from a reanalysis of the preposition to plus a deverbal nominalization, which spread first to purpose clauses, then to other nonfinite environments. The book challenges the traditional reasoning that infinitives must have been nouns in Old English because they inflected for dative case and can follow prepositions.
Dr Los shows that, even as early as Old English, the to-infinitive was established in most of the environments in which it is found today. She argues that its spread was largely due to competition with subjunctive that-clauses, which it gradually replaced.
Later chapters consider Middle English developments. The author provides a measured evaluation of the evidence that to undergoes a period of degrammaticalization. She concludes that the extent to which to gains syntactic freedom in Middle English is due to the fact that speakers began to equate it with the modal verbs and therefore to treat it syntactically as a modal verb.
The exposition is clear and does not assume an up-to-date knowledge of generative theory. The book will appeal to the wide spectrum of scholars interested in the transformation from Old to Middle English, as well as those studying the processes and causes of syntactic change more generally.
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Number of pages: 354
Weight: 568 g
Dimensions: 230 x 160 x 20 mm
...a great achievement, highlighting the systematic distribution of OE to-infinitives described in terms of argument structure, as well as providing solid arguments that to-infinitives were in competition with subjunctive that-clauses, with the former replacing the latter. Moreover this book is written in a manner accessible to both philologists and theoretical linguists, and hence provides a basis for everyone interested in the development of English infinitives. * Journal of German Linuistics *
The great merit of this book is certainly the impressive empirical work providing us with a systematic description of infinitival complementation in OE...[a] significant contribution...to our understanding of infinitival syntax in the history of English. * Ulrike Demske, Diachronica 24:1 *