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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 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 of Old to Middle English as well as those studying the processes and causes of syntactic change more generally.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780199274765
ISBN-10: 0199274762
Format: Hardback
(241mm x 164mm x 23mm)
Pages: 360
Imprint: Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publish Date: 20-Jan-2005
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

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Author Biography - Bettelou Los

Bettelou Los is a Lecturer in Linguistics at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. She graduated from the University of Amsterdam in 1986 and has since held teaching and research positions at the University of Amsterdam, the Vrije Universiteit, the University of Nijmegen and other colleges of higher education. She participates in the research program The Diachrony of Complex Predicates in West Germanic, and has published several papers on diachronic syntax. She contributes with Wim van der Wurff to the morphology and syntax section of The Year's Work in English Studies and with Ans van Kemenade is co-editing The Blackwell Handbook of the History of English.

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