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The Rise of the To-Infinitive$
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Bettelou Los

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199274765

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199274765.001.0001

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Summary and conclusions

Summary and conclusions

(p.297) 11 Summary and conclusions
The Rise of the To-Infinitive

Bettelou Los (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This final chapter wraps up the main conclusions of the book: the origin of the to-infinitive and its reanalysis as a non-finite subjunctive clause, and its rise and spread at the expense of the finite subjunctive clause. It also reflects on wider issues to do with the interpretation of historical linguistic data, especially the absence of certain constructions (the problem of ‘negative evidence’) and how we can make the most of the data we have. The key to these problems is not to look at syntactic constructions in isolation, but to focus on their function in the language. This means that historical linguists sometimes have to cast their nets wide and look at other fields — discourse, theories of textual cohesion, translation studies, and pragmatics — in order to find the answers to syntactic problems.

Keywords:   subjunctive, infinitival marker, category change, negative evidence, interpretation of data, historical syntax, historical linguistics, diachronic syntax, Old English syntax

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