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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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(p.73) 4 Intention
The Rise of the To-Infinitive

Bettelou Los (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that the occurrence of the to-infinitive after verbs expressing meanings like ‘intend’ or ‘want’, or the negative counterparts ‘fear’ or ‘avoid’ represents an innovation. Unlike the verbs discussed in the previous chapter, these verbs never occurred with a to-prepositional phrase, so that the presence of the to-infinitive requires a different explanation. The best predictor for the distribution of a to-infinitive after verbs of this group in Old English is that of the subjunctive þæt-clause. As subjunctive þæt-clauses and to-infinitives had occurred side by side as expressions of the adjunct of purpose and of the GOAL-argument, this may have led them to be analysed as each other’s equivalents, as if the to-infinitive had come to be regarded as a non-finite subjunctive clause. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the only environment in which bare infinitive and to-infinitive occur side by side: verbs with the meaning ‘begin’.

Keywords:   goal, argument structure, subjunctive, prepositional phrase, begin verbs, intention verbs, verb complement, syntactic reanalysis, object control

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