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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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The changing status of infinitival to

The changing status of infinitival to

(p.191) 8 The changing status of infinitival to
The Rise of the To-Infinitive

Bettelou Los (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that to in Old English is semantically occupying the same niche as the subjunctive ending (or, for Present-day English, the modal verb that has taken over the subjunctive function) and should be accommodated in the functional projection that accommodates the subjunctive ending and, later, the modals, say T(ense). This in effect means that there has been no change in the syntactic status of to since it stopped being a preposition in prehistoric times. In early Middle English, split infinitives become possible, a change triggered by the fact that the finite subjunctive was increasingly coming to be expressed by a free form (a modal verb) raising to T overtly, rather than by a bound form (a subjunctive ending), raising to T covertly. The overt movement of to brought it in line with the rest of its paradigm: the modal verbs.

Keywords:   finite, complementizer, infinitival marker, syntactic reanalysis, subjunctive, split infinitives, egrammaticalization, degrammaticization, overt/covert movement, paradigmatic pressure

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