Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

On the Non-Expressed Object of Old English Infinitives

Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

On the Non-Expressed Object of Old English Infinitives

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

In this paper we are concerned with the manifold types of Old English infinitival "transitive" constructions where no lexical or overt DP is instantiated in the object position, and the claim is made that a common (historical) origin could be invoked for all of them where no movement to the C(omplementiser)P(hrase) position applies. The sequences below would serve as illustrations of the pertinent paradigm of "retroactive infinitives", which is made up of adverbial clauses of purpose (as in (1)), relative clauses (as in (2)), and tough-sequences and be-to-constructions (as in (3) and (4), respectively). The line in each case is used to indicate the gap in object position.

(1)  a.  rice men sendon heora dohtor    thider [_____ to laeranne]
         rich men sent   their daughters there         to teach
        'rich men sent their daughters there to be taught'
                                   (Bede 3 6.172.16) (Fischer 1991: 157)

     b.  hine ...of thaere byrig gelaeddon [_____ to staenenne]
         him   from the    city  led              to stone
         '[they] led him out of the city to be stoned'
                                 (AECHom I, 3 46.32) (Fischer 1991: 157)
(2)  a.  Ic haebbe mete [_____ to etenne]
         I  have   food        to eat
                                          (Alc.P.V.72) (Allen 1980: 275)

     b.  Fela ic     haebbe [eow _____ to secganne]
         many things I have you        to say
         'I have many things to tell you'
                                     (CP 237.12) (Mitchell 1985, I: 390)

(3)  a.  He saede thaet he uniethe   waere [_____ to gehealdenne]
         he said  that  he difficult was          to control
         'He said that he was difficult to control'
                                   (CP 172.11) (Visser 1963-73, II: 991)

     b.  wundro ..., tha   the  nu  to  long [_____ to secgenne syndon]
         wonders     which that now too long        to narrate  are
        'wonders ..., which are too long to narrate right now'
                                (Bede 174.22) (Visser 1963-73, II: 1012)

(4)  a.  thas  thing  sint [_____ to donne]
         these things are         to do
         'these things must be done'
                                   (Lch II(2)22.1.8) (Fischer 1991: 147)

     b.  tha waedlan sint [_____ to frefranne and _____ to retanne]
         the poor    are         to console   and       to comfort
         'the poor must be consoled and given some comfort'
                                  (CP 180.6) (Visser 1963-73, III: 1460)

Within a generative framework, we will argue that a strategy allowing a minimum of effort seems to prevent Old English infinitives from assigning or rather checking their (accusative) Case against an actually realized DP in case a lexical antecedent for the latter can be found in the matrix clause, a situation which would apply without the concurrence of Wh-movement. Though the standard account of relative clauses, tough-constructions, or certain adverbial clauses of purpose is one in terms of Wh-movement, the possibility is explored here for a (common) original structure in the language where no movement applies and where the object position is occupied by the empty category pro, which can be otherwise attested in Old English.

In this way, several historical facts related to infinitival constructions with a gap in object position seem to all point out in the direction of these sequence-types as having originated as structures where no operator is raised to the CP position. No investigation of the stage(s) previous to Old English has been carried out; nonetheless, the evidence in Old English and later in Middle English seems to be autonomous enough to establish certain facts concerning the origin of the infinitival constructions under study. It must crucially be noted that each of the facts presented here as evidence on which to base our claims should deserve a separate study of its own. …

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