Chapter published in:English Historical Linguistics 2008: Selected papers from the fifteenth International Conference on English Historical Linguistics (ICEHL 15), Munich, 24-30 August 2008.. Volume I: The history of English verbal and nominal constructions
Edited by Ursula Lenker, Judith Huber and Robert Mailhammer
[Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 314] 2010
► pp. 29–44
Tracking and explaining variation and change in the grammar of American English
A case study, with evidence from the TIME Corpus
Both to infinitive and to -ing complement clauses selected by adjectival heads may involve subject control in English, but there are syntactic differences between them. In spite of the differences, some matrix predicates have shown variation and change between the two types of sentential complement in recent times. The article examines the adjective accustomed from this point of view, with evidence from the TIME Corpus. It is observed that in the first decade covered by the corpus, from 1923 through 1932, to infinitives were slightly more frequent than to -ing complements, but that in the 1960s the to -ing pattern had become predominant in comparison with the to infinitive pattern. The article points to such variation and change affecting the sentential complements of accustomed in one particular text type of American English, and identifies two explanatory principles to account for the variation observed. The first is the Extraction Principle, which is defined more broadly than in some earlier work, and the second is the postulation of a semantic contrast between the two complementation patterns. It is argued that both the Extraction Principle and the semantic distinction are statistically significant in explaining variation at one stage in the overall process of change that has been called the Great Complement Shift.
Published online: 28 October 2010
Cited by 1 other publications
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