Article published in:Outside the Clause: Form and function of extra-clausal constituents
Edited by Gunther Kaltenböck, Evelien Keizer and Arne Lohmann
[Studies in Language Companion Series 178] 2016
► pp. 157–176
From clause to adverb
On the history of maybe
This chapter is concerned with the origin and development of the English epistemic adverb maybe. Using various historical corpora, including the Helsinki Corpus and ARCHER as a baseline, we analyse a range of structures featuring the sequence (it) may be, paying special attention to those which may have contributed, in varying degrees, to the emergence of the adverb maybe. We argue that the development of maybe can be regarded as an instance of grammaticalization, whereby a matrix clause in a complementation structure (it may be (that)…) is downgraded to a parenthetical, thus losing its original clausal morpho-syntactic features, and eventually becoming an adverb. Therefore, the adverbialization of maybe seems to have followed a similar path of development to that of (quasi-)adverbs such as methinks and looks like. We also argue, however, that even though complement-taking-predicate clauses are the ultimate main source of the adverb, via an intermediate parenthetical stage, other constructions (e.g. it may be + phrasal constituent) may have played a role in its development.
Published online: 03 October 2016
ARCHER 3.2 = A Representative Corpus of Historical English Registers version 3.2 1990–1993/2002/2007/2010/2013 Originally compiled under the supervision of Douglas Biber and Edward Finegan at Northern Arizona University and University of Southern California; modified and expanded by subsequent members of a consortium of universities. Current member universities are Bamberg, Freiburg, Heidelberg, Helsinki, Lancaster, Leicester, Manchester, Michigan, Northern Arizona, Santiago de Compostela, Southern California, Trier, Uppsala, Zurich.
BYU-BNC = Davies, Mark 2004- BYU-BNC. (Based on the British National Corpus from Oxford University Press). http://corpus.byu.edu/bnc/
COCA = Davies, Mark 2008- The Corpus of Contemporary American English: 520 million words, 1990-present. http://corpus.byu.edu/coca/
COHA = Davies, Mark 2010 The Corpus of Historical American English: 400 million words, 1810-2009. http://corpus.byu.edu/coha/.
HC = The Helsinki Corpus of English Texts 1991 Department of Modern Languages, University of Helsinki. Compiled by Matti Rissanen (Project leader), Merja Kytö (Project secretary); Leena Kahlas-Tarkka, Matti Kilpiö (Old English); Saara Nevanlinna, Irma Taavitsainen (Middle English); Terttu Nevalainen, Helena Raumolin-Brunberg (Early Modern English).
MED = Middle English Dictionary ed. Hans Kurath, Sherman M. Kuhn & Robert E. Lewis Ann Arbor University of Michigan Press http://ets.umdl.umich.edu/m/med/
OBC = Huber, Magnus, Magnus Nissel, Patrick Maiwald & Bianca Widlitzki 2012 The Old Bailey Corpus. Spoken English in the 18th and 19th centuries. http://www.uni-giessen.de/oldbaileycorpus.
OED = Oxford English Dictionary Online. http://www.oed.com/
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