Changes in argument structure in Early Modern English with special reference to verbs of DESIRE: A case study of lust
In Old and Middle English, several verbs of desire could be found in impersonal constructions, a type of morphosyntactic pattern which lacks a subject marked for the nominative case controlling verbal agreement. The impersonal construction began to decrease in frequency between 1400 and 1500 (van der Gaaf 1904; Allen 1995), a development which has been recently investigated from the perspective of the interaction between impersonal verbs and constructional meaning by Trousdale (2008), Möhlig-Falke (2012) and Miura (2015). This paper is concerned specifically with the impersonal verb lust (< ME lusten) as a representative of Levin’s (1993) class of verbs of desire, some of which developed into prepositional verbs in Present-day English. The main aim here is to explore the changes undergone by lust during the two centuries after it ceases to appear in impersonal constructions, as well as to reflect upon some of the possible motivations for such changes. The data are retrieved from Early English Books Online Corpus 1.0, a 525-million-word corpus, and the examples are analysed manually paying attention to the range of complementation patterns documented in Early Modern English (1500–1700).
Allen, Cynthia L. 1986. Reconsidering the history of like. Journal of Linguistics 22/2: 375–409.
Allen, Cynthia L. 1995. Case Marking and Reanalysis: Grammatical Relations from Old to Early Modern English. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Anthony, Laurence. 2019. Antconc (version 3.5.8). Tokyo, Japan: Waseda University. https://www.laurenceanthony.net/software/antconc/
Barber, Charles. 1997. Early Modern English (second edition). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Bybee, Joan. 2010. Language, Usage and Cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Croft, William. 1991. Syntactic Categories and Grammatical Relations: The Cognitive Organization of Information. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Dowty, David R. 1991. Thematic proto-roles and argument selection. Language 67/3: 547–619.
Early English Books Online Corpus 1.0, compiled by Peter Petré. 2013. https://lirias.kuleuven.be/handle/123456789/416330
Elmer, Willy. 1981. Diachronic Grammar: The History of Old and Middle English Subjectless Constructions. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
Fischer, Olga and Frederike C. van der Leek. 1983. The demise of the Old English impersonal construction. Journal of Linguistics 19/2: 337–368.
Fischer, Olga, Ans van Kemenade, Willem Koopmann and Wim van der Wurf. 2000. The Syntax of Early English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Görlach, Manfred. 1993. Introduction to Early Modern English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hopper, Paul J. and Sandra A. Thompson. 1980. Transitivity in grammar and discourse. Language 56/2: 251–299.
Jespersen, Otto. 1961. A Modern English Grammar on Historical Principles. Part III: Syntax (Second Volume) (second edition). Copenhagen: Ejnar Munksgaard / London: George Allen and Unwin.
Levin, Beth. 1993. English Verb Classes and Alternations: A Preliminary Investigation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lexico’s Dictionary. https://www.lexico.com/en
Lightfoot, David W. 1979. Principles of Diachronic Syntax. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
McCawley, Noriko A. 1976. From OE/ME ‘impersonal’ to ‘personal’ constructions: What is a ‘subject-less’ S? In Sanford B. Steever, Carol A. Walker and Salikoko S. Mufwene eds. Papers from the Parasession on Diachronic Syntax. Chicago: Chicago Linguistics Society, 192–204.
Méndez Naya, Belén and María José López Couso. 1997. What is really meant by impersonal? On impersonal and related terms. Atlantis. Journal of the Spanish Association for Anglo-American Studies 19: 185–192.
Middle English Dictionary. 1952–2001. Hans Kurath, Sherman M. Kuhn and Robert E. Lewis eds. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Online edition available at the Middle English Compendium. 2000–2018. Frances McSparran et al. ed. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Library. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/middle-english-dictionary/dictionary
Miura, Ayumi. 2015. Middle English Verbs of Emotion and Impersonal Constructions: Verb Meaning and Syntax in Diachrony. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Möhlig-Falke, Ruth. 2012. The Early English Impersonal Construction: An Analysis of Verbal and Constructional Meaning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Oxford English Dictionary Online. https://www.oed.com
Traugott, Elizabeth C. 1972. A History of English Syntax: A Transformational Approach to the History of English Sentence Structure. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Trousdale, Graeme. 2008. Words and constructions in grammaticalization: The end of the English impersonal construction. In Susan M. Fitzmaurice and Donka Minkova eds. Studies in the History of the English Language IV: Empirical and Analytical Advances in the Study of English Language Change. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 301–326.
van der Gaaf, Willem. 1904. The Transition from the Impersonal to the Personal Construction in Middle English. Heidelberg: C. Winter.
Visser, Fredericus T. 1963. An Historical Syntax of the English Language. Part 1, Syntactical Units with one Verb. Leiden: E. J. Brill.
Copyright (c) 2019 Research in Corpus Linguistics
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Submission of your paper to this journal implies that the paper is not under submission for publication elsewhere. Material which has been previously copyrighted, published, or accepted for publication will not be considered for publication in this journal. Submission of a manuscript is interpreted as a statement of certification that no part of the manuscript is copyrighted by any other publisher nor is under review by any other formal publication. By submitting your manuscript to us, you agree on these copyright guidelines. It is your responsibility to ensure that your manuscript does not cause any copyright infringements, defamation, and other problems.
Submitted papers are assumed to contain no proprietary material unprotected by patent or patent application; responsibility for technical content and for protection of proprietary material rests solely with the author(s) and their organizations and is not the responsibility of the journal or its editorial staff. The main author is responsible for ensuring that the article has been seen and approved by all the other authors. It is the responsibility of the author to obtain all necessary copyright release permissions for the use of any copyrighted materials in the manuscript prior to the submission.
Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under the BY Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal
Article submission implies author agreement with this policy.