Changes in argument structure in Early Modern English with special reference to verbs of DESIRE: A case study of lust

Keywords: argument structure; corpus linguistics; Early Modern English; impersonal construction; impersonal verb; verbs of DESIRE


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).


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How to Cite
Castro-Chao, N. (2019). Changes in argument structure in Early Modern English with special reference to verbs of DESIRE: A case study of lust. Research in Corpus Linguistics, 7, 129-154.