|Reference : Weorðan ‘become’ and begin as indicators of the unbounded to bounded shift in English|
|Scientific congresses and symposiums : Unpublished conference|
|Arts & humanities : Languages & linguistics|
|Weorðan ‘become’ and begin as indicators of the unbounded to bounded shift in English|
|Petré, Peter [Université de Liège - ULg > Département des langues et littératures modernes > Département des langues et littératures modernes >]|
|Sixteenth International Conference on English Historical Linguistics (ICEHL 16), workshop “Historical linguistics meets psycholinguistics”|
|From 23-08-2010 to 27-08-2010|
|University of Pécs|
|[en] Old English ; Middle English ; inchoative aspect ; copulas ; aspect ; narrative structure|
|[en] In this talk I contrast the developments of the disappearing copula and passive auxiliary (ge)weorðan ‘be(come)’ with the increasingly popular group of inchoative ‘gin-verbs’ (begin(nen), agin(nen), gin(nen), ongin(nen)) during the period 950-1500.
The frequency of weorðan (underlined) in Old English is illustrated in (1). This fragment also shows that Old English language use was bounded. Bounded language use construes situations as completed sub-events, emphasizing narrative progress, and makes abundant use of time adverbials (Carroll, Stutterheim & Nuese 2004), which split up an event chronologically and often take up the first position in a verb-second system.
(1) Ða he hig hæfde ealle amyrrede þa wearð mycel hunger & he wearð wædla. Þa beþohte he hine & cwæð, Ic fare to minum fæder. & þa gyt þa he wæs feorr his fæder he hyne geseah & wearð mid mildheortnesse astyrod.
“When he had everything wasted, then a great hunger arose and he became a beggar. Then he thought by himself and said: ‘I (will) travel to my father.’ And then, when he was still far , his father saw him and was stirred by mercy.” (c1025)
The high frequency of weorðan in bounded language use is explained by its change-of-state semantics that denotes completed events. By 1400, however, time adverbials of narrative progress had heavily decreased (for þa: Kemenade & Los 2006) and the verb-second-syntax they trigger had become confused (Los 2009). Weorðan, being highly entrenched in these constructions, disappears as a consequence of their breakdown.
Simultaneously, inchoative ginnen-verbs became more frequent. For instance, instead of he wearð wædla ‘he became a beggar’, as in (1), the Wycliffe Bible (c1384) has he began to have need. I argue that these gin-verbs signal the early development of unbounded construal. Unbounded language use construes situations as open-ended. While this is done most clearly through progressive aspect (he was walking), inchoative constructions are also partly open-ended, and provide, for past-tense narrative, a parallel to the progressive (Carroll, von Stutterheim & Nuese 2004: 206).
In general, I contribute to the hypothesis that the loss of verb-second syntax (and of time adverbs) affected event construal, and triggered the development of new, unbounded, constructions including the progressive, rather than that the development of the progressive constituted the trigger after which the unbounded system first developed.
Carroll, Mary, Christiane von Stutterheim & Ralf Nuese. 2004. The language and thought debate: A psycholinguistic approach. In Thomas Pechmann and Christopher Habel (eds.), Multidisciplinary approaches to language production (Trends in Linguistics: Studies and Monographs 157), 183-218. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Kemenade, Ans van & Bettelou Los. 2006. Discourse adverbs and clausal syntax in Old and Middle English. In Ans van Kemenade & Bettelou Los (eds.), The Handbook of the History of English, 224–48. Oxford: Blackwell.
Los, Bettelou. 2009. The consequences of the loss of verb-second in English: Information structure and syntax in interaction. English Language and Linguistics 13(1), 97-125.
|Functional Linguistics Leuven (FLL)|
|Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek - FWO|
|The English ginnen-verbs and the rise of unbounded language use|
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