Why is there a present-day English absolute?Why is there a present-day English absolute?
Faculty of Arts. Linguistics and Literature
Grammar and Pragmatics
Studies in language. - Amsterdam
39(2015):1, p. 199-229
This paper examines the divergent evolutions of the Absolute Construction (AC) in the history of the Germanic languages, with a focus on English and Dutch, and provides an explanation of why only the English AC retained its frequency and productivity rate. Three language-internal factors are appealed to in order to account for this divergence: (i) increased with-augmentation of ACs results in fuzzy boundaries with the more frequently used gerunds as well as (regular) prepositional postmodifying constructions; (ii) the overall higher frequency in English of constructions with -ing-forms (gerunds, free adjuncts, and progressives) invites structural priming; and (iii) a possible typological shift of English from strictly bounded construal to a mixture of bounded and unbounded construal. An additional language-external factor is found in different prescriptivist traditions. English never really opposed the use of ACs whereas prescriptivism in other Germanic languages emphatically did.