Publication
Title
On the distribution and merger of is and bið in Old and Middle English
Author
Abstract
This article accounts for the transition of Old English is is and bið will be from separate verbs with an overlapping past tense wæs into a single, non-overlapping suppletive paradigm in Middle English, in which is became limited to the indicative singular and bið to the indicative plural and all other forms. I first analyse the synchronic situation in Old English, showing that is was mainly used for predicating present states of specific subjects, and in identifying clauses. By contrast, bið was used to encode future situations and generic statements, which are connected to future situations through their implication of future validity (compare expressions like boys will be boys). Importantly, the high frequency of generic statements, which are about kinds instead of individuals, also led to plural forms of bið being more salient than those of is. Second, I show how environmental constructional change can account for their merger. Specifically, the grammaticalization of the construction [shall Inf] brought about semantic erosion of the sense of futurity in bið. The subsequent semantic confusion between bið and is led to a reanalysis of their distribution, which was guided by their number asymmetry: bið was restricted to plural and is to singular number.
Language
English
Source (journal)
Transactions of the Philological Society. - Oxford
Publication
Oxford : 2013
ISSN
0079-1636
Volume/pages
111:3(2013), p. 301-325
Full text (Publishers DOI)
Full text (publishers version - intranet only)
UAntwerpen
Faculty/Department
Publication type
Subject
External links
Record
Identification
Creation 13.11.2015
Last edited 21.11.2016