Publication
Title
Die Rolle der Frequenz in der Grammatikalisierung : lange Passive mit by im Englischen = The role of frequency in grammaticalization : long passive with by in English
Author
Abstract
This article focuses on the grammaticalisation of by as the marker of the prepositional agent in the passive in Middle and Early Modern English. Initially by was merely a marginal competitor of prepositions such as from, through, of or with. However, from late Middle English onwards it evolved into the default. This contribution analyses language specific factors that influenced the choice of preposition. Originally the passive construction was used to background the agent. During Middle English, however, the passive acquired a more general discourse function, a result of a newly developed requirement to start the clause with a topic, which is also the subject. Whenever the patient was the topic, a passive could be used to meet this new subject-topic requirement. This development leads, among other things, to a rise in the range of subject referents, including ever more inanimate subjects. Well-known related developments are the emergence of prepositional passives and recipient passives. Yet the role of the preposition of the agent in this story has been little researched. The analysis shows that by correlates significantly more often with inanimate subjects than other prepositions. This stronger association is likely to have given a head start to by, which eventually led to its grammaticalisation. Theoretically the success of by shows how frequency differences in the initial distributions of competitors may influence the course of grammaticalisation of a single construction.
Language
English
Source (journal)
Sprachwissenschaft. - Heidelberg, 1976, currens
Publication
Heidelberg : Winter, 2018
ISSN
0344-8169
Volume/pages
43:2(2018), p. 251-280
ISI
000441689900006
Full text (open access)
UAntwerpen
Faculty/Department
Research group
Project info
The dynamics of correlated multiple grammatical changes in Early Modern English writers (MindBendingGrammars).
Publication type
Subject
Affiliation
Publications with a UAntwerp address
External links
Web of Science
Record
Identification
Creation 07.09.2018
Last edited 24.07.2021
To cite this reference