How patterns spread: The to-infinitival complement as a case of diffusional change, or 'to-infinitives, and beyond'

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter revisits my earlier work on to-infinitives (Los 1999, 2005)in the light of the new insights about the spread of complementation patterns provided by De Smet (2013) and Rudanko (2015). Their investigations into the spread of the gerund as a verb complement benefited from the fact that the gerund came into existence relatively recently, which made it possible not only to construct a scenario of how it spread through the system of verbal complementation, but also to date the various stages. Although the spread of the to-infinitive took place too early for us to do the same, the distribution of the to-infinitive in Old English (OE) did allow me to identify the niche in which it first arose, and to suggest a scenario of its spread. De Smet’s concepts of broad and narrow paradigmatic analogy make it possible to construct a more fine-grained scenario for the rise of to-infinitives, as they also take into account semantic groups; this means that the original semantics of the individual groups of verbs, as reflected in their etymologies, may provide additional data. That etymologies of individual verbs can be very useful for such a purpose has been demonstrated by Lau (2015).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCategories, Constructions, and Change in English Syntax
EditorsNuria Yáñez-Bouza, Emma Moore, Willem Hollmann, Linda van Bergen
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781108303576
ISBN (Print)9781108419567
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019


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