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Argument Structure in Flux

The Development of Impersonal Constructions in Middle and Early Modern English, with Special Reference to Verbs of Desire

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Noelia Castro-Chao

The class of verbs of Desire comprises verbs whose syntax and semantics have undergone important changes in the course of their histories. Their argument structure involves a Desirer and a Desired, and in earlier English they could be used impersonally in constructions lacking a subject marked for the nominative case. The book presents three case studies based on a comprehensive survey of the entries in the Oxford English Dictionary and the Middle English Dictionary and on corpus data retrieved from EEBOCorp 1.0 (1470s–1690s). The results obtained unveil the loss of impersonal uses and their gradual replacement by personal patterns, in particular a pattern where the verb governs a prepositional complement representing the Desired as a metaphorical goal.

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5 Data and methodology

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5Data and methodology

5.1Corpus

5.1.1Early English Books Online (EEBO)

Early English Books Online (henceforth EEBO) is a Proquest/ Chadwyck-Healey subscription database which contains works printed between 1473 and 1700. As described on its website, EEBO provides access to digitised images of over 125,000 items, it was first launched in 1998, and contains page images of almost every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America, as well as works in English printed elsewhere.27

More than 200 libraries worldwide have contributed to this comprehensive collection, which has become indispensable for Anglo-American studies. The collection has been used for research in a wide range of fields such as education, English literature, fine arts, history, linguistics, mathematics, music, philosophy, science and theology. Amongst the authors included in these collections are Edmund Spenser, Thomas More and William Shakespeare.

Over the course of the EEBO project, short-title catalogues served as a means for the selection of texts. In fact, EEBO’s history is closely related to Pollard & Redgrave’s Short-Title Catalogue (1475–1640) and Wing’s Short-Title Catalogue (1641–1700) and their revised editions, as well as to the Thomason Tracts (1640–1661) collection and the Early English Books Tract Supplement. Together, these bibliographic sources ←79 | 80→may be said to largely represent the history of English thought, from the first book that was ever printed in English through to 1700.

The records accessible in EEBO constitute...

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