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Language Change and Variation from Old English to Late Modern English

A Festschrift for Minoji Akimoto


Edited By Merja Kytö, John Scahill and Harumi Tanabe

This collection reflects Minoji Akimoto’s concern with studies of change in English that are theoretically-informed, but founded on substantial bodies of data. Some of the contributors focus on individual texts and text-types, among them literature and journalism, others on specific periods, from Old English to the nineteenth century, but the majority trace a linguistic process – such as negation, passivisation, complementation or grammaticalisation – through the history of English. While several papers take a fresh look at manuscript evidence, the harnessing of wideranging electronic corpora is a recurring feature methodologically. The linguistic fields treated include word semantics, stylistics, orthography, word-order, pragmatics and lexicography. The volume also contains a bibliography of Professor Akimoto’s writings and an index of linguistic terms.


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FUYO OSAWA Syntactic Passive: Its Rise and Growth in the History of English 117


FUYO OSAWA Syntactic Passive: Its Rise and Growth in the History of English* 1. Introduction Passivization is assumed to be a syntactic operation whatever opera- tion it is; either NP-movement or extension (Chomsky 1995) for case (checking) reasons. Within Relational Grammar passivization is sup- posed to involve object promotion and subject demotion (cf. Perlmut- ter and Postal 1977). In this way, changes of syntactic relation are assumed in passivization. However, drawing data from Old English mainly, I suggest a different view and claim that there was originally no syntactic opera- tion involved in the formation of passives, and syntactic passives came late in the history of the English language. Voice alternation could be done otherwise, for example, morphologically (cf. Kageyama 1993). Later, thanks to the emergent functional category, TP, syntactic passivization was made possible, along with other syntactic operations such as subject-to-subject raising, which is related to the presence of TP. My paper discusses how passive constructions changed from Old English to Modern English, and shows that new passive constructions appeared due to this emergent TP. I have already argued that diachronic language changes involve functional category emergence; that is, functional categories are not present from the beginning of languages, but over a period of time a functional category emerges and the new functional category brings about new syntactic phenomena. Language variation is due to differ- * This article is based on the paper which was presented at the 17th ICHL held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Fuyo Osawa 118 ences...

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