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‘Ye whom the charms of grammar please’

Studies in English Language History in Honour of Leiv Egil Breivik


Edited By Kari Haugland, Kevin McCafferty and Kristian A. Rusten

This collection of articles by colleagues and students of Leiv Egil Breivik presents studies within both core and peripheral areas of English historical linguistics. Core topics covered include the development of existential there and related phenomena, word order, the evolution of adverbials, null subjects from Old to Early Modern English, pragmatics and information structure and aspects of discourse. Contributors also address the emergence of new syntactic constructions in the past and present, language contact and aspects of style in Early Modern English letters and medical texts. The ideological discourses of children’s dictionaries and medieval letters of defence are also explored.
The essays are all empirical studies, based on a wide range of corpora (both historical and contemporary) and applying theoretical approaches informed by Systemic-Functional Grammar, grammaticalization theory, dependency grammar, historical linguistics, sociolinguistics and corpus linguistic methods. Issues of methodology, statistics and corpus construction and annotation are also addressed in several contributions.
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Dagmar Haumann: On the ascent and decline of the passive tough-infinitive


← 166 | 167 → DAGMAR HAUMANN

On the ascent and decline of the passive tough-infinitive*

1 Introduction

Passive tough-infinitives constitute a diachronic variant of the so-called tough-movement construction, a construction that involves adjectives such as easy and impossible, and their infinitival complement, which contains a gap in the position of the verb’s direct object, as indicated by the underscore in (1). In these constructions, the subject, given in square brackets, is interpreted as the missing object.


[Addicts] are easy to spot ___. (CH6, BNC)


[These two opposite conditions of temperature] seemed impossible to reconcile ___. (EED, BNC)

While tough-movement constructions in Present-day English (PDE) involve only morphologically active infinitives, earlier versions of English allowed for both active (2) and passive tough-infinitives (3), with the active infinitive being the older and established variant.


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