Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The grammaticalization of ingressive aspect in early English
by Sims, Lynn Diane, Ph.D., Arizona State University, 2008, 188; 3302972
Abstract (Summary)

Modern English ingressive markers such as begin, continue, stop, and complete form both a fairly coherent semantic group and a fairly coherent syntactic group. Semantically, they express aspectual notions such as ingressiveness and egressiveness. Syntactically, they often fail to meet criteria for auxiliaryhood, yet, at the same time, they often exhibit auxiliary-like properties (i.e., thematic transparency). Consequently, the category to which this group belongs (lexical or grammatical) is debated—with most conclusions based on semantic rather than syntactic characteristics.

As for the earlier stages of English, only a few studies address the function and structure of Old and Middle English (0E/ME) ingressive markers—and even fewer discuss this area within the framework of generative linguistics and grammaticalization theory. Moreover, studies that address ingressive aspect in early English tend to examine the earliest marker (onginnan) and then apply the final conclusion to all ingressive markers (beginnan, the fōn variants, and tacan). Additionally, these studies do not address the syntactic structure of the aspect marker's non-finite complement. Therefore, this dissertation (a) explores the degree of grammaticalization individual OE and ME ingressive markers undergo as their function is reanalyzed from a more lexical to a less lexical role, and (b) provides a structural account of ingressive markers and their non-finite complements.

The findings of this dissertation establish that the syntactic behavior of the ingressive markers differs, particularly, onginnan and beginnan: in impersonal constructions with non-nominative subjects, in word order patterns, and in constructions involving ge-prefixed complements. Contra arguments suggesting that the choice of complement type (bare vs. to-infinitive) is stylistic rather than syntactic, this dissertation argues that the choice of complement type is influenced by the prefix (on- vs. be-) of the aspect marker, and that to-, when selected, heads its own projection (specifier,E) inside the VP-shell. This dissertation also establishes that the syntactic structure of the non-finite complement is relevant to the structural position of the ingressive marker. The final conclusion reached is that only onginnan grammaticalizes to auxiliary status while the remaining aspect markers remain in a hybrid-like position and, as such, are semi-lexical light verbs belonging to the lexical category.

Indexing (document details)
School: Arizona State University
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 69/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics
Keywords: Early English, Grammaticalization, Ingressive aspect, Middle English, Old English
Publication Number: 3302972
ISBN: 978-0-549-48889-7
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