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On reanalysis and actualization in syntactic change: The rise and development of English verbal gerunds

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This paper examines the process whereby the English gerund, originally an abstract deverbal noun of action, was reinterpreted as part of the verb system and acquired verbal properties, such as the ability to govern a direct object (e.g., by writing a letterรพ). The analysis of the data reveals that by Early Middle English some gerundial patterns had become structurally ambiguous and thus served as the basis for the reanalysis of a nominal category as a verbal one. The actualization (Timberlake 1977) of the innovated underlying structure at the observable level of language use is also discussed, as are the implications of the changes undergone by the gerund for current views of grammaticalization as the main mechanism of syntactic change.

Keywords: Actualization; categorial change; gerunds; gradience; grammaticalization; intraference; reanalysis; syntactic change

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Santiago de Compostela

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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  • International Journal for Historical Linguistics

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