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The origin of the Welsh conjugated infinitive

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Several issues of theoretical, typological, and historical interest are investigated. Conjugated infinitives (those with subject person agreement) are relatively rare but sufficiently well documented as to prompt some linguists to question the efficacy of the wordnonfinite. Moreover, the conjugated infinitives that have received attention in the literature share significant properties crosslinguistically, which cannot be accidental. Historically, however, they require salient triggering data in contrast to prototypical infinitives (those without person agreement), which spontaneously evolve from nominalizations with a goal role. The Welsh case is particularly interesting because the infinitive remains characterized byi“to” + verbal noun, and it is less than obvious that Welsh has a conjugated infinitive (CI). Reanalysis of inflected prepositions (e.g., Middle Welshi-daw“to him”) to infinitives with agreement (moderni-ddo“to-3SGM” ) yielded CIs. This reanalysis was forced by a semantic change of some control to causative verbs. The spread of the new CI to other predicates was enabled by a different kind of reanalysis, this one purely syntactic, raising yet another issue of general interest.

Keywords: Welsh; cue theory; inflected (conjugated) infinitives; reanalysis; syntactic change

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Florida

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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