The Dutch evidential NCI
A case of constructional attrition
Present-day Dutch has two entrenched “grammatical” hearsay evidentials: a construction with zou (originally the past tense form of the verb zullen, cognate with German sollen) and a construction with schijnen (literally, ‘seem’). The closest English equivalent of both constructions is the “evidential nominative and infinitive” (NCI), which pairs an evidential meaning with the morphosyntactic pattern [SBJ be Xed
to Inf]. This is a highly productive construction in English, the most typical instantiation of which is be said to. Present-day Dutch has an NCI construction as well, but the lexical possibilities of this construction are limited to a handful of cognition verbs, which — in their NCI use — encode deontic rather than evidential meanings. On the basis of historical corpus data, this paper shows that the Dutch equivalent of English be said to, i.e. gezegd worden te, looked ready at one time to become entrenched as a substantive hearsay construction as well. This paper traces its evolution and explores the questions of why the pattern disappeared and why Dutch, unlike English, did not develop a schematic evidential NCI construction.