Chapter published in:The Determinants of Diachronic Stability
Edited by Anne Breitbarth, Miriam Bouzouita, Lieven Danckaert and Melissa Farasyn
[Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 254] 2019
► pp. 215–243
What is a diachronically stable system in a language-contact situation?
The case of the English recipient passive
In this paper we present data showing that the development of the English recipient passive (RP) was linked predominantly to verbs of French origin, although Old French (OF) did not have an RP. We present two explanations of the role that contact with French could have played in this development. The first explanation builds on the fact that only structurally case-marked arguments can become subjects of passive clauses and assumes that the RP was developed with French verbs because the OF structural dative was copied to Middle English (ME). The second explanation is that clause-taking ditransitive verbs in Anglo-French (AF, the variety of OF spoken in England) showed case idiosyncracies that licensed the RP in AF and may thus have acted as a bridge construction. We relate both explanations to current approaches in contact linguistics as well as to the degrees of stability of the three languages involved, ME, OF, and AF.
Published online: 20 March 2019
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