Edited by Karin Aijmer
[Languages in Contrast 9:1] 2009
► pp. 144–181
The nominative and infinitive in English and Dutch
An exercise in contrastive diachronic construction grammar
The nominative and infinitive (or NCI) is a syntactic pattern that has so far not been given its due in the linguistics of languages that possess structures that could go by that name. In English and Dutch these were probably introduced (or at the very least revived) into the grammar as loans from Latin. To the extent that they have received attention, the linguistics of these three languages traditionally treats them as mere passive alternates of accusative and infinitives, but in English and Dutch, and probably also in Latin, most NCI patterns can instantiate three distinct constructions: a passive NCI, a descriptive NCI and an evidential NCI. Though the latter one especially can be seen to be ‘more grammatical’ than the passive NCI, it is not the result of a grammaticalization change that has taken place inside English or Dutch. In English the evidential NCI did become a productive schematic construction that grew to be very useful in journalistic and academic discourses. In Dutch, on the other hand, the productivity of the NCI constructions has much decreased after a brief 18th-century peak. English and Dutch do have in common, however, that a couple of substantive evidential NCI patterns grammaticalized into deontic NCI constructions, which at present is the most frequent NCI construction in Dutch.
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