Edited by Gabriele Diewald, Leena Kahlas-Tarkka and Ilse Wischer
[Studies in Language Companion Series 138] 2013
► pp. 151–168
The emergence of modal meanings from haben with zu-infinitives in Old High German
The grammaticalisation path from possession to obligation which describes the development of haben to a marker of modality is well-established (cf. Heine/Kuteva 2002), but opinions differ on when exactly these modal readings came about. Haspelmath (1989) argues for a dating no earlier than Middle High German, but a careful study of Notker’s writings reveals evidence of modal ‘haben + zu-infinitive’ in Old High German. Following Ebert (1976), this study identifies four stages of grammaticalisation of haben with zu-infinitive. The pivotal point is reached as soon as ‘haben + zu-infinitive’ is combined with nominal complements in the genitive or dative case, which clearly evince modal meanings. Notker’s Old High German texts contain several instances of this use. Finally, the comparison with the original texts demonstrates that ‘haben + zu-infinitive’ does not derive from Latin, but rather is used independently, even in Old High German.
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