Edited by Mike Hannay and Gerard J. Steen
[Studies in Language Companion Series 83] 2007
► pp. 175–190
This paper addresses the diachronic development of two periphrastic constructions in Old and Middle English, He wæs huntende and He wæs on huntunge, into the progressive in Modern English. The literature on the origin of the progressive offers several hypotheses for explaining the coalescence of the two constructions. This paper offers a new hypothesis based on the consideration that the first construction, consisting of be + present participle, developed into the progressive, and that the second construction, consisting of be + on + verbal noun, was originally a construction denoting absence. The evidence for the coalescence comes from a partial overlap in the semantics of the progressive and the absentive, and the fact that progressives often originate from spatial constructions.
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