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The demise of the being to V construction


Hundt, Marianne (2014). The demise of the being to V construction. Transactions of the Philological Society, 112(2):167-187.

Abstract

This paper revisits a construction that is rare in historical data, namely the combination of being with an infinitive, as in They being to arrive early that afternoon, all necessary preparations had been made. In early and late Modern English, the BE TO construction had a fuller paradigm than it does in Present Day English, where it is (almost) exclusively used in tensed forms. The focus in this paper is on part of the paradigm of the BE TO construction, i.e., instances with a present participle form of be. Relevant neighbouring constructions are being Ving and having to V, but the construction also needs to be discussed against the background of developments in the system of auxiliaries and future time expressions (Denison 1993; Warner 1993; Nesselhauf 2006, 2010). On the basis of evidence from historical text databases and corpora, this paper provides the first detailed description of the syntactic contexts, functions and distribution of the being to V construction. In a next step, corpus data are used to discuss possible reasons (i.e., system dependency, paradigmatic attrition, competition and distributional fragmentation) for its apparent demise. The study thus contributes to the still somewhat underexplored area of syntactic loss.

Abstract

This paper revisits a construction that is rare in historical data, namely the combination of being with an infinitive, as in They being to arrive early that afternoon, all necessary preparations had been made. In early and late Modern English, the BE TO construction had a fuller paradigm than it does in Present Day English, where it is (almost) exclusively used in tensed forms. The focus in this paper is on part of the paradigm of the BE TO construction, i.e., instances with a present participle form of be. Relevant neighbouring constructions are being Ving and having to V, but the construction also needs to be discussed against the background of developments in the system of auxiliaries and future time expressions (Denison 1993; Warner 1993; Nesselhauf 2006, 2010). On the basis of evidence from historical text databases and corpora, this paper provides the first detailed description of the syntactic contexts, functions and distribution of the being to V construction. In a next step, corpus data are used to discuss possible reasons (i.e., system dependency, paradigmatic attrition, competition and distributional fragmentation) for its apparent demise. The study thus contributes to the still somewhat underexplored area of syntactic loss.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > English Department
Dewey Decimal Classification:820 English & Old English literatures
Language:English
Date:2014
Deposited On:15 Nov 2013 08:13
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 17:09
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:0079-1636
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-968X.12035
Official URL:http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1467-968X

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