- Pieces of the be perfect in German and older English (2006)
- This paper examines the development of periphrastic constructions involving auxiliary "have" and "be" with a past participle in the history of English, on the basis of parsed electronic corpora. It is argued that the two constructions represented distinct syntactic and semantic structures: while the one with have developed into a true perfect in the course of Middle English, the one with be remained a stative resultative throughout its history. In this way, it is explained why the be construction was rarely or never used in a number of contexts, including past counterfactuals, iteratives, duratives, certain kinds of infinitives and various other utterance types that cannot be characterized as perfects of result. When the construction with have became a true perfect, it was used in such contexts, regardless of the identity of the main verb, leading to the appearance of have with verbs like come which had previously only taken be. Crucially, however, have was not spreading at the expense of be, as the be perfect had never been used in such contexts, but rather at the expense of the old simple past. At least until the end of the Early Modern English period, the shift in the relative frequency of have and be perfects is to be explained in terms of the expansion of the former into new contexts, while the latter remained stable. A formal analysis is proposed, taking as its starting point a comparison with German which shows that the older English be perfect indeed behaves more like the German stative passive than its haben and sein perfects.
- Perfects, resultatives and auxiliaries in early English (2007)
- In this paper, we will argue for a novel analysis of the auxiliary alternation in Early English, its development and subsequent loss which has broader consequences for the way that auxiliary selection is looked at cross-linguistically. We will present evidence that the choice of auxiliaries accompanying past participles in Early English differed in several significant respects from that in the familiar modern European languages. Specifically, while the construction with have became a full-fledged perfect by some time in the ME period, that with be was actually a stative resultative, which it remained until it was lost. We will show that this accounts for some otherwise surprising restrictions on the distribution of BE in Early English and allows a better understanding of the spread of HAVE through late ME and EModE. Perhaps more importantly, the Early English facts also provide insight into the genesis of the kind of auxiliary selection found in German, Dutch and Italian. Our analysis of them furthermore suggests a promising strategy for explaining cross-linguistic variation in auxiliary selection in terms of variation in the syntactico-semantic structure of the perfect. In this introductory section, we will first provide some background on the historical situation we will be discussing, then we will lay out the main claims for which we will be arguing in the paper.
- Auxiliary selection and counterfactuality in the history of English and Germanic (2008)
- The retreat of BE as perfect auxiliary in the history of English is examined. Corpus data are presented showing that the initial advance of HAVE was most closely connected to a restriction against BE in past counterfactuals. Other factors which have been reported to favor the spread of HAVE are either dependent on the counterfactual effect, or significantly weaker in comparison. It is argued that the effect can be traced to the semantics of the BE perfect, which denoted resultativity rather than anteriority proper. Related data from other older Germanic and Romance languages are presented, and finally implications for existing theories of auxiliary selection stemming from the findings presented are discussed.