Infinitives at the Syntax-Semantics Interface: A Diachronic Perspective!

Organisator(en) Ulrike Demske & Łukasz Jędrzejowski
Institution(en) ZAS Berlin, University of Potsdam
Workshop/Tagung 46th Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea, Split U.
Veranstaltungsbeginn 20.09.2013, 10.00 Uhr
Veranstaltungsende 20.09.2013, 18.00 Uhr
Ort Split University, Croatia
Workshop schedule

Recent decades are marked with considerable progress in the study of non-finite structures both in cross-linguistic investigations and in the descriptions of individual languages. Most of these studies, however, are restricted to selected synchronic phenomena and are meant to contribute to the long-standing discussion of two competing minimalist approaches, viz. Movement Theory of Control and Agree Theory of Control. This workshop is intended to be a forum for the discussion of infinitival structures from a diachronic point of view and its aim is twofold. First, we would like to investigate the notional character of changes in relation to miscellaneous infinitival patterns and their consequences within verbal systems in general. Second, we would like to extend the field of investigation to include not only infinitival patterns as such, but also phenomena that (in)directly may change the distribution, the nature and the licensing conditions of infinitives, e.g. semantic change of infinitive-embedding predicates, evolution of the coherence vs. incoherence opposition, grammaticalization of infinitival markers, etc. Accordingly, we invite contributions that deal with all kinds of historical aspects of infinitives, put the aforementioned minimalist competition in the rear, but that nonetheless are theoretically informed.

The main questions to be addressed in this theme session may, but do not need to, be formulated as follows:

a) What role does the different status of the infinitive (e.g. in English: bare infinitive vs. to-infinitive) play in the development of non-finite complementation patterns (Cuyckens 2010, Los 2005)? To what extent does the grammaticalization of originally local-allative prepositions affect the infinitival complementation in general (Abraham 2004, Faarlund 2007)? How did infinitive complements develop in languages having only bare infinitives, e.g. in most Slavonic languages?

b) How can one account for and what are the emergence circumstances of the (strong) (in)coherence opposition and different predicate classes: incoherent predicates, optionally coherent predicates and obligatorily coherent predicates (Bech 1955)? What is the status of the Third Construction in the history of infinitival complements (Wöllstein-Leisten 2001)? What role does the restructuring play (ter Beek 2008)? Are these changes explicable in terms of the grammaticalization theory?

c) In what way do infinitival complements compete with other sentential complements, e.g. -ing-complements in English (Fanego 1996, de Smet & Cuyckens 2007) and subjunctive/indicative complements in Romance or Balkan languages (Joseph 1983, Martin 2007)? Do they compete against each other or do they express different kinds of attitudes toward what is embedded? If they do compete, what is the motivation behind this rivalry? Are there any observable complementation cycles (van Gelderen 2011, Pye 2009)?

d) How strong is the relationship between the infinitive-embedding predicates and their semantics? To what extent can the semantic change of a clause-embedding predicate trigger/prohibit the selection of an infinitive complement? What might be the prerequisite for infinitival complementation patterns in general? Is there any historical explanation for why some matrix predicates construe with both zu- infinitives and bare infinitives (German: helfen ‘help’, brauchen ‘need’), whereas other matrix predicates admit only one option (zu-infinitive or bare infinitive)? Are infinitive complements embedded according to a universal grammaticalization path (Haspelmath 1989) or are there other factors affecting the embedding (Demske 2001)?

e) How do raising predicates emerge? Is their origin rooted in their control counterparts? Do all raising predicates undergo a subjectification/grammaticalization process (Traugott 1989, 1997) or should they rather be treated as two different phenomena (Axel 2001, Demske 2008)? Do the oldest language periods possess optional/obligatory raising structures (van der Auwera & Noël 2011)? How far do changes in other subsystems (agreement, case assignment, etc.) affect the interpretation of embedded, phonologically non-realized subjects (e.g. in object-to- subject raising constructions)?

f) To what extent is it possible to ‘measure’ the influence of Latin/Ancient Greek on the oldest periods of other languages? Are there any non-finite Latin calques that have permeated into the oldest stages of modern languages (Speyer 2001)?

g) Are there any differences between the development of non-finite complement clauses and adjunct clauses? How old are absentive constructions (Dutch: Anna is zwemmen ‘Anna is off swimming’)? To what extent are they diachronically alike non-finite purpose clauses (Fortmann & Wöllstein 2012)? What environmental factors enable/constrain the evolution of non-finite conditional clauses (Polish: Nawet gdybyprzyjąć, że ... lit. even if assume.INF that: ‘assuming that ...’ vs. German: *Sogar wenn annehmen, dass...)?

h) How important is the presence of infinitives in the development of covert patterns of modality (Bhatt 2006): (i) embedded questions (Gärtner 2009), (ii) for-to- infinitives (Hackl & Nissenbaum 2012), (iii) modal existential wh-constructions (Šimík 2011), etc.?

i) What is the main function of infinitives in the development of independent clauses (Reis 2003)? What do the evolution of root infinitives and the illocutionary force have in common? Since when can independent infinitives be attested and under which circumstances do they occur?

The aim of the workshop is thus to bring together scholars working on infinitives from a diachronic perspective and to broaden our view on their functional as well as formal properties. The preference will be given to corpus-based contributions integrating new case studies, different theoretical approaches and some of the questions outlined above.


Abraham, Werner (2004): The grammaticalization of the infinitival preposition – toward a theory of “grammaticalizing reanalysis”, in: Journal of Comparative Germanic Linguistics 7: 111-170.

Auwera, Johan van der & Dirk Noël (2011): Raising: Dutch between English and German, in: Journal of Germanic Linguistics 23: 1-36.

Axel, Katrin (2001): Althochdeutsche Modalverben als Anhebungsverben, in: Modalität und Modal- verben im Deutschen hrsg. von Reimar Müller & Marga Reis. Hamburg: Helmut Buske, 37-60.

Bech, Gunnar (1955/57): Studien über das deutsche verbum infinitum. (Historisk-filologiske Meddelelser udgivet af Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab; Bd. 35, no. 2 1995, Bd. 37, no. 6 1957). Kopenhagen: Munksgaard.

Beek, Janneke ter (2008): Restructuring and infinitival complements in Dutch. PhD dissertation, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.

Bhatt, Rajesh (2006): Covert Modality in Non-Finite Contexts. Berlin: de Gruyter.
Cuyckens, Hubert (2010): Verb complementation and grammaticalization in the history of English. Hand-out and talk delivered at the 43rd SLE Meeting, Vilnius University, 2–5 September 2010.!

Demske, Ulrike (2001): Zur Distribution von Infinitivkomplementen im Althochdeutschen, in:Modalität und Modalverben im Deutschen hrsg. von Reimar Müller & Marga Reis. Hamburg: Helmut Buske, 61-86.!

Demske, Ulrike (2008): Raising patterns in Old High German, in: Grammatical Change and Linguistic Theory. The Rosendal papers hrsg. von T. Eythórsson. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 143-172.!

Fanego, Teresa (1996): The development of gerunds as objects of subject-control verbs in English, in:Diachronica 13: 29-62.!

Faarlund, Jan T. (2007): Parameterization and change in non-finite complementation, in:Diachronica 24: 57-80.

Fortmann, Christian & Angelika Wöllstein (2012): Die Problematik des Absentivs. Presented at the 4th “Jahrestagung der Gesellschaft für germanistische Sprachgeschichte”, Siegen, 27-29 Sept. 2012.!

Gärtner, Hans-Martin (2009): More on the indefinite-interrogative affinity. The view from embedded non-finite interrogatives, in: Linguistic Typology 13: 1-37.!

Gelderen, Elly van (2011): The Linguistic Cycle: Language Change and the Language Faculty. Oxford: Oxford University Press.!

Hackl, Martin & Jon Nissenbaum (2012): A modal ambiguity in for-infinitival clauses, in: Natural Language Semantics 20: 59-81.!

Haspelmath, Martin (1989): From purposive to infinitive – a universal path of grammaticalization, in:Folia Linguistica Historica 10: 287-310.!

Joseph, Brian (1983): The synchrony and diachrony of the Balkan infinitive. A study in areal, general and historical linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.!

Los, Bettelou (2005): The rise of the to-infinitive. Oxford: Oxford University Press.!
Martin, Itziar San (2007): Beyond the infinitive vs. subjunctive rivalry: surviving changes in mood, in:

Coreference, modality, and focus. Studies on the syntax-semantics interface ed. by Luis Eguren &

Olga Fernández-Soriano. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 171-190.!
Pye, Clifton (2009): Cycles of complementation in the Mayan languages, in: Cyclical Change ed. by

Elly van Gelderen. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 265-284.!
Reis, Marga (2003): On the form and interpretation of German wh-infinitives, in: Journal of Germanic

Linguistics 15: 155-201.!
Smet, Hendrik de & Hubert Cuyckens (2007): Diachronic aspects of complementation: Constructions,

entrenchment, and the matching problem, in: Studies in the History of the English Language III ed.

by Christopher Cain & Geoffrey Russom. Berlin: de Gruyter, 187-213.!
Šimík, Radek (2011): Modal existential wh-constructions. PhD dissertation, Rijksuniversiteit

Speyer, Augustin (2001): Ursprung und Ausbreitung der AcI-Konstruktion im Deutschen, in:

Sprachwissenschaft 26: 145-187.!
Traugott, Elizabeth (1989): On the rise of epistemic meanings in English: an example of

subjectification in semantic change, in: Language 65: 31-55.!
Traugott, Elizabeth (1997): Subjectification and the development of epistemic meaning: The case of

promise and threaten, in: Modality in Germanic Languages. Historical and Comparative

Perspectives ed. by Toril Swan & Olaf Jansen Westvik. Berlin: de Gruyter, 185-210.!Wöllstein-Leisten, Angelika (2001): Die Syntax der dritten Konstruktion. Eine repräsentationelle

Analyse zur Monosententialität von zu-Infinitiven im Deutschen. (Studien zur deutschen Grammatik 63). Tübingen: Stauffenburg Verlag.