From bounded to unbounded events: what the rise of the progressive in early Modern English can tell us about the causes of typological shift
03 / 2009 - 03 / 2012
Onderzoek naar taalverandering (met name de opkomst van de progressiefvorm) in Oud-, Middel- en Vroegmodern Engels. Zowel syntaxis en Informatie Structuur als tweede-taalverwerving dienen hierbij als kernbegrippen.
The project I am working on has everything to do with event coding. The idea is that languages can be classified as either bounded and topic-initial (e.g. German) or unbounded and subject-initial (e.g. Present-Day English) and that these two language types differ in the way they allow their users to describe events. While speakers of German might say: Ein junger Mann surft auf hohen, schäumenden Wellen. Dann wird er plötzlich von dem Brett geweht to describe an event they are witnessing, speakers of English would probably say: A young man is surfing. The wind is blowing him off the board . In German, events need to be linked explicitly and repeatedly to a spatial and / or temporal anchor, for instance, by pre-subject constituents such as dann . In English, however, events remain linked to an implicit anchor throughout the discourse sequence through the clause-initial subject. One of the things that seems to go hand in hand with the abovementioned distinction is the presence of a grammaticalized progressive in unbounded languages. The English progressive appeared around the end of the Middle Ages. This is also the period in which English, previously a bounded SOV language, presumably changed into an unbounded SVO language. Texts from this period will hopefully give us an idea of how the rise of the progressive and the syntactic and Information Structural changes the English language underwent are connected.