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The Great Complement Shift and the role of understood subjects: the case of fearful.

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

This article reports on a corpus-based study of diachronic change and constructional competition in the system of English complementation, with a focus on variation in non-finite complements of the adjective fearful. Fearful occurs with prepositional (of -ing) subject-controlled gerunds and with to-infinitives, which can further be distinguished into subject extraposition, subject control, and tough-constructions. Recent decades show a drastic decline of the to-infinitival patterns, concomitant to the loss of one of the senses of fearful. We examine the diachronic distribution and competition of the two construction pairs that show functional overlap, i.e. tough-constructions and extraposition constructions on the one hand, and infinitival and gerundial subject-control patterns on the other. This allows us to show the import of the ‘Great Complement Shift’ in the face of constructional attrition and to investigate new principles motivating the choice for either the to-infinitival or the gerundial subject-control construction. More specifically, the study provides further evidence for the ‘Choice Principle’, which involves the (lack of) agentivity of the understood subject in the event described by the lower clause. In this way, the study adds new explanatory factors and descriptive insights to our knowledge of the broader diachronic change known as the Great Complement Shift.
Journal: Folia Linguistica: Acta Societatis Linguisticae Europaeae
ISSN: 0165-4004
Issue: 1
Volume: 53
Pages: 51 - 86
Publication year:2019
BOF-publication weight:0.5
CSS-citation score:1
Authors from:Higher Education