Periphrases and non‐periphrases

John M. Anderson

in The Substance of Language Volume II

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199608324
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191732041 | DOI:
Periphrases and non‐periphrases

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Grammatical periphrasis is distinguished from ecphrasis. In the latter an operative, such as English do, helps in the syntactic expression of a syntactic feature, such as interrogative. Progressive be, for instance, has both a periphrastic and an ecphrastic function. Various constructions in English involving operatives are examined as potentially periphrastic. These include the used to construction (a disambiguating periphrasis?) and various modal constructions in subordinate clauses but also in conditional sentences (subjunctive periphrases). The latter are closer to the prototype, but their periphrastic status depends on bleaching of the modal rather than also on use of the non‐finite morphology, as in the prototype of Chapter 3. Confusion in the use of ‘auxiliary’ is pointed to, and the status of negation as involving ecphrasis is discussed.

Keywords: ecphrasis; operative do; interrogative; used to; modals; subjunctive; auxiliary; negation

Chapter.  20301 words. 

Subjects: Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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