The Impersonal Construction in English

Ruth Möhlig-Falke

in The Early English Impersonal Construction

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199777723
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199933310 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in the History of English

The Impersonal Construction in English

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This chapter begins by setting the purpose of the book, which is to analyze the function and use of the Old English (OE) impersonal construction. The analysis shows that the range of syntactic uses of the impersonal verbs in OE was not unsystematic but was motivated by the verbs' semantic properties in combination with the semantic and discourse-pragmatic properties of the syntactic constructions in which they were used. The chapter then discusses the meaning of the term impersonal, the development of impersonal expressions in English, explanations for the diachronic development of impersonal expressions, changes affecting the relationship between subject and object, what motivates language change, and a cognitive-functional perspective on language change. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.

Keywords: Old English; impersonal verbs; syntactic uses; semantics; impersonal expressions; language change

Chapter.  15697 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics

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