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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton 2020

6. Attraction and differentiation in the history of the English dative and benefactive alternations

Cristiano Broccias and Enrico Torre

Abstract

In this study, we revisit the history of the English dative and benefactive alternations in the light of De Smet et al.’s (2018) model of language change. Countering traditional competition models, this model admits that the degree of functional overlap between two distinct linguistic units may increase over time, a process the authors label attraction, which ultimately rests on analogy. Adopting this perspective, we propose that the restructuring of these alternations took place over at least the following four stages: 1) in Old English, the double object construction (DOC) is found with verbs of transfer such as give and send as well as verbs of creation and (possibly) pure benefaction, coding both dative and benefactive scenarios; 2) starting from the Middle English period, attraction takes place between DOC and a periphrastic construction featuring the preposition to (to-POC) with transfer verbs such as give as well as verbs of creation such as make; 3) later on, possibly from the end of the Middle English period, to-POC with verbs of creation such as make disappears in favour of DOC and a new periphrastic construction featuring the preposition for (for-POC), used also with verbs of pure benefaction; 4) the last stage involves the shedding of pure benefaction from DOC, which instead is still found with for-POC.

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