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The trolley rumbled through the tunnel: On the history of the English Intransitive Motion Construction

Teresa Fanego
From the journal Folia Linguistica

Abstract

This article examines the history, from Old English times to the first quarter of the twentieth century, of the Intransitive Motion Construction. It compares the development of its result subschema (The trolley rumbled through the tunnel), where the verb is one of sound emission, with the development of other subschemas of the construction, in particular the manner subschema (The man walked in), where the verb denotes manner of motion. As shown by earlier research, the manner subschema and the manner of motion lexicon have greatly expanded since the Old English period, especially in Modern English. The result subschema, by contrast, although attested as far back as Old English, remains marginal until the nineteenth century, when it finally gains in importance, thus making the Intransitive Motion Construction more versatile. This expansion in the conceptual range of the construction, from predominantly coding manner of motion to describing other highly specific details of motion, such as the sound resulting from it, is linked to the addition to the English lexicon, in relatively recent times, of a great number of new sound verbs whose frequency of use has been constantly on the increase. Furthermore, the paper argues that these changes in the English sound verb inventory are also responsible for some of the developments undergone by the so-called Way-construction (The steamer plashed its way forward) in the Late Modern English period.

Acknowledgement

For generous financial support the author is grateful to the European Regional Development Fund and the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (grant no. FFI2014–52188–P). Thanks are also due to the editor-in-chief and anonymous reviewers of FoLH for their most valuable suggestions on an earlier draft.

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Published Online: 2017-11-10
Published in Print: 2017-11-27

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