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Diachronic aspects of borrowing aspect: the role of Old French in the development of the be going to + INF construction

Author(s): Stein Achim | Trips Carola

Journal: SHS Web of Conferences
ISSN 2261-2424

Volume: 1;
Start page: 227;
Date: 2012;
Original page

This paper sheds new light on the provenance of the be going to + infinitive (INF) construction with future time reference, and more precisely on the question of whether it was borrowed from Old (OF), during the Middle English (ME) period. Although this assumption is debatable, several authors have claimed that a transfer of this construction from French to English is plausible and probable since the contact situation that arose between 1066 and 1400 was most intense and must have had an impact on ME. This paper focusses on the (structural) syntactic and semantic parallelism in the source and target languages, since they are a prerequisite for structural borrowing, even if form and meaning may be modified in this process. With respect to structure, the OF construction aler+INF can be considered as a potential source of the ME constructions go+INF and go+to+INF, regardless of the presence of to, which can already be considered as an infinitive marker as we will shown in detail. The meaning of the constructions is ambiguous in both languages between a movement of going with a subsequent event and an aspectual interpretation, which is inchoative. This inchoative aspect is also a plausible interpretation for many occurrences of ME go+INF. The aspectual constellation also explains the fact that the Modern English construction only appears in the continuous form, which represents the event "as if we put ourselves within the event and viewed it in its development. [...] The use of the progressive form represents the activity as a state'' (Haegeman/Guéron 1988, 534f). This is what Jespersen calls a temporal frame around a given time. The development go+(to)+INF be going to INF therefore occurs for independent reasons and is bound to the obligation to use the continuous form in this particular aspectual context. On the basis of the investigation presented in this paper, we can make the following assertions about the development of the ModE be going to+INF construction: A. The aspectual meaning of go+(to)+INF is due to one or more of the following factors: a. language contact, i.e. OF (Anglo-Norman) aler+INF forms; b. grammaticalisation of a movement verb similar to OF processes, but independent of them; c. language-internal lexical influence: confusion of ME gan 'go' with 'begin'. B. The development of go+(to)+INF to the ModE be going to+INF is an independent process, posterior to the development of the ME construction.
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