The changing status of infinitival to
This chapter argues that to in Old English is semantically occupying the same niche as the subjunctive ending (or, for Present-day English, the modal verb that has taken over the subjunctive function) and should be accommodated in the functional projection that accommodates the subjunctive ending and, later, the modals, say T(ense). This in effect means that there has been no change in the syntactic status of to since it stopped being a preposition in prehistoric times. In early Middle English, split infinitives become possible, a change triggered by the fact that the finite subjunctive was increasingly coming to be expressed by a free form (a modal verb) raising to T overtly, rather than by a bound form (a subjunctive ending), raising to T covertly. The overt movement of to brought it in line with the rest of its paradigm: the modal verbs.
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