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Constructions and EnvironmentsCopular, Passive, and Related Constructions in Old and Middle English$
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Peter Petré

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199373390

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199373390.001.0001

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The Present Tense

The Present Tense

Chapter:
(p.160) Chapter 5 The Present Tense
Source:
Constructions and Environments
Author(s):

Peter Petré

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199373390.003.0005

Chapter 5 discusses the merger of copular is and bið into a single suppletive paradigm in Middle English. Old English is is shown typically to encode present states of specific subjects, and identification. Bið encodes future situations and generic statements with future validity. Importantly, the high frequency of statements about kinds, instead of individuals, made plural forms of bið more conspicuous than those of is. Balance is lost in late Old English, when [shall Inf] grammaticalized as a new marker of the future. Bið’s futurity sense eroded, and confusion with is arose. Their distribution was reanalyzed, guided by their number asymmetry: bið was restricted to plural and is to singular number.

Keywords:   Copula, suppletion, future tense, syntax, Old English, Middle English, be, auxiliary, grammaticalization

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