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Kristin Bech and Ruth Möhlig-Falke (eds.), Grammar – discourse – context: Grammar and usage in language variation and change (Diskursmuster – Discourse Patterns 23). Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter, 2019. Pp. 375. ISBN 9783110682496.

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The English nominative and infinitive pattern (NCI), consisting of a passive utterance, cognition or perception verb followed by a to-infinitive, is the formal realization of at least three form-meaning pairings (or “constructions”). One of these is simply an instantiation of the passive construction. The other two have a “qualificational” function and are used to offer descriptions or serve as evidentiality markers. Although from a synchronic perspective the “evidential NCI construction” can be construed as a grammaticalization of the passive NCI, no such grammaticalization has taken place in English: Like the passive NCI, the evidential NCI is a borrowing from Latin. From a diachronic construction grammatical perspective, an investigation of the English history of the NCI pattern can still be interesting, however, in that it can reveal changes in the distribution of the pattern over different genres and provide evidence for its growing schematicity. This illustrates the complementarity of grammaticalization theory and diachronic construction grammar.
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Even though adnominal adjectives in Old English are distributionally versatile in that they may precede, follow or flank the noun they modify, their positioning is not random but follows from systematic interpretive contrasts between pre- and postnominal adjectives, such as ‘attribution vs predication’, ‘individual-level vs stage-level reading’ and ‘restrictive vs non-restrictive modification’. These contrasts are largely independent of adjectival inflection (pace Fischer 2000, 2001, 2006). The placement of adnominal adjectives in Old English is investigated in relation to recent comparative and theoretical studies on word order and word order variation (see Cinque 2007; Larson & Marušič 2004).
Chapter
Introduction There is a strong tendency to see syntactic constructions or categories, which seem not to have changed much between the various historical stages within one language, as being essentially the same all the way through. This is understandable but also hazardous (for a discussion and some examples, see Lightfoot 1979: 34ff.; Fischer 2007: 18ff.) because it may mean that one misses changes in the grammatical system underlying these structures. It is essential, therefore, both to analyse any particular morphosyntactic structure in terms of its surface form, its semantic and pragmatic usage, and to establish how it compares with neighbouring structures (i.e. structures close to the construction under discussion in both form and function) and fits into the overall system of grammar functioning at the time. In a way, then, one should regard superficial similarities and differences between Old English and Middle English, or between Old English and Modern English, with the same objective eye as one would regard similarities/differences between English and French, or between English and Arabic. The risk of misanalysing in intra-linguistic research is all the greater if the researcher is a native speaker of that language, and even more so if he or she has little knowledge of other languages, which could have alerted him/her to possible other ways of analysing the structure. In other words, it is good to maintain a certain distance between one’s native language and the language that is the object of research, regardless of whether these languages are historically related or not. This chapter is concerned with the reconstruction of the meaning and use of pre- and postposed adjectives in Old English, and in particular with one construction type featuring a postposed adjective preceded by and (as in siocne monnan and gesargodne ‘sick man and wounded’, cf. (2) below). Until fairly recently all these adjectives, regardless of position, were usually interpreted as ‘normal’ attributive adjectives, that is, as adjectives modifying the head noun (on a par with NP(Noun Phrase)-internal adjectives in Present-day English), and the difference between pre- and postposed adjectives was generally seen as due to the greater freedom of word order in Old English; no difference in meaning or adjective type was envisaged (for a brief survey of the literature, see Fischer 2000: 155; Fischer and van der Wurff 2006: 122–6). In other words, since preposed adjectives (which were also in Old English the majority type) are seen as attributive in Present-day English, both types were also seen as attributive in Old English. A postposed adjective within the NP was thus considered a mere variant of a preposed one.
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This article proposes a new way of understanding grammatical status and grammaticalization as distinctive types of linguistic phenomena. The approach is usage-based and links up structural and functional, as well as synchronic and diachronic, aspects of the issue. The proposal brings a range of previously disparate phenomena into a motivated relationship, while certain well-entrenched criteria (such as ‘closed paradigms’) are shown to be incidental to grammatical status and grammaticalization. The central idea is that grammar is constituted by expressions that by linguistic convention are ancillary and as such discursively secondary in relation to other linguistic expressions, and that grammaticalization is the kind of change that gives rise to such expressions.*
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