Kim Schulte University of Exeter, UK

Kim Schulte
University of Exeter, UK
[email protected]
The case of overt agents in infinitival clauses in English and Ibero-Romance:
origins and explanations
Both English and the Ibero-Romance languages are, from a cross-linguistic
perspective, unusual in that they allow infinitival clauses to contain an overtly present
agent phrase. In addition to some mismatches in the distribution of this construction,
the most significant difference is the morphological case the agent takes: whilst it
appears in the object case in English, it is assigned subject case in Ibero-Romance, as
shown in the following contrastive example:
(1) English:
For meOBJ to understand, you’ll have to show it to me.
(2) Portuguese:
Para euSBJ compreender, terás de mo mostrar.
While such constructions have received much attention within synchronically oriented
syntactic frameworks, this paper investigates their emergence and diachronic
evolution, attempting to determine the causes underlying their differential
development. It is argued that both constructions have evolved as a result of structural
reanalysis within complex sentences, but that the syntactic structures from which they
originated were radically different; in Ibero-Romance, the possibility of null-subjects
and the comparatively free word order, exploited for contrastive focus, made it
possible for the main clause’s subject to be reanalysed as the subject of the dependent
infinitive, whereas it is the complete prepositional phrase that is reanalysed as being
part of the infinitival clause in English.