Nominal vs. Verbal -ing Constructions and the Development of the English Progressive

Artemis Alexiadou


In this paper, I examine nominal and verbal -ing forms in English and discuss aspects of their historical development. In particular, I investigate certain differences between verbal and nominal gerunds in comparison with the present participle with respect to what I call here gradience in verbal traits.

I put forward the following hypothesis. Diachronically, the nominal component of both nominal and verbal gerunds relates to the nominal origin of both forms, namely an Old English derived nominal in -ung/-ing. The 'more verbal' component of the verbal gerund relates to certain aspects of the diachronic development of the English progressive. The changes in the development of the progressive in fact resulted in the emergence of the verbal gerund with parallel continuation of the Old English nominal in -ung/-ing and the Old English participle.

After reviewing the development of English progressive, I will present diachronic and synchronic evidence that the original nominal pattern of the progressive acquired verbal traits. I will then show how this influenced the development of the two gerund types. I will then turn to a structural analysis of the constructions under investigation, which can be summarized as follows: synchronically, the gradience in verbal traits is accounted for on the basis of variation in the internal functional structure of the elements under investigation. On this view, the presence of verbal characteristics is linked to the presence of certain structural layers standardly associated with verbal clauses. Deverbal formations split into several subtypes depending on the number and the type of the layers these contain. This is expressed within a system that views word/category formation as a result of processes operating in specific syntactic structures, which contain the root as the minimal element that enters word formation (Alexiadou 2001, Alexiadou, Iordachioaia & Soare 2010, Borer 2013, Embick 2010, Marantz 1997, and others).

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English Linguistics Research
ISSN 1927-6028 (Print)   ISSN 1927-6036 (Online)

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