Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

The Rise and Fall of Proclisis in Old Spanish Postprepositional Infinitival Clauses: A Quantitative Approach

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2017), 94, (2), 127–146.

Abstract

The diachronic trajectory of weak pronoun placement in infinitival clauses that follow a preposition has the up-and-down profile of what Gertjan Postma has termed a ‘failed change’. Proclitic placement increases in frequency throughout the late Middle Ages but then declines, disappearing altogether in the early modern period. The present article reports the results of a detailed quantitative survey which tracks this diachronic event for approximately 350 years at the decadal level. The findings reveal with some precision the quantitative curve described by this failed change and enable a number of hypotheses to be constructed in relation to the event’s nature, as well as its place within developments in the infinitival subsystem overall. In addition, the case study presented here suggests that failed changes are not necessarily capable of being modelled as a single Hubbert curve, as Postma proposes. Instead, a model involving two independent but abutting S-curves may be more appropriate.

La trayectoria diacrónica de la colocación de los pronombres átonos en las oraciones de infinitivo que siguen a una preposición tiene el perfil pendular de lo que ha denominado Gertjan Postma un ‘cambio fracasado’. La frecuencia de la proclisis aumenta durante la Edad Media tardía pero después disminuye para desaparecer por completo a principios de la época moderna. El artículo actual presenta los resultados de un detallado estudio cuantitativo que sigue este suceso diacrónico a nivel de década durante aproximadamente 350 años. Los resultados revelan con precisión la correspondiente curva cuantitativa y facilitan la postulación de hipótesis sobre la naturaleza de este suceso, y sobre su relación con otros acontecimientos dentro del subsistema del infinitivo. Por otra parte, el caso examinado aquí sugiere que no todos los cambios fracasados describen una curva Hubbert, como propone Postma. Por lo contrario, un modelo con dos curvas en S independientes pero colindantes puede ser más apropiado.

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MacKenzie, Ian