Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Infinitival "to"

From:J Matthew Pearson <pearson@...>
Date:Thursday, January 18, 2001, 5:11
Lars Henrik Mathiesen wrote:

> > Date: Wed, 17 Jan 2001 07:49:18 -0800 > > From: Marcus Smith <smithma@...> > > > > Pavel wrote: > > > > > >In English, for example, the marker of the > > > >INFINITIVE, _to_, is often called a particle because, despite its surface > > > >similarity to a PREPOSITION, it really has nothing in common with it. > > > > > >Why "nothing in common"? Compare: > > > > > >I am going to the bedroom. (preposition) > > >I am going to sleep. (particle) > > > > > >The function of "to" is essentially equal in both cases. The infinive with > > >"to" IMHO has the same meaning as dative (allative, illative) of abstract > > >noun derived from verb. > > >Instead of "to sleep" we could say "to the sleeping state". > > > > They only look like they have something in common here because you used the > > verb "going" in two different senses in each sentence. In the first one, > > this is a genuine verb of movement, but in the second it functions more as > > a tense. We can see that "to" does not have a prepositional meaning from > > the following sentences. > > > > I have to empty the trash. > > I want to fly like an eagle. > > Not knowing how to waltz, Cinderella looked like a fool at the ball. > > To be or not to be, that is the question. > > However, historically the infinitive marker and the preposition are > the same. Back when the current infinitive was more a sort of verbal > noun, it got construed with different prepositions in various contexts > --- but very commonly with to after verbs like want or intend, and > from there it got extended to all contexts except after modal verbs. > > And not only in English. The North Germanic infinitive marker (Danish > at, Norwegian å) also comes from a preposition. (Danish ad, now > meaning something like along, cognate with English at).
Infinitival verb forms resemble dative/benefactives (prepositions/cases meaning "to" or "for") in a large number of languages. This pattern is found not only in Indo-European languages like English, French, and Sanskrit, but also in Malagasy, Bantu, and Warlpiri (Australian). I don't know why this should be, but there appears to be some deep connection... Matt.