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On the profiles of 'to' infinitives and 'to -ing' complements at a time of grammatical variation, with evidence from current American English

Both to infinitive and to -ing complements may involve subject control in English, but the article points to major grammatical differences between these two types of construction. In spite of the differences, some higher verbs have vacillated between the two types of complement in recent centuries, often undergoing change in their complement selection properties. The study draws on the TIME Corpus and the Spoken Part of COCA, and shows that the verb commit oneself has selected both types of complement in recent American English. It also examines explanatory principles that can be invoked to account for the variation, with the emphasis on a semantic distinction between obligational and non-obligational contexts. The distinction, it is argued, plays a significant role in explaining variation between the two types of complement.

Keywords: non-finite complements, to infinitives, gerunds, Bolinger’s Granaeralization, the Great complement Shift


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