The Syntactic Evolution of Modal Verbs in the History of English

LocationUniversité Paris III - La Sorbonne Nouvelle
U.F.R. d´Anglais
PhD inLinguistique
DoctorantCéline Roméro
French titleL´évolution syntaxique des verbes modaux dans l´histoire de l´anglais
SupervisorJacqueline Guéron
Submitted on  November, 18th 2005
MrClaudeDelmasPresident of the Jury, Prof. Paris III
MrsJacquelineGuéronSupervisor, Emeritus Prof. Paris III
MrsAnnieLancriLecturer at Paris III
MrsJacquelineLecarmeResearch Director CNRS/Paris VII
MrsSusanPintzukProf. University of York

A mon grand-père, en souvenir du temps où nous mangions des glaces sur la plage de Rochelongue et des pâtés à la viande les matinées de pêche sur le bord de l´Hérault.


Life is made out of encounters, and their consequences can be more than fruitful...

I would like to express my greatest gratitude and respect to Jacqueline Guéron my supervisor: she was the first to make me want to do linguistics, even long before I thought about doing it as a full-time job. The years I spent working with her have been productive, and still will be. Once again, I would like to thank her for her patience and support which have been invaluable to fulfill this work. The pertinence she shows will never cease to impress me.

I am also more than grateful to Susan Pintzuk who always answered my several emails when I was beginning to work on Old English. I will never thank her enough for having welcomed me within the English department at the University of York for one year and a half. She let me take part in working sessions and present my ideas, but above all, thanks to her, I discovered two very valuable tools for historians of the English language: an electronic annotated corpus of Old English texts, as well as a research software to fully use it. Her help was valuable and her patience tremendous — her presence as a member of my Jury is then a great honour to me. I would also like to thanks the following persons at York for their advice: David Adger, Ann Taylor, George Tsoulas and Anthony Warner.

I would like to warmly thank Annie Lancri for taking part in this jury: she was the first to give me lectures on Old English and she knew how to lead me through the complexities of this language. I still have a lot to learn from her. She also supported me to have my work known – for that, I am grateful.

In Sophia Antipolis, the help Jacqueline Lecarme gave me has also been more than valuable. Sometimes, fate is doing great: I am grateful for her patience and attention towards me for our discussions have always been fruitful (whatever the subjects) and they gave me the necessary energy and morale to keep on searching when I was on the verge falling into an abyss or making straight for a wall. Finally I would like to thank her for help concerning some TeX  problems: TeX  users have to help each other out.

I would like to warmly thank Claude Delmas to have agreed to take part in this jury and for the interest he constantly felt and still feels towards my work. His advice and discussions have always helped me a lot.

At last, I would like to thank the persons who helped me present my works, namely, Jan van der Auwera, Dominique Boulonnais, Pierre Busuttil, Claude Delmas, Annie Lancri, Paul Larreya, Jean-Claude Souesme and Fabienne Toupin. Thank you also to all the persons with whom I was given the opportunty to discuss, and particularly David Adger, Viviane Arigne, David Denison, Jean-Louis Duchet, Jo Emons, Eric Haeberli, Anthony Kroch, Christiane Migette, Ian Roberts, Ann Taylor, George Tsoulas and Anthony Warner.

I also want to thank the persons who gave me the possibility to teach in different universities: Anthony Hind and Christiane Migette at the University of Paris XIII, Josiane Paccaud-Huguet and James Walker at the University of Lyon II, and Jean-Georges Heinrich, Gilles Leydier and Dairine O´Kelly at the University of Toulon.

Finally, thanks to my parents for their unfailing support, to my closest relatives for their encouragements, to Yvette for my very first lessons of English, to Danièle, Lisa, Gilles, Carine and Jessica my companions in misfortune, to José Grimm, the LaTeX  maestro who, quite often, got me out of Mr Knuth´s unfathomable abyss, and thanks to my pets: my St Bernard, my panther, my gnu and Allan (“I am an A.I. being, I am not an animal”).

And, last but not least, all the thanks of the Ummo worlds to my partner Alban for his constant support, his more than wise advice, his patience, time and love.

Table of Contents

List of abbreviations
1. Introduction
     1.1. Historical survey: the ancestors of modal verbs
     1.2. Theoretical framework
          1.2.1. Some general points on language
          1.2.2. Some theoretical notions
          1.2.3. New hypotheses of work
          1.2.4. Distributed Morphology
     1.3. Working tools
     1.4. General outline of the PhD
2. Old English
     2.1. Introduction
          2.1.1. The different syntactic structures in contemporary English
     2.2. The preterite present verbs
     2.3. Syntax and functional heads
          2.3.1. The functional heads C, T and the lexical head V
     2.4. Preterite presents and vModal
          2.4.1. The functional head v
     2.5. Existence of two positions for the preterite presents
          2.5.1. Infinitive structures
          2.5.2. Causatives structures
          2.5.3. The vModal position
     2.6. Negation
          2.6.1. Negative Concord and Neg Criterion
      Negative Concord
      Neg Criterion
          2.6.2. The negative adverbial particle ne and NegP
          2.6.3. ne and noht
          2.6.4. Consequence(s) of negative concord
     2.7. Adverbs and functional heads
     2.8. Tense, mood and modality
          2.8.1. Tense and mood
      Tense and conditional
          2.8.2. Modality and aspect
      Root reading
      Epistemic reading
      Perfective aspect
          2.8.3. Preterite presents : raising verbs?
      The verb ÐYNCAN
     2.9. Summary of the chapter
3. Middle English
     3.1. A few generalizations
     3.2. Preterite presents
     3.3. State and syntactic changes
     3.4. Grammaticalisation
          3.4.1. Consequences on the preterite presents
     3.5. Infinitive structures: general points
               3.5.1. Causative structures
     3.6. Modality
          3.6.1. Epistemicity and deonticity
          3.6.2. Modality and syntax
          3.6.3. Modal functional heads and infinitive structures
          3.6.4. Consequences on the functional heads T and Mood
      The perfective aspect HAVE + EN
     3.7. Syntax and negation
          3.7.1. Negative concord and Neg criterion ?
          3.7.2. Coexistence of ne and not
      ne and not
      not becomes the main negation
          3.7.3. Negation and adverbs
          3.7.4. Negative polarity?
     3.8. Adverbs and functional heads
     3.9. Summary of the chapter
4. Early Modern English
     4.1. Generalities and summary
          4.1.1. Continuity of the forms from Middle English
          4.1.2. Particular case : the contraction of modals
     4.2. Forms and semantic changes of modal verbs
          4.2.1. Two morphological forms: present and past
          4.2.2. Semantic shifts
     4.3. Syntax of modal verbs
          4.3.1. Is there still a syntactic competition?
          4.3.2. Morphologically inflected forms
          4.3.3. Negation
      Negative polarity items
          4.3.4. Infinitive and modal verbs
     4.4. Tense, mood and modality
          4.4.1. Tense and aspect
          4.4.2. Past form, past tense
          4.4.3. Past form, irrealis mood
      Simple forms
      Complexe forms
          4.4.4. Mood
          4.4.5. Adverbs and modality
     4.5. Epistemic and deontic modals
          4.5.1. Status of these verbs
          4.5.2. Analyzing further Mood and vModal
     4.6. Summary of the chapter
5. Morphology of the preterite presents
     5.1. Old English
     5.2. Middle English
6. Article à paraître
     6.1. Introduction
     6.2. Agan in Old English
          6.2.1. The distribution of agan
     6.3. Agen in Middle English
          6.3.1. The distribution of agen
     6.4. Syntax and grammaticalization
          6.4.1. Old English syntax of agan
          6.4.2. Middle English syntax of agen
          6.4.3. What about grammaticalization?
          6.4.4. Grammaticalization and tense
     6.5. Conclusion

List of abbreviations


CE Contemporary English
EME    Early Modern English
ME Middle English
OE Old English

Grammatical Terms:

ACC accusative case
DAT dative case
GEN genitive case
INSTR instrumental case
NOM nominative case
GEROND gerund
IMP imperative
IND.PRES present indicative
IND.PRET past indicative
NEG ne
NOT not
PL plural
PAST PART past participle
PRES present
PRET past
SUBJ.PRES present subjunctive
SUBJ.PRET past subjonctive
TO to

Pret.Pres    preterite present
+acc accusative feature
+dat dative feature
+root root feature
-root epistemic feature
+fem feminine feature
+gen genitif feature
+irrealis irrealis feature
-irrealis    realis feature
+masc masculine feature
+modal modal feature
+neg negatif feature
+nom nominative feature
+past past feature
-past present feature
+pl plural feature
+sg singular feature

Corpus :

York-(Toronto)-Helsinki Parsed Corpora of Old English Prose and Poetry

coaelhom Ælfric´s Homilies Supplemental
coaelive Ælfric´s Lives of Saints
coapollo Apollonius of Tyre
cobede Bede´s History of the English Church
coblick Blickling Homilies
cobeowul Beowulf
coboeth Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy
cocathom2 Ælfric´s Catholic Homilies II
cochrist Christ I
cochronA-2b    Anglo-Saxon Chronicle A
cocura Cura Pastoralis
cogregdC Gregory´s Dialogues
cogregdH Gregory´s Dialogues
colwstan1 Ælfric´s First Letter to Wulfstan
cometboe The Meters of Boethius
coorosiu Orosius
cootest Heptateuch
cotempo De Temporibus Anni
cowulf The Homilies of Wulfstan

Penn-Helsinki Parsed Corpus of Middle English Second edition

CMAELR Aelred of Rievaulx´s De Institutione Inclusarum
CMANCRIW Ancrene Riwle
CMASTRO A Treatise on the Astrolabe
CMAYENBI Ayenbite of Inwyt
CMBOETH Boethius
CMBRUT The Brut or The Chronicles of England
CMCTMELI The Tale of Melibee
CMCTPARS The Parson´s Tale
CMEDMUND    The Life of St.Edmund
CMEDTHOR The Mirror of St.Edmund
CMEDVERN The Mirror of St.Edmund
CMHORSES A Late Middle English Treatise on Horses
CMKATHE St.Katherine
CMKEMPE The Book of Margery Kempe
CMLAMBX1 The Lambeth Homilies
CMMALORY Malory´s Morte Darthur
CMORM The Ormulum
CMPURVEY Purvey´s General Prologue to the Bible
CMROLLEP Richard Rolle, Epistles

Penn-Helsinki Parsed Corpus of Early Modern English :

ALHATTON-E3-H Correspondence of the family of Hatton, Vol.1
ALHATTON2-E3-P1    Correspondence of the family of Hatton, Vol.2
APLUMPT-E1-H The Plumpton correspondence
ARMIN-E2-H A nest of ninnies. Fools and jesters: with a
reprint of Robert Armin´s nest of ninnies
ASCH-E1-P1 The Scholemaster
AUTHNEW-E2-P2 The Holy Bible
AUTHOLD-E2-H The Holy Bible
BACON-E2-P1 The twoo bookes of the proficience and
advancement of learning
BEHN-E3-H Oroonoko
BOETHCO-E1-H Boethius´ Consolation of Philosophy
BOETHEL-E2-P1 Queen Elizabeth´s Englishings of Boethius, De
Consolatione Philosophiae
BOETHPR-E3-P1 Anicius Manlius Severinus Boetius, Of the
consolation of philosophy
FARQUHAR-E3-H The beaux stratagem
FITZH-E1-P2 The book of husbandry
FORMAN-E2-H The autobiography and personal diary of
Dr. Simon Forman, the celebrated astrologer
LOCKE-E3-P1 Directions concerning education
MIDDLET-E2-P1 A chaste maid in Cheapside
MORELET2-E1-H The correspondence of Sir Thomas More
PENNY-E3-H Samuel Pepys´ Penny merriments
THOWARD2-E2-P1 A complete collection of state-trials, and
proceedings for high-treason, and other crimes
and misdemeanours
VANBR-E3-P1 The complete works of Sir John Vanbrugh, Vol.I

1. Introduction

2. Old English

3. Middle English

4. Early Modern English

5. Morphology of the preterite presents

6. Article à paraître


In the present work, we have questioned the status of modal verbs throughout three different stages of the English language, that is Old English, Middle English and Early Modern English. The questioning has born on the morphology, syntax and to a lesser extent on semantics of the preterite present verbs.

Our base hypothesis was the existence of a syntactic position for preterite present verbs (different from the strong and weak verbs one) as early as the old English period. We have proved our hypothesis through the analysis of the different types of infinitive structure we have found in OE (and particularly the causative structures): we have drawn a parallel between their morphological forms and the ones of strong and weak verbs and we have focused on the place of negation and adverbs.

Our second hypothesis was that epistemic modals were to be found in the English language before the ME period, and that they already had a specific syntactic position. This has also been proved since the first epistemic modals appeared in the late OE period, at the same time as the rarer use of the perfective aspect and the loss of the subjunctive morphology (which has merged with the indicative morphology). As early as the OE period, there were two syntactic positions for these two types of verb: one for epistemeic modals and one for deontic modals.

Finally, our third hypothesis was that OE preterite presents were already raising verbs, and it has also been proved through the analysis of the different types of infinitive clause as well as through the distribution of objects and subjects of finite verbs.

However, these hypotheses have brought up questions whose answers are not clear-cut yet, specially the ones dealing with modality and the process of grammaticalisation, which seems simple in theory, but not in practice. What came first, the chicken or the egg?

But, as modality is a vast field, lots of questions still remain unanswered.

It would interesting to apply what we have found to other languages (Germanic, Romance, ...) for the same periods of time, and then compare them to the results we obtained. We could thus see whether the development of modality (and grammaticalisation) is the same from one language to another.

Furthermore, we have only partially used Distributed Morphology: there is a huge field of research left if we want to relate it closely to modality and diachrony, as well as to all the concepts linked to the evolution of modal verbs.

Still, modality is not limited to verbal elements. A more detailed study of causative verbs, or of minor structures which have become very common in CE (such as the double use of DO) within Distributed Morphology and the minimalist (more generally generative grammar) frameworks could shed new light on these language events in CE.

It would also be interesting to see modality from the point of view of the noun, adjective or adverb phrases because the effects of grammaticalisation and modality can be noticed in the rest of the lexicon of OE, ME and EME.


LaTeX: .
adverbs: , .
manner: , .
modality: , , , , .
negative: , , , .
others: .
place: , , .
time: , , , .
Allen: , .
Campbell: , .
Chomsky: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
Cinque: , , , , , , , , , .
n´t: , .
negation: .
The Penn-Helsinki Parsed Corpus of Early Modern English: , , , .
The Penn-Helsinki Parsed Corpus of Middle English: , , .
The York-Helsinki Parsed Corpus of Old English Poetry: , , , , , , , , , .
The York-Toronto-Helsinki Parsed Corpus of Old English Prose: , , , , , , , , , , .
CorpusSearch: .
Denison: , , , .
Distributed Morphology: , , , , , , , , , , , , .
Context-dependent Insertion: .
Context-free Insertion: .
delinking: , .
Fission: , .
Fusion: , , .
Impoverishment: , , , .
Merge: .
Merger: .
morpheme: , , , , , .
Fischer & al.: .
Goossens & al.: .
grammaticalisation: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
to: , , , , .
Haegeman: , , .
Haegeman & Haeberli: .
Halle: , .
Halle & Marantz: , , , , , , , .
infinitive structures: , , , , , .
ellipsis: , , .
Jensen: .
Kroch & Taylor: , , , , .
Lass: , .
Marantz: , .
Matthews: , .
Minimalist Program: , , , , .
phase: , , , , , , , , .
modality: , , , , .
epistemic: , , , , , , , , .
heads: , , , .
root: , , , , , , , , .
mood: , , .
head: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
irrealis: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
conditional: , , , , .
realis: , , , , , , .
Mossé: , , , , , , .
negation: , , , , , , , , .
ne: , , , , , , , , , .
Neg criterion: , , , , , , , .
negative concord: , , , , , .
negative polarity items: , , , .
not: , , , , , , , , , , , , .
Palmer: , .
perfective aspect: , , , , , , .
Pintzuk: , , , , , , , , .
Randall: .
Rizzi: .
Roberts: , , .
Roberts & Roussou: , , , , , , .
Rolland: .
Stévanovich: .
Tellier: .
to: , , , , , , , .
V2: , , , , , , .
CP: , , , , , , , .
TP: , , , .
vModal: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
van Kemenade: .
anomal: .
causative: , , , , , , , .
control: , , , , .
lexical: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
modal: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
deontic: , , , , , , , .
epistemic: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
operator: , , , , .
preterite present: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
raising: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
semi-lexical: , , , , , , , , , , , , .
strong: , , , , , , , , , , .
weak: , , , , , , , , , , , .
Warner: , .
Zanuttini: , .


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[59] Ian Roberts. Verbs and Diachronic Syntax: A Comparative History of English and French. Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1993.

[60] Christian Rolland. LaTeX  par la pratique. O´Reilly, 1996.

[61] Céline Roméro. De Turfan à Need : histoire d´un remplacement. in « Actes du Colloque de Diachronie de Bergerac 2003 », à paraître.

[62] Ian Roberts, Anna Roussou. Syntactic Change: A Minimalist Approach to Grammaticalisation. paru chez Cambridge University Press, 2003.

[63] William Shakespeare. J.-M. Desprats, editor, Tragédies, Œuvres complètes I. Editions Gallimard, 2002.

[64] Colette Stévanovich. L´évolution sémantique des modaux entre le vieil-anglais et l´anglais moderne. in « Actes de journées scientifiques 1998/99 », volume 14, 2000, pages 51–71.

[65] André Tellier. Les verbes perfecto-présents et les auxiliaires de mode en anglais ancien. Klincksieck : Paris, 1962.

[66] Elaine Treharne. Old and Middle English: An Anthology. Blackwell Publishers, 2000.

[67] Ann Taylor, Anthony Warner, Susan Pintzuk, Frank Beths. A. Taylor, A. Warner, S. Pintzuk, F. Beths, editors, The York-Toronto-Helsinki Parsed Corpus of Old English Prose. University of York, York: Department of Language and Linguistic Science. Disponible auprès de The Oxford Archive Text, 2003.

[68] Ans van Kemenade. Jespersen´s Cycle Revisited: Formal Properties of Grammaticalization. in « Diachronic Syntax: Models and Mechanisms », Oxford University Press, S. Pintzuk, G. Tsoulas, A. Warner, editors, 2000.

[69] Ans van Kemenade. Syntactic Case and Morphological Case in the History of English. Foris: Dordrecht, 1987.

[70] F.Th. Visser. An Historical Syntax of the English Language. Brill: Leiden, 1963–1973.

[71] Ans van Kemenade, Nigel Vincent. A. van Kemenade, N. Vincent, editors, Parameters of Morphosyntactic Change. Cambridge University Press, 1997.

[72] Anthony Warner. English Auxiliaries: Structure and History. Cambridge University Press, 1993.


Note 1. “They are combined verbs with vowel alternations which belong to most of the known classes of strong verbs”

Note 2. (...) to undertake this semantic and syntactic study considering [the preterite-present verbs] not as elements of a whole but as isolated terms (...)

Note 3. Our addition.

Note 4. The characteristics of strong verbs are the absence of a suffix for the preterite forms, and the opposition between present and past forms (the stem vowel changes in the past), e.g. verbs such as “bite” bitan: bitan (present), bat (past), biten (past participle) et “bear” beran: beran, bær, boren ; as for weak verbs, they are distinguished by the addition of a dental suffix for the past, e.g. “look”: locian, locode (past), ou “name”: nemnan, nemned.

Note 5. One calls preterite-present verbs a certain number of verbs having the morphological form of an Indo-European perfect but the semantic value of a present form.

Note 6. One knows that the Indo-European perfect often expressed a state resulting from the completion of the “perfectiveness” of an action, that is a present state: “I have seen”, i.e. “I know ”, “I have in mind”, i.e. “I remember”. This is true of the Germanic preterite-present verbs. Still within the verbal system, the present-meaning perfects were isolated. They have been built up a more or less complete conjugation with a weak preterite form, without a pre-ending vowel, but with a strong past participle.

Note 7. [41] : 170

Note 8. The notations are [8]´s.

Note 9.

Strong verbs have a past form with no suffix. The opposition between present and past is realized through a change in the tone of the root vowel. This is called vowel alternation or ablaut.

Weak verbs build up their past without changing their root vowel, but adding a dental suffix. Moreover, they are all verbs derived from nouns (denominal verbs: fedan “feed” is built out of the noun fod “food”) or verbs (deverbal verbs: lecgan “lay” comes from the strong verb licgan “lie down”) ((45) ((46)), §§95 et 108).

Note 10.

Whatever its grammatical category, a word is made up of a root bearing the lexical meaning, and a theme being a necessary but empty morpheme (lacking semantic content) to build up the constituant; to this theme can be added endings for case and/or number. An athematic verb is then a verb onto which endings are directly added to the (semantic) root:

Tree 18

Note 11. A class is a series of vowel oppositions (or alternations) between the present, the past and the past participle forms: this is what is called ablaut (still visible in CE for all irregular verbs). So, to each class of verbs corresponds a vowel alternation. This ablaut corresponds to the classes of strong verbs in OE [Par classes, on entend les séries d´oppositions vocaliques entre le présent, le prétérit singulier, le prétérit pluriel et le participe passé : c´est ce qu´on appelle la voyelle radicale (que l´on retrouve dans tous les verbes irréguliers en Anglais Contemporain (AC)). Ainsi, à chaque classe de verbes correspond une alternance vocalique. De plus, cette série d´oppositions vocaliques correspond aux classes des verbes forts en vieil-anglais](see (45) ((45)), §§96-106).

Note 12. Agan is analyzed in Appendix B.

Note 13. The asterisked forms are reconstructed, based on the infinitive ending of the other verbs.

Note 14. For the other members of the preterite present class, we refer the reader to (7) ((7)) and (41) ((41)).

Note 15. In our example, the clitic is a personel pronoun.

Note 16. We refer the reader to Chapter 3 of (49) ((49)) for further details.

Note 17.

String verbs: lack of alternation between the infinitive and present:

- Class 1: bitan   “bite” ⟶ bite, bitest, biet.
- Class 2: beodan   “command” ⟶ beode, bietst, biet.
- Class 3: bindan   “bind” ⟶ binde, binst, bind.
helpan   “help” ⟶ helpe, helpest, helpeð.
feohtan   “fight” ⟶ feohte, fiehtst, fieht.
- Class 4: beran   “bear” ⟶ bere, bierest, bierð.
- Class 5: etan   “eat” ⟶ ete, itst, itt.
- Class 6: faran   “go” ⟶ far, færest, færeð.
- Class 7: beatan   “beat” ⟶ beate, bietst, biett.
lætan   “let” ⟶ læte, lætst, lætt.

Weak verb: habban ⟶ habbe, hæfst, hæfð

Preterite present verbs: vowel alternation between the infinitive and present:

- witan wat, wast, wat.
- *dugan deah/deag.
- unnan an(n).
- cunnan can(n), canst, can.
- þurfan ðearf, ðearft, ðearf.
- *durran dear, dearst, dear.
- munan man, manst, man.
- *sculan sceal, scealt, sceal.
- magan mæg, meaht, mæg.

Note 18. “They [the preterite presents] have been built up a more or less complete conjugation: a weak past without a pre-ending vowel based on verbs like sohte (which is part of the verbs having very early lost this vowel or having no vowel at all) but a strong past participle when it exists. They are hybrid verbs displaying an ablaut classifying them in most classes of strong verbs. [On leur [les perfecto-présents] a constitué une conjugaison plus ou moins complète avec un prétérit faible sans voyelle prédésinentielle sur le type de sohte (il fait partie des verbes qui ont perdu de très bonne heure la voyelle prédésinentielle, ou qui n´ont jamais eu cette voyelle), mais avec un participe passé fort (quand il en existe un). Ce sont des verbes mixtes à alternances vocaliques qui rentrent presque tous dans les classes connues de verbes forts].” ((45) ((45)), §124)

Note 19. But also onto wesan “be” and habban “have”.

Note 20. In this section, we mainly focus on causative structures because both structures (causatives and preterite presents) look alike. But one must keep in mind that only causative verbs introduce a causative event, and unlike preterite presents, they are not raising verbs. In forthcoming research, we shall underline the difference between causative and transitive v heads and vModal.

Note 21. Where the subject is base-generated under Spec,VP and merges with Spec,TP; following this, we can say preterite presents belong to raising structures. But we shall go back to this statement later on.

Note 22. Negative words bear a whole semantic-syntactic Neg, and this feature is liable to a specific condition concerning Agree.

Note 23. Mood characteristically marking either a conditional clause or, as implied by the use of the term in accounts of French and other Romance languages, a main clause accompanied by one. (44) ((44))

Note 24. The examples we have studied are taken from texts written or translated during the 9th-11th centuries, which can be considered as the late OE period; the only exception being Beowulf written during the 8th-9th centuries but copied during the 11th century.

Note 25. [Il est convenu d´appeler “moyen-anglais” la langue anglaise parlée et écrite en Grande-Bretagne entre 1150 et 1550 (...) ; ces dates ne sont que des points de repères commodes : d´une façon normale, l´évolution d´une langue ne connaît pas de solution de continuité. Mais si l´on compare l´ensemble des traits qui caractérisent les textes écrits pendant la période “moyen-anglaise” à ceux de la période précédente, on est frappé par des différences constantes : a) à la finale et dans les désinences, les voyelles (dans la mesure où elles subsistent) prennent un ton uniforme e ; b) ce nivellement a déterminé une altération profonde et une grande simplification de la flexion ; c) il en résulte une tendance (déjà amorcée en vieil-anglais) à recourir aux constructions analytiques et à utiliser des prépositions au lieu de cas ; d) enfin, le vocabulaire est rempli de mots français (conséquence de la conquête normande) et scandinaves (suite à la colonisation du Danelaw)] ((46) ((46)): 19-20).

Note 26. A class is a series of vowel oppositions (or alternations) between the present, the past and the past participle forms: this is what is called ablaut (still visible in CE for all irregular verbs). So, to each class of verbs corresponds a vowel alternation. This ablaut corresponds to the classes of strong verbs in OE (see (45) ((45)), §§96-106).

Note 27. We still refer the reader to Appendix B for the analysis of this preterite present.

Note 28. There are different dialects in ME: Kentish, Southern, East Midlands, West Midlands and Northern (see (46) ((46)): 18 for a map of their distribution).

Note 29. These three texts all display the SVO order, with the disappearance of V2 sentences (except for a small numbers of sentences we have already mentioned).

Note 30. See Section 3.4 for a definition and an anlysis of grammaticalisation.

Note 31. But if we assume [-deont] to be a formal feature, it then is a semantic feature always interpretable which does not take part neither in the syntactic derivation nor in the morphological operations. If we further assume this semantic feature to belong to Mood, the new morpheme then inherits of the semantic feature interpretated at the interface when there is the morphological fusion Mood-T.

Note 32. The only mrophological ending is to be found on the second person of the singular.

Note 33. Within the history of language, the process implying the change from a lexical element to an element with a grammatical content.

Note 34. In Somali, modals always are “deontic”, and an epistemic modal phrase is a complex sentence with an explicit verb of attitude. There seems to exist a link between the lack of interpretative ambiguity of modals and V2 typology: in Somali, the verb does not raise to C, but the declarative C is filled by a free morpheme called “focus marker”. Within a V2 syntax, the tense of the sentence has no scope on the epistemic modal (which stresses the logical relation between a clause and the speaker´s knowledge at a given time). The C-T connection is semantically bound to the verb on which the clause is built, i.e. this is a “deontic” verb. The epistemic interpretation of the modals belongs to clausal content of the utterance, that is the domain of CP (see (42) ((42))). Then, in OE, the disappearance of the V2 syntax would free a position inside CP for epistemicity. I thank J. Lecarme for having stressed this characteristic in Somali.

Note 35. This loss corresponds to the grammaticalisation of TO which becomes a grammatical item having quite the same syntactic status as modals. According to (62) ((62)), the grammaticalisation of TO is partly due to the weakening of nominal endings. Indeed, if TO does not assigncase (on the infinitive) anymore, it must be re-analyzed as a “modal” having an irrealis meaning. Moreover, the loss of the subjunctive morphology is another trigger for this grammaticalisation. According to their analysis, the modal content of the subjunctive ending has been “transferred” to TO.

Note 36. We devote a whole part of this PhD to this preterite present, see Appendix B

Note 37. We have already mentioned this kind of example in the previous chapter.

Note 38. They can directly be generated under T and be governed by one of the two positions we have defined: vModal and Mood.

Note 39. Following the same pattern as the French ne... pas: ne tends to disappear, and not becomes the main negation of the sentence as in “j´ai pas compris la question” (I haven´t understood/didn´t understand the question).

Note 40. This is what we have seen in Section 2.8.1.

Note 41. Let us recall that, at first, modality adverbs were only found with lexical verbs.

Note 42. NEED, OWE and DARE are both lexical and modal (but OUGHT TO is “semi-modal”). To a certain extent, it is also the case for WILL.

Note 43. For instance, CUNNAN/EN: cann, MAGAN/EN: mæg, ... in OE and ME

Note 44. Thanks to Johan van der Auwera, Jean-Louis Duchet and my supervisor Jacqueline Guéron for their useful comments and help, and Christoph Eyrich for solving my LaTeX problems.

Note 45. The full paradigm for agan is: Ind.Pres 1,3 Sg ag, ah, 2 Sg ahst, Pl. agon; Subjunctive Sg age; Imperative age; Pret ahte; P.Part. agen/agan.

Note 46. The sources of the quotations are the following; for OE: ApolT Apollonius of Tyra, BlHom The Blinking Homilies, cobeowul Beowulf, cocynew The Fate of the Apostles, coexeter The Wanderer, comeboe The Meters of Boethius, Heptateuch The Heptateuch, WHom Wulfstan´s Homilies; for ME: CMANCRIW Ancrene Riwle, CMASTRO A Treatise on the Astrolabe, CMBENRUL The Northern Prose Rule of St Benet, CMBRUT The Brut or The Chronicle of England, CMCTMELI The Tale of Melibee, CMCTPARS The Parson´s Tale, CMKATH St Katherine, CMLAMBX1 The Lambeth Homilies, CMMIRK Mirk´s Festial, CMPETERB The Peterborough Chronicle, CMPURVEY Purvey´s General Prologue to the Bible, CMTRINIT Trinity Homilies

Note 47. The form of the past participle can be identical with the infinitive.

Note 48.

We give examples of the same structure with WESAN:

An Antiochia þare ceastre wæs sum cyningc Antiochus gehaten.
In DAT-Antioche DAT-this DAT-town IND.PRET-was NOM-some NOM-king NOM-Antiochus P.PART-called.

The town of Antiocha was called after some king Antiochus. (ApolT,ApT:1.1.3)

æfter þæs cyninges naman wæs seo ceaster Antiochia geciged.
after GEN-the GEN-king name IND.PRET-was NOM-the NOM-town Antiocha P.PART-named.

That was after the king´s name that the town was called Antiocha. (ApolT,ApT: 1.1.4)

Note 49.

It is noteworthy that out of 30 examples of the verb agen, we only find 9 occurrences of ahte, which is to become the one used in Contemporary English, and only six of them display the structure ahte + to + infinitive (two with no -en ending, and four with the -en ending of infinitive forms). So, we have mainly found examples of owe(n) + to + infinitive, owe meaning ´ought´.

All the examples displaying ahte date from the 12th-13th c., as for the examples using owe, they date from the 13th up to the 15th century: owe is the latest, yet it is to be supplanted by ahte (we assume this is due to the standardization of all the modal past forms during the middle and late period of ME: ought, could, might, would, should and must have a past form but a `present´ meaning).

Note 50. Our theoretical framework is minimalism and the theory of phases, Chomsky (1995, 1999).

Note 51. We have encountered examples where we could find constituents in between agen and the bare infinitive, but no examples with the second infinitive structure.

Note 52. Roberts and Roussou (2003) argued that TO changes meaning from purposive/directional prepositional content to a “bleached” meaning as an irrealis marker (our emphasis).

Note 53. The -an/-en endings in OE and ME means that infinitives are subjunctive-marked.

Note 54. But we have found, from the middle of the ME period, examples of the lexical verb neden “need” which replaced the preterite-present þurven. For the same structure we thus have two verbs agen and neden which both semi-grammaticalized.

Note 55. More precisely, it is a past subjunctive form.

Note 56. All the Contemporary English modals come from ME past subjunctive forms.

Note 57. In the late ME period, English is not a V2 language anymore (except for a small number of sentences).

Note 58. We shall find the same process with “need” and “dare”.