Pet peeve

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Oct 31 08:39:29 UTC 2000

At 4:19 PM -0500 10/31/00, Douglas G. Wilson wrote:
>>>... as others will undoubtedly note, split infinitives are
>>>perfectly acceptable, another 18th c. prescriptivism surviving too
>>>long.  In "would change", by the way, "change" is an infinitive.
>>>Modals take unmarked infinitives.  The "to" is not what makes a
>>>form an infinitive.  It's just one way of marking that status. ...
>>Well, that's really a question of definition. ...
>The Merriam-Webster English usage dictionary says (in an extended discussion):
>"... _to_ is only an appurtenance of the infinitive, which is the
>uninflected form of the verb. In many constructions the infinitive is used
>alone ...
So according to this practice, the subjunctives in "I demand that he
leave" or "If it be treason" are really infinitives?  And when
first-year syntax students learn than modals don't govern the
infinitive (*He could to leave") they're being misinformed?  It's
certainly not standard practice in linguistics courses and texts to
take the uninflected but to-less form of a verb following a modal or
in the "that" complement of a verb like "demand" or "require" to
constitute an infinitive.  (Another case is "She made me (*to) do
it".)  Base form/bare verb form (maybe even "infinitive stem") si,
infinitive no.  Of course, this may just be a dialect split...


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