Agentivity and the history of the English Progressive

Debra Ziegeler

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Previous research on the history of the English Progressive has referred to grammaticalisation processes as playing a major role in its development (e.g. Bybee, Pagliuca & Perkins 1994; Heine 1994). While it would appear that the development of aspect as a crosslinguistic grammatical category must be attributed to grammaticalisation, the widely-accepted hypothesis of the lexical source in English being derived from a locative expression, but with an active agent (X be at V-ing), is complicated, especially given that the participle would have developed from a gerund, or nominal complement. Earlier attestations pre-dating the participle to an Old English adjectival form are also difficult to accommodate within a grammaticalisation hypothesis because of a lack of semantic continuity with such later evidence. The present study instead considers the Progressive participle as developing historically across the dimensions of lexical aspect and agentivity associated with the construction, and the participle is regarded as in the process of a reanalysing category change from a nominal to a verbal element, rather than as part of a lexical source construction in the process of grammaticalisation. © The Philological Society 1999.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)51-101
    Number of pages50
    JournalTransactions of the Philological Society
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - May 1999


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