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Research seminar: Adverbial Infinitives in the History of Swedish


Date: Thursday 28 April 2022

Time: 15.00 – 16.30

Location: C307, Zoom

Welcome to a research seminar in linguistics with Dr Mikael Kalm from the Department of Swedish Lanugage and Multilingualism.

The seminar is followed by a post-seminar in the department’s kitchenette



Adverbial Infinitives in the History of Swedish



In this seminar, I will present an investigation of adverbial infinitives in the history of Swedish. By adverbial infinitive, I mean a prepositional infinitive clause used as an adverbial adjunct. Such constructions are commonly used in present-day Swedish to express a range of adverbial notions, including purposive (1a), abessive (1b), substitutive (1c) temporal (1d), and instrumental (1e) meanings. 

a.  Han         gick      ut    för att   få              sig   lite          luft.   
     he          went     out   for IM    get.INF        REFL  some       air
    ‘He went out to get some air’

b. Hon    sålde       företaget      utan        att     fråga       de      anställda. 
    she     sold         company.DEF without   IM      ask.INF     ART      employee.PL
    ‘She sold the company without asking the employees.’

c.   Jag satt hemma    istället     för      att     gå           ut.
     I      sat   home      instead    for      IM      go.INF      out
     ‘I stayed home instead of going out.’

d.   Hon    läste   medicin        efter   att ha           kommit        tillbaka    från    Berlin.
     she     read   medicine      after   IM have.INF   come.SUP      back        from   Berlin
     ‘She studied medicine after having returned from Berlin.’

e. Han gjorde   sig      oumbärlig         genom         att      alltid  vara  steget    före.
     he   made    REFL    indispensable    through       IM      always be.INF step.DEF before
     ‘He made himself indispensable by always being one step ahead’

Only the purposive infinitive is attested in Old Swedish (c. 1225–1526), but as opposed to its present-day Swedish counterpart it was normally not prepositional. Prepositional adverbial infinitives thus represent a syntactic innovation in Swedish, attested from the second half of the 17th century onwards. It is a gradual process whereby more adverbial notions are being expressed with prepositional infinitives over time. Abessive and substitutive infinitives are attested first (1657 and 1675 respectively) and they are later followed by temporal infinitives (1779) and finally instrumental infinitives (1829). During the seminar, I will discuss whether this relative order of appearance follows some more general, cross-linguistic pattern as to how adverbial (non-finite) constructions evolve in languages. 
Furthermore, I will argue that the emergence of adverbial infinitives should likely be seen as a result of the increasing importance and consequent demands of precision of the written language and as part of the establishing of a written norm, separate from the spoken language. This assumption is supported by data from the traditional dialect of Övdalian, where adverbial infinitives are not used. 

About Mikael Kalm