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Adverbial and Relative to-Infinitives

Abstract : The purpose of this article is to provide a new analysis of an ill-understood type of infinitival clause, which has been previously labeled purpose clauses or elliptical infinitive clauses and is called weak purposive clauses (WPCs) here. It starts with a puzzle: some infinitives can be parsed as either adverbial or relative, as is evidenced in the ICE-GB corpus, which has been used for illustrative purposes. In The spider monkey picks leaves or fruit to eat, the infinitive to eat is potentially parsed as adverbial (‘in order to eat them’) or relative (‘which it can then eat’). The author demonstrates that those infinitives, for which the distinction is neutralized, pertain to the WPC class and need to be distinguished from typical relative infinitives and infinitival rationale clauses (traditional adverbial clauses of purpose). The semantic and syntactic properties of the class are described in full detail (e.g., meaning, control properties), including several properties that have gone unnoticed (the variety of gap functions, the potential absence of gaps, double relativization) or failed to be adequately explained (these infinitives’ assertoric force). It appears that for most WPCs, a continuative (relative) clause interpretation is superimposed on an adverbial one, leading to syntactic ambiguity.
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Submitted on : Thursday, April 22, 2021 - 9:56:11 AM
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Olivier Simonin. Adverbial and Relative to-Infinitives. Journal of English Linguistics, SAGE Publications, 2013, 41 (1), pp.4-32. ⟨10.1177/0075424211428337⟩. ⟨hal-02433040⟩



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