Split Infinitive Zombie Rule

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1. LITERATURE REVIEW 1.1 HISTORY OF THE CONSTRUCTION 1.1.1M IDDLE ENGLISH In the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the number of appearences of the split infinitive construction varies from writer to writer, but in the majority of the cases is a rather small number of examples. Among the writers who used more than a dozen of these instances are Layamon and Wycliffe. For example in Layamons Brut : and he cleopede him to; alle his wis cnihtes/for him to reade And he called him all his wise knights/to him advise. Although this is the first time when the split infinitive was ever been used it can count more as a syntactical device than a grammatical one for the sake of the meter . But there is one clear example of split infinitive , in the 14th century , that takes no reservation and this is John Wycliffes prose that is full of split infinitive examples : For this was gret unkyndenesse, to this manere treten there brother. For this was great unkindness, to in this manner treat their brother. 1 But the one who stands apart from all the writers of his time by the frequent use of the split infinitive construction is Reginald Pecock. Some of his examples are To ech dai make him ready2. for to in some tyme, take, but except these extremely common instances in his work he had the boldness to insert between to and the infinitive an adverbial adjunct and even adverbial clauses of extremely long length. For example in Donet 31,17 what is it for to lyue pankingly to god?...Some,lettid, and whann a man in this semyng hap nede to quyke him silf in pe seid lovis to god and to him silf and nameliche to moral desire vpon goodis to come and to be had , seis and be aknowe to god..pat he hap receyued benefte or benefetis of god.


http://languages-of-the-world.blogspot.com/2010/12/to-boldly-go.html Fredericus Theodorus Visser, An historical syntax of the English language, vol.3


There is no evidence of what could have made Pecock to use the split infinitive construction so often as he did , but the fact is that he use it several times and that after he the construction suffered another decay unti late 18th century arrived. 1.1.2 MODERN ENGLISH It was towards the end of the 18th century that the usage was revived in the written laguage and writers quickly made us of this construction in their writings, but not without being criticised. It is important to notice that one type of split infinitive ,very common in the Middle English, hasnt been revived into the Modern English , this being splitting the infinitive by a pronoun or a noun to hinde finde, to temple make. Same as Layamon William Shakespeare only used one such example and it is clearly a syntactical inversion to keep the rhyme : Root pity in thy heart, that when it grows Thy pity may deserve to pitied be .(Sonnet 142 ) Edmund Spenser, Alexander Pope, John Dryden and King James version of the Bible used none of this construction as well. There isnt any record of a rule bending the use of this construction, but it is a fact that it has disappeared until late 18th century. But its real boom was in the 19th century when writers such as Daniel Defoe, Benjamin Franklin, William Wordsworth, Abraham Lincoln, George Eliot used them. An example in a poem of Robert Burns attest its presence in the Scot literature as well in the 18th century: who dared to nobly stem tyrannic pride (The Cottars Saturday Night) With all this, it was in colloquial style that this construction found its great blooming. Nowadays, according to the American Heritage Book of english Usage people split infinitives all the time without giving it a thought. But why was it revived? There can be two possible answers to this question . The first one may be, as Otto Jepersen suggests in his 1933 Essentials of english Grammar, it has probably been brought about through the influence of similar word-orders: with the object of further ilustrating the matter, he further illustrates, that he may further illustrate lead naturaly to the construction in order to further illustrate(p.331). The second one, adverbials can be ambiguous in writing, where intonation is not available to assist in specifying grammaical relationships. This potential for

confusion probably accounts for the popularity of the split infinitive, which eliminates all possibility of ambiguity (Wilson, 1993)3 . As a result of this duality, whether it is correct to use split infinitve or it is not, most presentations on split infinitive are dominated by the phrase it is grammatically correct but try to stay away from it4: The most diligent search can find no modern grammarian to pedantically, to dogamtically, to invariably condemn a split infinitive No absolute taboo should be placed on the use of simple adverbs between the particle to and the verb Avoid splitting the infinitive whenever possible, but do not suffer undue remorse if a split infinitive is unavoidable for the natural and unambiguous completion of a sentence already begun. (Burchfield, 1996, p.737-738)5 1.1.3 THEORIES OF THE ORIGINS It is difficult to state why the construction first appeared in the Middle English and why it is so commonly used in Modern English but a number of theories have appeared. A NALOGY Traditional grammarians suggested that the use of this construction is due to the fact that people commonly place adverbs before finite verbs. George Curme says: If the adverb should immediately precede the finite verb, we feel that it should immediately precede also the infinitive6 Hence , if one says: She completely forget about our meeting. and She will completely forget about our meeting. one may , by analogy , want to say:


Wilson, K.G. 1993, The columbia Guide to standard American English. New York:Columbia University Press Marcel Mitrasca, Concordia University The split infinitive in electronic corpora: should there be a rule? P.103



Burchfield, R.W., & Fowler, H.W. 1996, The new Fowlers modern English usage, Oxford: Clarendon Press Curme,George ,may 1927 , The split infinitive.American Speech , Duke University


She wants to completely forget abour our meeting. This example is supported by the idea that split infinitives are often used as echoes, as in the following conversation , in which the answer parodies the slightly odd collocation in the original sentence: Child : I accidentally run over our neighbours cat. Parent: Well, you have to be more carefull not to accidentally run over none of our neighbours cats next time , wont you? This is an example in which we have an adverb used in a split infinitive unit from a parallel position in a different construction for the sake of parody. T RANSFORMATIONAL GRAMMAR Transformational grammarians have attributed the construction to the idea that even if the infinitive is a two-words unit it has a single unity in itself and I cant be split. For example , what they say is , that the following sentence is incorrect because the verb calculate and to are inseparable : In turn, the problems with immigration and emigration statistics had a knock-on effect on attempts to accurately calculate the net effect of migration on the population.7 But if we do accept the transformational theory than well have to separate the verb of its adverb with eight words, sounding something like to calculate the net effect of migration on the population accurately. In this case it sounds awkard and lacks in being properly understood. E XTERNAL INFLUENCE Lastly, it is speculated that the origin of this construction may lie in Old French, because split infinitive appeared after the Norman Conquest time in which English came in contact with the Old French. The split infinitive isnt found in any Germanic language, except modern Swedish , but German still doesnt allow an adverb to came between and infinitive and its particle. For example Ich beschliee, etwas nicht zu tun.


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I decide not to do something. Je dcide de ne pas faire quelque chose. I decide to not do something. Even if there are grammarian who attest that this is a valid supposition , the grammarians of the Romance languages do not use this term split infinitive to describe this phenomena ,because in these languages the preposition isnt considered to be part of the infinitive form. 1.1.4 TYPES In Modern English , splitting usually involves a single adverb , frequently an emphatic adverb, coming between the particle to and the verb. For example: I need you all to really pull your weight. In this position the adverb and the verbs seems to form a close syntactic unit. Or there are times when this phenomena appears in a negation , like in the selfreferential joke: Journalists should learn not to split the infinitive. But there are also times when we can find more than one adverb in the split infinitive construction. Like in : We are determined to completely and utterly eradicate the disease. 1.2 HISTORY OF THE TERM Even if the construction appeared somewhere in the 13th century it wasnt until late 19th century that got a fixed terminology to describe it. The first use of the term split infinitive came in 1897, followed by infinitive-splitting and infinitive-splitter in 1926 and 1927, respectively. Another term that was used to describe the construction was cleft infinitive,which is slightly older, attested from 1893. But this applies to the idea of taking the infinitive as being a two-word construction, which not all grammarians accept, as weve seen that happens with the transformational grammarians. One of the latters, Otto Jepersen said To is no more an essential part of an infinitive than the definite article is an essential part of the nominative,and no one would think of calling the good man a split nominative.8 However, until today, there is been no suggestion made for a different name.


Jepersen Otto(1956). Growth and Structure of the English Language. Doubleday. P.222


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