On the origin of clausal parenthetical constructions

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This article contributes to the discussion on the origin of pragmatic markers by exploring the development of parenthetical structures with the two default verbs of seeming in the history of English: <i>seem</i> and impersonal <i>think</i> &#8216;seem, appear&#8217;. Drawing mainly on data from the <i>Helsinki Corpus</i>, we describe the most common construction types in which these two verbs appear, paying especial attention to their parenthetical use. We show that the emergence of parentheticals with these verbs precedes the increase in the frequency of the zero complementizer, thus calling into question Thompson and Mulac&#8217;s (1991) matrix-clause hypothesis. Rather, the history of <i>seem</i>- and impersonal <i>think</i>-parentheticals tallies with the developmental path proposed by Brinton (1996, 2008) for the parenthetical <i>I think</i>, as adverbial parentheticals (<i>so/as it seems</i>) clearly antedate bare parentheticals (<i>it seems</i>).


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