The emergence of DP in the history of English

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I claim that the genitive case played a very important role in the emergence of a functional D system in English. I take up the rise of a group genitive, which puzzled Janda (1980), as an example since this is a change from morphology to syntax, going against the dictum that “today’s morphology is yesterday’s syntax” (Givón 1971). Against the accepted view that the genitive case is the only survivor of the morphological cases in English, I argue that the genitive case lost its original argumental function earlier than other morphological cases, which contributed to the emergence of DPs. I will show that the shift from morphology to syntax is not anomalous and that it triggers diachronic change. Today’s morphology will be tomorrow’s syntax. I also claim that the Old English thematically-motivated case system is the key to analysing what happened to nominal structures in the history of English.


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