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The convergence of two <i>need</i> verbs in Middle English

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Abstract

This paper is concerned with OE and ME <i>need </i>v.1, ‘compel, force’ and <i>need </i>v.2, ‘be necessary, need’. It analyses a 2.4 million-word corpus of OE and ME with regard to three factors: relative frequency of both verbs in the two periods, their syntactic properties, and their semantic implications, which are interpreted in terms of Force-Dynamics (cf. Sweetser 1990; Talmy 2000). The results show that, counter-intuitively, <i>need </i>v.2 ‘be necessary, need’ alone is not the only etymological ancestor of PDE semi-modal <i>need</i>, since no clear boundary can be drawn between the two verbs in the periods under analysis. This is most evident in Middle English, when both verbs fully converge syntactically and semantically. Consequently, and most importantly, I show that both <i>need </i>v.1 and <i>need </i>v.2 play a role in the development of PDE <i>need </i>(cf. also Molencki 2002; van der Auwera &#38; Taeymans 2004; Loureiro-Porto 2005b).

References

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