From locative to durative to focalized? The English progressive and 'PROG imperfective drift'

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In the present paper I test the claim of Bertinetto et al. (2000) that the English progressive has undergone ‘PROG imperfective drift’, originating as a locative construction, to develop into a durative progressive and subsequently also into a focalized progressive. I argue that it is doubtful whether the English progressive has evolved along these lines. While the construction has clearly become much more focalized, and less durative, there is no evidence of a predominantly durative stage. Instead, the English progressive shows a variety of functions all through the period under study, and the durative type is not among the most frequent types in any one period. As for origins, the many meanings or functions of the progressive in the earliest records may seem to suggest multiple origins rather than a single, locative source.


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