The passival and the progressive passive

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Grammaticalisation of the progressive aspect and passive voice in English began in the Old English period; yet, the spread of the new patterns to all syntactic environments took several centuries. A fairly recent phenomenon is the co-occurrence of the progressive aspect and the <i>be</i>-passive. When the new form was first used in the late eighteenth century, it met with considerable resistance because it was competing with the passival, i.e. an earlier use of an active progressive with passive meaning. The study uses evidence from A Representative Corpus of Historical English Registers (ARCHER) to investigate this particular example of layering. Corpus data show that (a) the passival was not ousted by the progressive passive and that (b) this case-study of layering is a case of stable rather than transitional layering in which the older pattern (the passival) has clearly become the marked pattern.


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