The paper describes the ‘Historical Thesaurus of English’ (HT)project, inaugurated by Michael Samuels (1965) to draw together in ordered categories the meanings English words have held through their recorded history. The project draws on the OED for its data, adding supplementary evidence for OE (separately published in the 1995 pilot Thesaurus of Old English. For medievalists the HT will give access for the first time to details of loss and replacement of forms ordered according to the concept expressed. Preliminary work towards a ‘Thesaurus of Middle English’ is already going ahead, its main data to be drawn from the HT files.
This paper presents an analysis of unaccusative and passive there-constructions in ME and early ModE under the framework of the minimalist program (Chomsky (1995)). In particular, my concern goes to the following two issues. The first one concerns the optionality of the overt subject raising in these constructions, and the second one is the decline of there-constructions with a raised subject. It will be specifically argued that the optional subject raising follows from the assumptions that (i) overt subject raising is equal to there-insertion in cost, and that (ii) there could be merged into [Spec, CP] for the V2effect. Furthermore, we answer the second question in terms of the transition of clause structures, the loss of the V2 structure.
This paper offers an account of the distribution of nominative subjects in the history of English within the framework of the Minimalist Program. First, it is observed that overt subject raising is obligatory in transitive sentences, but optional in unaccusative sentences, throughout the history of English. This contrast is shown to be derived by incorporating the notion ‘subject of predication’ as a feature checking relation. On the other hand, the freer distribution of unaccusative subjects in Old and Middle English (that is, the fact that they can remain overtly in their base positions in other contexts than there-sentences) is argued to follow from the presence of “rich” verbal agreement triggering overt verb raising. In particular, it is claimed that the “rich” verbal agreement, which counts as a (pro)nominal element, can satisfy the EPP feature of T without overt subject raising or merger of expletive there, when it is carried to T along with overt verb raising.