I may definitely missing this lists purpose and I havent got hold of
McWhorter's book yet so my remarks may be somewhat out of place but
I find this discussion of do-periphrasis in English being an influence
of a Celtic language slightly odd, as evidence from Dutch and German
shows that the do-/tun-/doen-periphrasis has been used widely here, too.
While it is rare in Old English, it's been used widely from the Middle
English period on to this day, as in dialects of German and Dutch. I
remember my grandad using it very often saying:
"Ich tu' mal das Fenster zumachen"
"Tust Du heute noch die Wäsche abnehmen?"
Funnily enough, I was reading this MA-thesis from Munich which was
dealing with this very topic which I'd like to share with you. It gives
a nice insight into the research of the do-/tun-/doen-periphrasis, and
even deals briefly with a possible Celtic influence on English in this
context. Unfortunately, it's in German only:
With all this in mind, I wonder whether the do-periphrasis in English is
"merely" a common feature of (West-)Germanic languages and therefore
can't be attributed on Celtic influence at all...what do you think?
David Stifter schrieb:
> Dennis King wrote:
>> Question: is do-
>> periphrasis (aka "irrelevant 'do'" -- ;-) ) something that Old Irish
>> and Brittonic both had as part of their common Celtic patrimony?
> I doubt this very much. Neither in Old Irish, nor in the old British
> Celtic languages is the DO-periphrasis more than an option. Given
> that both branches possess verbal nouns, it does not appear to be
> unnatural that the languages could develop constructions of the type
> "periphrastic verb + VN" as a variant beside the non-periphrastic
> construction, for example for such pragmatic reasons as morphological
> ease. Alternatively, the periphrastic construction may have arisen as
> a contact phenomenon among Celtic languages in the middle ages.
> In any case, if periphrastic DO was inherited in Goidelic and
> British, it can only go back to the Insular Celtic node. There is no
> trace of such a construction in Continental Celtic languages. And,
> furthermore, in any case there's a decisive difference between the
> Celtic and the English periphrastic construction: whereas in the
> former it is optional, it has become an obligatory feature of modern
> English syntax.