On Thu, 5 Feb 1998, Gary Ingle wrote:
> Lehmann Intro. to O.I. p. 14 says "It has also been proposed that the
> English gerund in '-ing' developed as a result of Insular Celtic
> influence." I wonder who proposed it when, and where.
The development of continuous tenses ("he's coming") in English
would result from contact with (proto-)Brittonic rather than
(proto-)Goidelic, if it developed in this way at all. Modern Welsh
certainly makes extensive use of such constructions ("mae e'n dod"),
but did its ancestor language have them at the time Anglo-Saxons
were pushing the Britons out?
It is worth noting that several hundred years later, by the 8th
century, Old Irish was just starting to make a distinction between
continuous and non-continuous meanings. That is, "pridchim
soisce/le" could equally well mean "I teach the gospel" and "I'm
teaching the gospel". The construction "is oc precept soisce/li
atto/" (tis at teaching of-gospel that I am) is attested in the
Wuerzburg glosses as an alternative to the latter, but the "oc +
Verbal Noun" construction is still rare at that time, to the best
of my knowledge. This kind of construction continued to gain ground,
however, so much so that it has ousted the simple present tense in
Scottish Gaelic, leaving only the "ag + VN" construction: "tha e ag
ithe" (= he is at eating).
Jeffrey, I would be really grateful if you would give us an outline
of your arguments in favor of Celtic influence on the development
of English "-ing" constructions.