Vol. 6 No. 12 (2022): Tolerating subject-experiencers? Yang's Tolerance Principle applied to psych verbs under contact in Middle English

This article investigates the acquisition of psych verbs in diachrony by applying Yang's (2016) Tolerance and Sufficiency Principles. It has been observed that psych verbs change from expressing the EXPERIENCER as object to expressing it as subject cross-linguistically. According to van Gelderen (2018) and others, this development has also taken place in the history of English. What is much less well-known, however, is that a considerable number of Old French psych verbs were copied to Middle English. Using lexicon-based and corpus-based data, we will apply Yang's (2016) Tolerance and Sufficiency Principles to evaluate historical "tipping points" in the development of the psych verb class, i.e. examine whether either amuse-type or admire-type argument structures were productive in Middle English. Since subject-EXPERIENCERS were commonly used with intransitive and reflexive constructions we will further investigate whether a more general rule that any psych verb may take a subject-EXPERIENCER passed the productivity threshold. We will show that this was indeed the case in Middle English and that the copying of Old French verbs accelerated this development.
Published: 2022-10-14