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Adjunct infinitives in English

Alison K Huettner, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This thesis is essentially a comparison of various optional infinitive clauses in English. The purpose clause, shown in (1), and the rationale clause, in (2), have literatures of their own; the clause in (3) has been discussed under the name "objective clause" by Faraci (1974), though later authors have identified it with the purpose clause. (1) Sue built the extra room (to hold her sewing supplies); (2) Mary sold her car ((in order) to pay the rent); (3) We brought Sam along (to amuse the children). I argue that there is indeed a distinction between a purpose and an objective (which I call a "goal") clause; in fact, at the VP level we may distinguish at least five different optional infinitive constructions. (4a-e) show infinitives which I refer to, respectively, as purpose, result, goal, exchange, and stimulus clauses. (4) (a) Sue built the extra room (to hold her sewing supplies); (b) John awoke (to find the fire had gone out); (c) Sam came along (to look after the children); (d) They gave Sue ten dollars (to pose with a cobra); (e) Mary blushed (to recall Tom's importunities). Rationale clauses, of course, are S-level infinitives and do not belong to the paradigm shown in (4); still, there is more than one kind of infinitive possible at the S level. (5) compares a rationale clause ((a)) with an "outcome" clause ((b)): (5) (a) I gave Scruffy a biscuit ((in order) to keep him quiet); (b) Mary escaped (only to be recaptured). Each of these seven infinitive clauses has a different semantic relationship to the main clause; however, I claim that none of them has inherent semantics or even a unique syntactic structure. On the contrary, I suggest that all adjoined infinitives are basically the same infinitive, with its semantic force determined by its syntactic context: the attachment point of the adjunct, the structure of the main clause, and the antecedent ("controller") chosen for the adjunct's subject position.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Huettner, Alison K, "Adjunct infinitives in English" (1989). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI8917364.