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Review of  The Inflected Infinitive in Romance Languages

Reviewer: Silke Jansen
Book Title: The Inflected Infinitive in Romance Languages
Book Author: Emily Scida
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Language Family(ies): Romance
Book Announcement: 16.1301

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Date: Fri, 22 Apr 2005 17:07:08 +0200 (CEST)
From: Silke Jansen <>
Subject: The Inflected Infinitive in Romance Languages

AUTHOR: Scida, Emily
TITLE: The Inflected Infinitive in Romance Languages
SERIES: Outstanding Dissertations in Linguistics
YEAR: 2004
PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)

Silke Jansen, Romanisches Seminar, Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

This book analyzes the use of the inflected infinitive in Romance
languages within the framework of Relational Grammar. It also
provides an overview about the current theories concerning its origin
and its distribution in the Romance Languages.


CHAPTER 1: Introduction
The inflected infinitive, an infinitive form with verbal inflection existing
in Portuguese and some minor Romance languages, has been
considered as an anomaly among the Romance languages. The first
chapter gives an overview about the two prominent issues that have
arisen regarding this particular form, namely the description of its
occurrences in modern Portuguese and its probable origin and
historical development. The author states that the previous attempts
to describe the use of the inflected infinitive have failed due to the lack
of an adequate theoretical approach, and pronounces herself in favor
of the Relational Grammar as an appropriate basis for structural

CHAPTER 2: The syntactic distribution of the inflected infinitive
This chapter starts with a short introduction to Relational Grammar
which provides the theoretical framework of the following analysis.
The author shows that Relational Grammar offers an economical way
to represent complex predicates, periphrastics, auxiliation and the like
by assuming that a single clause may have more than one predicate.
Whether a sentence is mono-, bi- or multiclausal can be determined
by a range of tests such as clitic position, predicate clefting, and
negation. As a general condition on the use of the inflected infinitive in
Portuguese, the author proposes that in multiclausal sentences, "The
inflected infinitive must be the final predicate of its clause" (p. 17). This
condition entails that the uninflected form is never obligatory but can
be used as an optional variant in contexts where the uninflected
infinitive occurs, but only if it is a final predicate. However, the
appearance of the inflected infinitive may be influenced by stylistic
considerations such as the emphasis of the subject or the desire to
avoid ambiguity. Lastly, the author gives some verifiable predictions
for the use of the inflected infinitive in Portuguese. Predictable
contexts for the inflected form are sentences where the infinitive
occurs with an overt nominative subject, exclamative and interrogative
clauses, sequences of conjoined infinitives, constructions with verba
dicendi, constructions with impersonal verbs or expressions (é
provavel, é pena etc.), and constructions with prepositions. In all this
cases, the author points out that the acceptability of the inflected
infinitive follows correctly from her analysis.

CHAPTER 3: Previous accounts for the distribution of the inflected
In chapter 3 previous studies on the use of inflected infinitive in
Portuguese and Galician are surveyed. It appears that virtually all
occurrences of the inflected form quoted by Scida have been
discussed before. However, as the previous accounts are based on a
traditional, pre-theoretical approach, none of them captures the
syntactic restrictions underlying the use of the inflected infinitive. In
fact, these studies are concentrated on listing rules, contexts,
examples and counterexamples, and therefore fail to develop a
consistent and explanatory theory of the function of the inflected
infinitive. On the other hand, Scida claims for a unified account which
reduces all the possible occurrences in Portuguese and Galician to
one single rule that can be described syntactically.

CHAPTER 4: Theories of the Origin of the Portuguese Inflected
Chapter 4 takes a look at the different theories regarding the historical
origin of the inflective infinitive. According to the "Creative" Theory,
which goes back to Diez (1836-44), the starting point of the inflected
infinitive was the use of the infinitive with a nominative subject. As the
infinitive ceased to be impersonal and the verbal endings in
Portuguese are separable in the future and conditional tenses, the
verb inflection was transferred to the infinitive form. Scida expresses
herself against this theory, stating that "[...] controlled infinitives in
other Romance languages are equally personal in this sense [...], but
have not acquired inflection as in Portuguese" (p. 89). Another
objection to this theory is the low frequency of occurrence of an overt
nominative subject with the infinitive in Old Portuguese texts.

The Analogy Theory, first proposed by Mayer-Lübke (1895)), states
that the origin of the inflected infinitive lies in the Vulgar Latin future
subjunctive, which arose in Portuguese as a conflation of Latin future
perfect (am?ver?) with Latin perfect subjunctive (am?verim). However,
according to Scida, the inflected infinitive shows a development from
the Latin present stem, and does not share syntactic environments
which the future subjunctive. Further evidence against this theory is
provided by Sardinian and Old Napolitan, which possess an inflected
infinitive, but no future subjunctive tense.

The Composite Theory combines the "Creative" and the Analogy
Theory, stating that personal endings were transferred to the infinitive
with nominative subject constructions in Portuguese due to formal
correspondences between the future subjunctive and the infinitive.

According to the Imperfect Subjunctive Theory, which is supported by
Scida, the existence of the Inflected Infinitive in several Romance
languages shows that it must have a Latin source. Three arguments
point to the Latin Imperfect Subjunctive as the source of the Inflected
Infinitive in modern Romance languages: The formation rules of
Portuguese Inflected Infinitive and Latin Imperfect Subjunctive are
identical (infinitive + verbal inflection), the imperfect subjunctive
survived in Early Romance and in modern Sardinian, and both forms
were semantically interchangeable after verbs of command and in
volitional and purpose clauses. Once the old imperfect subjunctive
was reanalyzed as an infinitive with verbal ending, it was introduced in
other contexts where infinitives normally occur, namely after

CHAPTER 5: The Imperfect Subjunctive in Latin
By comparing the forms, syntactic distribution and uses of the Latin
imperfect subjunctive and the Inflected Infinitive in Portuguese and
Galician, Scida gives further evidence for the Imperfect Subjunctive
Theory in this chapter. She points out that the origin of the Inflected
Infinitive lies in Latin purpose clauses: As the conjunction ut frequently
was omitted in complement clauses of purpose, expressions like iussit
( ut) facerent and iussit facere became semantically equivalent, and
the subjunctive imperfect could easily be reanalyzed as an infinitive
with personal ending. In addition, the author presents other possible
sources of the inflected infinitive such as complement clauses,
adverbial clauses and relative clauses, which have never been
considered in previous studies. As a conclusion, she outlines an
overall pattern of correspondence between the syntactic contexts of
Latin imperfect subjunctive and the inflected infinitive in Portuguese
and Galician. In the appendix, the chapter offers a list of examples
illustrating the environments available to the Latin, Portuguese and
Latin forms.

CHAPTER 6: Distribution of the Inflected Infinitive in the Romance
This chapter examines the manifestation of the inflected infinitive in
several lesser-known Romance languages, covering Sardinian, Old
Neapolitan and Old Leonese and Mirandese. It also describes the
reanalysis of other non-finite verb forms like gerunds and participle in
these dialects.

CHAPTER 7: Conclusion
In the last chapter of the book, the author resumes her main
arguments, drawing attention to two main points: First, all usages of
the inflected infinitive can be unified under one single rule in the
framework of Relational Grammar, namely that the inflected infinitive
must be the final predicate of its clause. Secondly, the origin of the
inflected infinitives in Portuguese and other Romance languages lies
in the Latin perfect subjunctive.


The principal merit of the book lies in Scida's unified account of the
distribution of the inflected infinitive (chapter 2). While the previous
works on the issue easily give the impression that there are no
dependable rules governing the occurrence of the inflected infinitive,
Scida's analysis shows that all usages can be put down to one single
and concise syntactic condition. What allows her to do so and what
actually makes the essential difference between previous approaches
and hers is the consistent application of a theoretical framework,
namely Relational Grammar, to the inflected infinitive. It is in the
explanation of the inflected infinitive within the framework of Relational
Grammar that the most important and innovative idea of the book lies.
As Scida's analysis correctly and accurately describes the distribution
of this form in all environments listed by other scholars, it constitutes
an important step forward in dealing with this controversial issue.

Nonetheless, her analysis concentrates exclusively on syntactic
constraints, disregarding possible semantic or pragmatic factors.
Although Scida admits that pragmatic factors may have a certain
influence, the inflected infinitive in general is presented as an optional
variant on the uninflected form. Further investigation would be
necessary to clarify this point.

Another positive element of the analytical part of the book is that the
text is very accessible. Also novice readers not familiar with the model
of Relational Grammar can easily understand the basic key concepts
and follow the line of reasoning.

The chapters 3 and 4 are quite useful as they provide a large amount
of information about the history and the current state of the discussion
on the inflected infinitive. The main research works regarding the
historical development of the inflected infinitive are presented in a very
clear way, by splitting them up in four main theories. However, this
part of the book remains largely descriptive, as it enumerates above
all the well-known pros and cons and therefore contributes only few
new ideas to the discussion. At the same time, the frequent
recurrence of the same arguments by different authors makes the
reading of these chapters somewhat repetitive.

Further problems emerge when one looks at the author's arguments
in favour of the Imperfect Subjunctive Theory in a more detailed way.
First of all, her argument that the existence of an inflected infinitive in
various Romance languages points to a common origin in Latin is
entirely convincing. In contrast to previous studies, she does not only
find one principal environment shared by the Latin and Romance
forms (namely, volitional clauses), but illustrates that there is a high
concurrence between certain Latin and Romance constructions also in
purpose, complement, adverbial and relative clauses. Her arguments
are persuasive in so far as she shows that the inflected infinitive can
express functions like purpose, volition, condition, time etc., which are
expressed by the subjunctive form in Latin and also in modern
Romance languages. However, to prove that the origin of the inflected
infinitive lies in the Latin subjunctive imperfect, it would be necessary
to establish a direct historical connection between the syntactic
environments available to the presumed Latin source and the modern
forms. In this context, Scida's argumentation contains several
questionable points.

While previous studies in general put down the inflected infinitive only
to volitional clauses of the type placuit (ut) traderet, Scida attempts to
give further evidence for the imperfect subjunctive theory by searching
other common environments for the Latin and Romance forms.
However, many of the constructions she discusses are semantically
equivalent, but not necessarily historically related. For example, she
confronts Latin ut-clauses with Portuguese and Galician constructions
which use the preposition para/pra, but does not explain why and how
modern Romance language reintroduced prepositions in these
contexts after the omission of Latin ut had brought into being the
inflected infinitive (see f.ex. Caesar equos removit tu spem fugae
tolleret vs. O número dos companheiros de Pelágio aumentava
diáriamente com os homens generosos que ... deixavam êste, para
salvarem a sua independência, p. 115.) As prepositional constructions
are typical environments for infinitives in all modern Romance
languages, this usage rather supports the Analogy Theory.

The lack of historical continuity between the presumed source and
target forms becomes very clear when Scida compares Latin relative
clauses of the type tibi litteram mittit quam legas with modern
Portuguese expressions like achei um livro para lermos (p. 122):
semantically, both the Latin relative clause and the Portuguese
infinitive construction can be used to express purpose, but from a
syntactic point of view, the environments of Latin subjunctive legas
and Portuguese inflected infinitive lermos are not related. The same
applies for examples like hi libri sunt digni qui legantur and Leonor! tu
eras digna de sêres filha de meu implacável pai! (p. 123), where the
Latin relative clause and the Portuguese infinitive construction are
used to characterize indefinite or general antecedents. Actually, the
direct correspondence to the Latin relative construction is the
Portuguese relative clause with que, which can be used with a
subjunctive form, but just doesn't allow an infinitive construction. As
the examples cited by Scida as further evidence for the subject
imperfect theory are rather weak, her discussion of the origin of the
inflected infinitive does not really go beyond previous works.

By focusing her study on the imperfect subjunctive theory, Scida
passes over the discussion of some interesting phenomena which
point to the Analogy theory, as the coexistence of the inflected
infinitive and the old subjunctive imperfect forms in Sardinian, the
transfer of Sardinian first person singular ending –po from frequently
used verbs (appo 'I have', fippo 'I was') to the inflected infinitive, and
the existence of inflected gerunds and participles in some Romance

Given that works on the inflected infinitive are rather sparse, this book
constitutes a valuable work and an excellent overview about the most
important theories regarding the conditions on its use as well as its
historical development. The theoretical explanation of the syntactic
constrains on the inflected infinitive are very interesting, persuasive
and original. However, only a careful examination of the common
environments available to the Latin and Romance forms through the
centuries, based on old texts as far as possible, could clarify the origin
and historical development of the inflected infinitive.


Silke Jansen received her Ph.D. in Romance Linguistics from the
University of Münster (Germany). She is currently a lecturer for
Romance linguistics at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg
(Germany). Her teaching and research interests include semantics,
languages in contact and historical linguistics of the Romance

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 0415971063
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 160
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