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CHAPTER I.

Introduction.

I. The subject of this inquiry has hitherto received but little attention from students of English Ilistorical Syntax. Koch (//is/ Gramm. § 109) and Matzner (Hist. Gramm. II, p. 198 ff.) content themselves with giving a list of verbs impersonal in M.E. but personal in Mod. E., and with adducing a few instances, while the information supplied by Mason {Eng. Gr. §§ 247, 3S2 note. 496) is still scantier. The statements made hy Einenkel (Streifziige, p. 111—116) and Kellner (Introd. to Blanchardyn $ 17) are based upon too few data for their conclusions to be of great value to English Ilistorical Syntax generally; moreover, their results cannot always be accepted without a certain amount of reserve, as I shall have opportunities of showing later on. None of the above investigators have attempted to account for the changes stated by them. This has been done by Jespersen in his excellent work Pro gr e ss in L anguage (§§ 173—180) but the quantity of materials he makes use of is altogether insufficiënt, and an adequate treatment of such a comprehensive subject cannot be condensed into ten small pages printed in rather large type. In questions like the one I propose dealing with, reliable results can only be obtained from an examination of a large number of texts, representing the various dialects and stages of development of Middle'Ênglish.

2. It is usual to caH the. verbs and phrases treated in the following pages, impersjonal, because the word it, which often precedes them. is 'a purely grammatical empty subject-word" (Sweet, New Eng. Gr. ij 257). Most of them, hovvever, can also have other subjects than it; they can be used as personal verbs. From a logical point of view ' subjectless'sentences are, of course, an impossibilty (Paul, Princ. d. Sprachgesch. Cap. \ I), and from a grammatical point of view the question wheVan der Gaaf, Transition. 1

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