Date: Tue, 13 Feb 1996 16:51:20 -0700
From: Rudy Troike RTROIKE[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]CCIT.ARIZONA.EDU
Subject: To boldly split an infinitive or not
My understanding of the prohibition against "splitting an infinitive" is
that it was enjoined by Dryden, the "father of modern English prose", on
the grounds that French, whose speakers the English abjectly envied and
sought to emulate in order to become "civilized", did not do it, so English
should likewise do so if it were to be a civilized language. However, I
don't have the reference for this. Prescriptive grammarians have always loved
to have "rules" they could enforce on the lower orders of society, and this
is one that has long appealed to them.
My assumption is that the to is taken as the sole "marker" of the
infinitive, so that without it, as in the "bare infinitive" construction
Sali mentioned, there would be nothing to split, and thus nothing to prohibit.
It was Fowler, I believe, who divided the world into those who knew
what a split infinitive was, and avoided it, those who did not know what a
split infinitive was, and did not care, and those who knew, and discriminated
in whether to split or not.
--Rudy Troike (rtroike[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]ccit.arizona.edu)