Date: Tue, 13 Feb 1996 20:39:08 -0500

From: Jeutonne Brewer brewerj[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]NR.INFI.NET

Subject: split infinitive

As I remember, the prescriptive rule about the split infinitive, like the

rule about double negatives and the rule proclaiming "he" as the generic

pronoun, is part of a group of rules that were

essentially grammarians' proclamations about what English use should be.

The rules reflected the writers' preferences rather than stating a view

based on the study of the structure and history of English. 18th

century grammarians like Bishop Robert Lowth are best known for declaring

such rules as gospel. However, the grammar of Joseph Priestley shows that

there were also reasonable voices during that period.

The rule states that nothing may be placed between the infinitive "to" and

the bare verb form. "To not go" would thus be a split infinitive. Bare

infinitives aren't condemned because there is to "to" preceding the form.

The rule is based upon comparison with Latin, I think. Latin could not

have split infinitives because the ad- was part of the verb form. English

does things differently. As novelist Anthony Burgess wrote in his

interesting grammar, Language Made Plain, prescriptive grammarians have

often spanked the bottom of English because it was not Latin.

I can provide a reference for a split infinitive discussion, but the

information is at the office and I don't have it at hand.

By the way, the ADS volume, Centennial Usage Studies, has several

articles on handbooks, glossaries, dictionaries, etc. I think it

is a good text for classroom use.


* jpbrewer[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] *

* Jeutonne P. Brewer *

* Department of English *

* University of North Carolina at Greensboro *

* Greensboro, NC 17412 *

* brewerj[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] *

* brewerj[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] *

* brewerj[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] *