Published online by Cambridge University Press: 19 October 2009
The present article discusses the development of adverbial -ing clauses, so-called ‘converb clauses’, in English. We argue that Middle English does not have a category of truly subordinate adverbial clauses in -ing, but that such clauses have developed on the basis of semi-coordinate -ing clauses denoting an accompanying circumstance or exemplification/specification. In the course of the Middle English period, such clauses began to be reinterpreted as clauses expressing adverbial relations such as time, condition, cause, purpose, etc. Another likely source of converb clauses is participial relative clauses. We see the development of converb clauses as an instance of grammaticalization, as it involves the development of a grammatical means of expressing a rhetorical function, viz. the ‘Nucleus-Satellite’ relation (Mathiessen & Thompson 1988). This grammaticalization process also involves subjectification, given that the source constructions are propositional, while time and cause clauses have textual and expressive functions/meanings. The grammaticalization process was probably also fed by other participial structures – notably the progressive and the gerund, which were being grammaticalized at the same time – and also nonclausal adverbial structures.