The English Split Infinitive across Genres

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The English split infinitive has been prominent among linguistic topics of scholarly debate for more than a century. While prescriptivists tend not to accept this grammatical structure, labeling it as a non-standard form, modern L1-English speakers often ignore this old-fashioned Latin-based rule. This corpus-based study investigated split infinitives occurring in the eight different genres of the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), focusing on single-adverb splitters and categorizing split infinitives according to the functions they serve. The results indicate that infinitive splitting is the most common in two new related web-based genres of COCA, i.e. blogs and webpages, which implies the high degree of informality associated with both text types. It was also discovered that to better understand was the most frequent in blogs, webpages, and academic texts. The principal function of split infinitives in blogs and webpages is to mark a relationship with other possible circumstances, while those of academic texts and spoken language are to modify a gradable verb and to mark completion respectively.

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