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  • 1 Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Thessaloniki Greece
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This paper examines the historical development of null objects (e.g., *He took the loaf and held Ø between his hands) and cognate objects (e.g., He sang a song) in English. We will demonstrate that English lost definite/referential (and indefinite) null objects (only generic null objects are possible in present-day English, e.g., They have the ability to impress and delight Ø) but extended the range of cognate objects (which is now also possible with activity/event nouns, e.g., He smiled a disarming smile). Cross-linguistic diachronic comparison (using data from the history of the Greek language) reveals that the historical development described is language-specific and that both directions of change (loss or rise) of null and cognate objects are possible. We will test the hypothesis that there is a connection between the availability of such (de)transitivization processes and changes that affect the syntactic representation of aspectual distinctions. More precisely, we will examine the hypothesis that in English, both the loss of definite null objects and the rise of cognate objects with activity/event nouns are linked to the grammaticalization of the viewpoint (progressive) aspect (be + V + ing). We will show that the grammaticalization of the viewpoint aspect in English has not affected the development and loss of null object constructions. However, the grammaticalization of the viewpoint aspect appears to have progressed in parallel with activity/event-noun cognate objects.

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