Information Structure and Syntactic Change pages:199-227
This article investigates the role of the accessibility of subjects in the development of adjectival complement constructions, such as it is important to honour those who have done honour to us (CB). Throughout history, these mandative constructions have patterned with both that- and to-complements, whose distribution changed over time. It is shown that, from the rise of the to-clauses at the expense of the that-clauses in Middle English onwards, these two types of complement start to differ in terms of accessibility, with to-clauses attracting subjects with more accessible subjects. Accessibility of subjects may therefore have promoted the rise of the to-infinitive. However, this general trend is strongly reversed in the Modern English period, for which constructional, informational and stylistic factors are invoked.