English Language and Linguistics vol:19 pages:131-156
This paper develops a functional classification of the different uses of English premodifying present participles and applies it to historical corpus data to show that premodifying present participles underwent functional change. Three core functions are distinguished: identifying uses (e.g. the following evening); type-oriented uses (e.g. a talking dog) and situation-oriented uses (e.g. a passing car). Historically, the use of premodifying present participles shifted from predominantly identifying and type-oriented uses, to predominantly situation-oriented uses, particularly in narrative discourse. This means that premodifying present participles have come to fulfil a function that is less typical of noun-phrase-internal modification, instead being increasingly used to denote backgrounded situations that are temporally aligned to the situation evoked by their main clause. The shift can be interpreted as an instance of functional clausalization.