In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Inflected Infinitives

  • Introduction
  • The Origin of the Inflected Infinitive
  • The Inflected Infinitive from a Cross-Linguistic Perspective
  • The Acquisition of the Inflected Infinitive
  • Inflected Infinitive versus Infinitive with Overt Subject

Linguistics Inflected Infinitives
Marlies Jansegers
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 May 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0216


Traditionally, the infinitive has been characterized by its defective morphology within the verbal paradigm: just like the gerund and the participle, it is usually associated with the feature of non-finiteness, which is reflected in its lack of tense/mood/aspect and person/number markers. However, in some cases, this characterization is in conflict with the existence of some infinitival constructions that involve inflection for person and number. This phenomenon has been captured by a variety of terms, such as “the personal infinitive,” “the conjugated infinitive,” or “the inflected infinitive.” This article uses the term “inflected infinitive” because it is the most transparent and the most widespread one among the current body of studies. The quintessential example of the inflected infinitive is the Portuguese one. However, one also finds the inflected infinitive in other Romance languages such as Galician, Mirandese, and some dialects of Sardinian. Furthermore, it is also attested in Old Neapolitan (from the 13th through the late 16th centuries) and Old Leonese. Outside the realm of Romance languages, the inflected infinitive is present in languages as diverse as Hungarian and Welsh, which illustrates that the phenomenon is not limited to the Romance or even Indo-European language family. Research on the (Portuguese) inflected infinitive dates back to the 19th century and has been a major source of linguistic debate from different points of view. Apart from the hybrid categorical status of the inflected infinitive between finite and infinite verb forms, an important source of discussion relates to the origin of the inflected infinitive. Several competing theories have emerged: whereas some scholars posit a Latin origin, others argue in favor of a spontaneous Luso-Romance development. Another recurring issue is the alternation with the non-inflected infinitive. Earlier studies on the topic were both prescriptive and descriptive in nature, allowing for variation in usage of both infinitival forms. Later, the Chomskyan revolution heralded a formalistic approach to describe the variation on the basis of formal transformation rules. More recently, the infinitive alternation has also been described from a cognitive point of view, where the choice between both forms is supposed to reflect different underlying cognitive schemas.

General Overviews

This section provides information on resources that give general descriptions of the inflected infinitive such as Monographs, Grammars, and Textbooks.

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