The aim of this project is to investigate the evolution of the gerund and the present participle from Late Latin to Medieval French. As a result of phonetic evolutions these two forms have merged in Old French. The project aims to study the constructional changes triggered by this merging.
In Classical Latin the gerund and the present participle are two distinct forms with respect to their morphology (–nd– /versus/ –ns– or –nt–), their morphosyntactic categorization (verbal noun that substitutes the infinitive in the oblique case /versus/ verbal adjective) and their semantic function (mainly instrumental function /versus/ expressing the circumstances that accompany the action expressed by the governing verb).
In Late Latin the gerund loses ever more its instrumental function. As a result of this evolution, it started to express what the present participle expresses prototypically, viz. the circumstances that accompany the action expressed by the governing verb. Hence, Late Latin has two forms for one semantic function.
In Old French, as a result of phonetic evolutions, the gerund and the present participle merged morphologically (cf. the –ant ending). Therefore the question arises to what extent it is possible to distinguish between the gerund and the present participle as two separate categories, as in contemporary French, where the morpheme en marks the gerund in contrast to the present participle.
By studying the opposition between the gerund and the present participle in Late Latin, this project aims to shed new light on our understanding of the confused situation in Old and Medieval French.