On the Use of the Split Infinitive in the Asian Varieties of English

Javier Calle-Martín, Jesús Romero-Barranco


A split infinitive consists of a particular type of syntactic tmesis in which a word or phrase, especially an adverb, occurs between the infinitive marker to and the verb. The earliest instances of the split infinitive in English date back to the 13th century, in which a personal pronoun, an adverb or two or more words could appear in such environments (Visser 1963-1973, II: 1038-1045). Even though its use dropped throughout the 16th and the 17th centuries, it began to gain ground again from the 18th century, resisting the severe criticisms of grammarians from the first half of the 19th century (Calle-Martín and Miranda-García 2009: 347-364; Perales-Escudero 2011: 316-319).

Given the historical concerns about the construction, this paper analyses the attitudes towards the split infinitive in the Asian varieties of English, taking the British English practice as a point of departure. The paper has then been conceived with the following objectives: a) to compare the distribution of the construction in British English and some varieties of Asian Englishes; and b) to explore the phenomenon from a variationist perspective, considering any likely variation across speech and writing and across the spoken and written registers. The corpus used as a source of evidence is the International Corpus of English, both the British English and the Asian English components (i.e. India, Hong Kong, Singapore and The Philippines).


Asian English; British English; register variation; split intinitive

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