Research in Language


The present paper traces the history of four selected adverbs with the prefix be- in Middle English. Already in Old English behind, beneath, between and betwixt are attested to function as both adverbs and prepositions, which demonstrates that the process of grammaticalisation accounting for the development of prepositions from adverbs started before that period. The focus of the study are the diachronic changes of the degree of grammaticalisation of the examined lexemes in the Middle English period as demonstrated by the ratio of their use with a respective function in the most natural context. Hence, specially selected Middle English prose texts are analysed. The analysis shows that while behind and beneath are still frequently used as adverbs in the whole Middle English period, between and betwixt are predominantly used as prepositions already in Early Middle English. This clearly demonstrates that the degree of grammaticalisation of the latter two Middle English words was much higher than that of behind and beneath.


adverb, grammaticalisation, Middle English, preposition


ARCHER = A Representative Corpus of Historical English Registers. 1992-1993. Douglas Biber and Edward Finegan (compilers). Manchester: University of Manchester.

DOE = Dictionary of Old English. 2016. Angus Cameron, Ashley Crandell Amos, Antonette diPaolo Healey et al. (eds.), Dictionary of Old English: A to H online. Toronto: University of Toronto.

DOEC = Dictionary of Old English Corpus. [1981] 2009. Antonette diPaolo Healey with John Price Wilkin and Xin Xiang (compilers), The Dictionary of Old English Corpus Web Corpus, Tei-P5 Conformant Version. Toronto: University of Toronto Center for Medieval Studies DOE Project.

eLALME = An Electronic Version of A Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English (version 1.0). 2013- Michael Benskin, Margaret Laing, Vasilis Karaiskos and Keith Williamson. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh. Available from: [Accessed: 14th June 2017]

HC = Helsinki Corpus of English Texts. 1991. Matti Rissanen, Merja Kytö, Leena Kahlas-Tarkka, Matti Kilpiö, Saara Nevanlinna, Irma Taavitsainen, Terttu Nevalainen and Helena Raumolin-Brunberg (compilers). Helsinki: Department of Modern Languages, University of Helsinki.

IC = Innsbruck Corpus of Middle English Prose (CD-ROM version 2.4.). 2010. Manfred Markus (compiler). Innsbruck: University of Innsbruck.

LAEME = A Linguistic Atlas of Early Middle English, 1150-1325 (version 2.1). 2008- . Margaret Laing (compiler). Electronic text corpus with accompanying software, index of sources and theoretical introduction (with Roger Lass). Edinburgh: The University of Edinburgh. Available from: [Accessed: 14th June 2017]

LALME = A Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English. 1986. Angus McIntosh et al. (eds.). A Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English. 4 vols. Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press.

MED = Middle English Dictionary. 1952-2002. Hans Kurath, Sherman M. Kuhn and Robert E. Lewis (eds.). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press; London and Oxford: Oxford University Press. Available from: [Accessed: 14th June 2017]

MEC = Middle English Compendium: The Middle English Dictionary, A Hyper Bibliography of Middle English Prose and Verse, a Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse. 2001- . Frances McSparran (University of Michigan) (compiler). Humanities Text Initiative. Available from: [Accessed: 14th June 2017]

OED = Oxford English Dictionary (first published as A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles). 1884- . James A. H. Murray, Henry Bradley, William A. Craigie, and Charles T. Onions (eds.). Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1884-1928. Supplement, Robert W. Burchfield (ed.), 1972-1986. 2nd ed., J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner (eds.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989. 3rd edition in progress, 2000- . Available from: [Accessed: 14th June 2017]

Ciszek-Kiliszewska, Ewa. 2014. Middle English preposition twēn(e), Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 49(3). 91-111.

Ciszek-Kiliszewska, Ewa. 2017a. Dynamics of use of Middle English bitwix(en). In Andrzej Łęcki, Jerzy Nykiel and Ireneusz Kida (eds.) Current Developments in English Historical Linguistics: Studies in Honour of Rafał Molencki. Katowice: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Śląskiego. 214-226.

Ciszek-Kiliszewska, Ewa. 2017b. Middle English prepositions and adverbs with the prefix be- in prose texts: A study in their semantics, dialectology and frequency. Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa and Wien: Peter Lang.

Esquibel, Joanna and Wojtyś, Anna. 2012. Devil aka Satan: An enemy or fiend? On the rivalry between the familiar and the foreign in early English, Token: A Journal of English Linguistics 1. 97-113.

Hopper, Paul and Elizabeth Closs Traugott. 2003. Grammaticalization. (2nd edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hotta, Ryuichi. 2014. Betwixt and between: The ebb and flow of their historical variants. Journal of the Faculty of Letters: Language, Literature and Culture. 2014. 17-36.

Iglesias-Rábade, Luis. 2011. Semantic erosion of Middle English prepositions. Frankfurt/Main: Peter Lang.

Kahlas-Tarkka, Lena. 2010. Preposition + TIME (+THAT): Exploring Temporal Connectives in Early English. In Osamu Imahayashi, Yoshiyuki Nakao and Michiko Ogura (eds.), Aspects of the History of English Language and Literature: Selected Papers Read at SHELL 2009. Hiroshima: Peter Lang. 309-319.

Kitson, Peter. 1993. Geographical variation in Old English prepositions and the location of Ælfric’s and other literary dialects. English Studies 74: 1-50.

Kuryłowicz, Jerzy. 1965. The evolution of grammatical categories, Diogenes 51. 55-71.

Molencki, Rafał. 2003. The etymology and development of the conjunction as in Middle English, Linguistica Silesiana 24: 25-39.

Molencki, Rafał. 2005. On the syntactic and semantic development of after in medieval English. In Marcin Krygier and Liliana Sikorska (eds.), Naked wordes in Englissh. Medieval English Mirror 2. Frankfurt/Main: Peter Lang. 47-67.

Molencki, Rafał. 2007a. On the rise of the temporal preposition/conjunction before. In Marcin Krygier and Liliana Sikorska (eds.), To make his Englissh sweete upon his tonge. Medieval English Mirror 3. Frankfurt/Main: Peter Lang. 37-54.

Molencki, Rafał. 2007b. Rozwój diachroniczny before i after w języku angielskim [A diachronic evolution of before and after in English]. In Andrzej Łyda (ed.), Przestrzenie języka [Language spaces]. Katowice: Wyższa Szkoła Zarządzania Marketingowego i Języków Obcych. 10-24.

Molencki, Rafał. 2007c. The evolution of since in medieval English. In Ursula Lenker and Anneli Meurman-Solin (eds.), Connectives in the history of English. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 97-113.

Molencki, Rafał. 2008. The rise of because in Middle English, In Masachiyo Amano, Michiko Ogura and Masayuki Ohkado (eds.), Historical Englishes in varieties of texts and contexts. Frankfurt/Main: Peter Lang. 201-216.

Molencki, Rafał. 2011a. New prepositions and subordinating conjunctions of Romance origin in Middle English. In Jacek Fisiak and Magdalena Bator (eds.), Foreign influences on Medieval English (Studies in English Medieval Language and Literature 28). Frankfurt/Main: Peter Lang. 9-24.

Molencki, Rafał. 2011b. The evolution of forward in Mediaeval English, In Renate Bauer and Ulrike Krischke (eds.), More than words. English lexicography past and present. Frankfurt/Main and New York: Peter Lang. 225-244.

Molencki, Rafał. 2012. Casual conjunctions in Mediaeval English: A corpus-based study of grammaticalisation. Katowice: Uniwersytet Śląski.

Rissanen, Matti. 2000. Paths of loan-word grammaticalization: The case of according to. In Christiane Dalton-Puffer and Nikolaus Ritt (eds.), Words: Structure, meaning, function. A festschrift for Dieter Kastovsky. Berlin and New York: De Gruyter Mouton. 117-130.

Rissanen, Matti. 2004. Grammaticalization from side to side: On the development of beside(s). In Hans Lindkvist and Christian Mair (eds.), Corpus approaches to grammaticalization in English. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 151-170.

Rissanen, Matti. 2005. The development of till and until in English. In Jacek Fisiak and Hye-Kyung Kang (eds.), Recent trends in Medieval English language and literature in honour of Young-Bae Park. Vol. I. Seoul, Thaehaksa. 75-92.

Rissanen, Matti. 2007. From oþ to till: Early loss of an adverbial subordinator. In Ursula Lenker and Anneli Meurman-Solin (eds.), Connectives in the history of English. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 61-75.

Wełna, Jerzy. 2013. The regional aspects of the distribution of nouns in -ling in Middle English. In Jacek Fisiak and Magdalena Bator (eds.), Historical English Word Formation and Semantics. (Warsaw Studies in English Language and Literature). Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang Verlag. 489-501.

Wełna, Jerzy. 2015. In search of the missing link, or how OE macode became ModE made. In Brian Lowrey and Fabienne Toupin (eds.), Studies in linguistic variation and change: from Old to Middle English. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. 90-105.

First Page


Last Page