(urth) OT: split infinitive

James Wynn crushtv at gmail.com
Thu Jul 30 22:43:26 PDT 2009

>To wrench this back on topic, does Mr. Wolfe ever split
>infinitives?  Do his characters?  After all the work I've
>done on the Wikipedia article, you'd think I'd have noticed,
>but I haven't.

Interesting. After a quick scan of a variety of his books, I think he does 
it very rarely if at all. He seems to use far fewer infinitives than I do 
and seems to avoid the inclination to split them by eschewing adverbs. I 
expected Severian, at least, to split a lot of them. That's an interesting 
stylistic signature I hadn't noticed. If someone could do a full search of 
some of his works for the word "to", we could know whether this really is an 
emphatic rule that he follows.

>>...were generally arguments
>> against supposed modernism
>>(Realist literature and the like).
> I missed the modernism part.

I can't remember the sources but they included references to splitting the 
infinitive "the way some do nowadays" or something like that. That sounded 
to me like shaking your fist at "those unruly kids". And now that you've 
pointed out that list of books in the wiki that split/don't split, I note 
that the splitters listed are Realists. I'm surprised that Spenser is not a 
splitter, though.

>I don't know--is an objective reason that makes no sense
>better than no objective reason?

It makes sense. It's just that his reasons come apart when you pick at them 
a little. I think my explanation is better, but I have the benefit of his 

>> I wonder whether Opdycke was not on to something though. [reorder]
>> If one is reading a lot of literature
>> closely translated from Latin or Romance languages, rather
>> than vernacular literature, you might not run into many
>> split infinitives.
>>I can't think of an instance where the infinitive is split in
>> the King James Bible.

> You have a good memory.  According to /American Heritage
> Book of English Usage (quoted at the Wikip article), the
> KJV has no split infinitives.

I didn't really *remember* it, beyond that there weren't any in the passages 
I could quote from memory. I thought of the Latin translation connection 
first and then did a word search for "to" in John, Romans, Ephesians, 
Proverbs, Psalms and I Samuel--the books I most expected to find splitting 
if it existed. If I'd examined the full wiki article rather than the poking 
in the notes section only, I guess I could have saved myself the trouble.

>>Think of the wordy feel of the personal
>>letters of 18th-19th centuries. There seems to have been
>>little drive toward the ordinary concisiveness of casual
>>speech[snip]. Isn't it possible that split the infinitive
>>rule was derived from writing patterns influenced by English
>>works translated from other languages? So, indirectly,
>>Opdycke might have put his finger on the root of the rule.
> Sure, it's possible, and many experts have said so.  But I'd
> like to see some evidence.
Has an expert really said exactly that? That the *inclination* not to split 
in 18th-19th century English was due to reading mostly Great Books that were 
translated from Latin?
The 19th century sources don't seem to give a reason at all beyond common 
usage. If one of their peers *did*, not many seem to have been aware of it. 
That's a kind of evidence.


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