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  • Betrifft

    Split infinitives

    I had a bit of a butcher's in the search function, but couldn't find anything relevant dealing solely with this subject. So I decided to start a new thread.

    With regard to split infinitives in general, here's a helpful contribution:


    The reason why this has aroused my interest is that from time to time on this or that thread, some über-pedantic twunt rocks up wagging an admonitary (cyber) finger and haughtily claiming that infinitives should never be split. So my simple question is: why not?

    My second question (or request, if you prefer) is: can anyone present an actual real-life case in which a split infinitive has led to a complete misunderstanding in a phrase or sentence?

    In your own time, folks:-)
    Verfasser Bugay (596103) 27 Aug. 10, 21:58
    As a translator writing on behalf of other people, people who want their documents to make a good impression but are unable to judge themselves whether they do or not, I choose to avoid the split infinitive for the reason given at the bottom of this helpful article: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/page/147

    Can anyone present an actual real-life case in which someone on Leo has haughtily claimed that infinitives should never be split?
    #1Verfasser CM2DD (236324) 27 Aug. 10, 22:20
    (Sorry, completely OT and not helpful, but you've just taught me a new insult: twunt. Much appreciated (-; )
    #2Verfasser Gibson (418762) 27 Aug. 10, 22:21
    I call no fair on the rhyming slang, first off. (It's a look, to those similarly afflicted, from "butcher's hook.")

    Here's Chicago (15th), 5.106: Split infinitive. Although from about 1850 to 1925 many grammarians stated otherwise, it is now widely acknowledged that adverbs sometimes justifiably separate the to from the principal verb {they expect to more than double their income next year}. See 5.160.

    5.160: Adverb within verb phrase. (...) and sometimes it is perfectly appropriate to split an infinitive verb with an adverb to add emphasis or to produce a natural sound. See 5.106. A verb's infinitive or to form is split when an intervening word immediately follows to {to bravely assert}. If the adverb bears the emphasis in a phrase {to boldly go} {to strongly favor}, then leave the split infinitive alone. But if moving the adverb to the end of the phrase doesn't suggest a different meaning or impair the sound, then it is an acceptable way to avoid splitting the verb. Recasting a sentence just to eliminate a split inifinitive or avoid splitting the infinitive can alter the nuance or meaning: for example, it's best to always get up early (always modifies get up) is not quite the same as it's always best to get up early (always modifies best). Or an unnatural phrasing can result: it's best to get up early always.

    (Tippfehler vorbehalten.)

    To me, it's pretty much a nonissue. My understanding is that it arose from a now discredited tendency to view English through the lens of the supposedly superior Latin. It's an easy rule for pedants of all stripes to recall, and for some reason it's especially tenacious.

    Is the above sufficient ammo for countering finger-waggers, or do you want to hear from Fowler on it, too?
    #3VerfasserKatydid (US) (694445) 27 Aug. 10, 22:23
    Oh, right, CM2DD, that's a good point. Because a split infinitive is widely (if not always justifiably) perceived as wrong, I'm very conservative about split infinitives, too. Always depends on the audience.
    #4VerfasserKatydid (US) (694445) 27 Aug. 10, 22:27
    This article has an explanation of the Latin reasoning, some acerbic comments by Bill Bryson and the full (original) Fowler tirade: http://www-users.cs.york.ac.uk/susan/cyc/s/sp...
    #5Verfasser CM2DD (236324) 27 Aug. 10, 22:27
    Chicago has been quoted, here's one from the Associated Press Stylebook: "Occasionally a split is ... necessary to convey meaning: He wanted to really help his mother. Those who lie are often found out."

    Strunk and White's The Elements of Style: "Some infinitives seem to improve on being split, just as a stick of round stovewood does. I cannot bring myself to really like the fellow."

    The closing quote comes from June Casagrande's Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies: "Avoid splitting your infinitives when possible, but split away when it sounds better to you. And if some windbag ever tells you that the famous Star Trek opening is grammatically incorrect, you can tell him to boldly blow it out his transporter."
    #6Verfasser Carullus (670120) 27 Aug. 10, 22:53
    A particularly long and thorough discussion can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Split_infinitive

    Perhaps we should all endeavor "to boldly split infinitives that no man had split before." -- Douglas Adams The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
    #7Verfasser Agalinis (714472) 28 Aug. 10, 04:19
    To truly enjoy a split infinitive is to finally let go.
    #8Verfasseropine (680211) 28 Aug. 10, 05:26
    The very fact that this discussion exists -- and has existed for a very, very long time -- and that there exist many, many examples where avoiding the split infinitive wouldn't have the same oomph as using it (to wit, "to boldly go where no man has gone before") shows that this discussion has no redeeming value. All we can learn is who, in the language of the OP, are "twunts" and who let language be as it is.
    #9VerfasserLPF28 Aug. 10, 07:06
    I would be careful about using the t*** word.

    Anyhow, calling people names and then asking why they do what they do strikes me as pretty stupid.
    #10VerfasserXY28 Aug. 10, 12:47
    The Wikipedia article I cited in @7 has an extensive discussion of the various schools of argument against splitting and it names names. If you want a list:
    Anonymous author of an 1834 article in the New England Magazine
    Richard Taylor
    Henry Alford
    William B. Hodgson

    There is the descriptivist objection (Anonymous & Alford), the argument from the full infinitive (Alford again), and the argument from classical languages (that is cited frequently in discussions but no one can point to a specific author who originated the argument).
    #11Verfasser Agalinis (714472) 28 Aug. 10, 14:51
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