Hebben/zijn, haber/ser

I am forgotten the newspaper, and it has forgotten me.

De Standaard’s language blog notes the trend in Dutch to use constructions like “I am forgotten the newspaper” instead of the standard issue “I have forgotten the newspaper.” This all sounds most peculiar to English, Romance, and an auditorium of other ears until one learns that in standard Dutch “have” is used as auxiliary for “forget” when one is talking about something that is out of sight (“I’ve forgotten the paper”) while “be” is called for when referring to something that is out of one’s mind (“I’ve forgotten the name of that Five Keys ballad”). (Here, since you ask, are general rules for the present perfect.)

Peculiar, but then one starts thinking of similar, more generalised shifts in other languages. Take por ejemplo the lurch from “be” to “have” as auxiliary with intransitives in Renaissance Iberian writing. Here’s the hit chart for a couple of examples from the RAE corpus:

century 12th 13th 14th 15th 16th 17th 18th 19th 20th
son idos (“are gone”) 0 1 2 5 27 8 0 8 3
han ido (“have gone”) 0 0 0 5 178 265 155 436 692
son entrados (“are entered”) 0 2 2 7 7 1 0 0 2
han entrado (“have entered”) 0 0 0 26 122 155 42 131 136

The light, 19th century revival of the ser variant (after the enlightened had calmed down a bit) seems to have been exclusively due to a wish to write in an archaic or countrified fashion. I’d be interested to know why this morphosyntactic change took place in and around the 16th century, when written Castilian had settled down phonetically and, to a degree, lexically in the 13th.

But that’s enough: I’m gone to Carolina bed.

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