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[a] It makes the tree grow. [b] I never heard him speak.

I’m wondering why causative and sense verbs (make, hear) license bare infinitives for their complement, instead of taking to infinitives? What semantic difference is there between bare and to infinitives?

I glimpse a clue that this adjective complement is “more immediately or directly visible (CGEL,p.263)” in ‘she looked happy’ than in ‘she looked to be happy’; to infinitives have meaning of modality, change, and potentiality (CGEL, pp.174, 1242, 1243). And I guess those verbs would take bare infinitives to denote concurrence of matrices and complements' actions. But I’ve not found any accounts of this. Why do they license bare infinitives?

(I've read the difference between their taking infinitive and gerund, in ELL and CGEL (p.1236-7): the verbs have the "whole event" of the infinitives and "a segment of" the gerund.)

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    This is interesting. I've searched and found a chapter in this book Pathways of Change: Grammaticalization in English, "Onginnan/beginnan with bare and to-infitive in AElfric". Possibly related. – Damkerng T. Jan 4 '14 at 14:36
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    I believe that you can find a clear and thorough answer here: english.stackexchange.com/a/114389/11482. – Damkerng T. Jan 4 '14 at 16:12
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    It's not a simple question, and there may not be any single reason why they license bare infinitives. However, verbs that take bare infinitives include causatives, inchoatives, modals, and sense verbs, at least, and all of these are to a certain extent grammaticalized. I.e, they, as verbs, are bleached of semantic coloring, and represent general rather than specific phemonena; and, in addition, they are party to literally thousands of idioms, frozen forms, irregularities, syntactic constructions, and other grammatical phenomena that are not semantic so much as syntactic. – John Lawler Jan 4 '14 at 16:47
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    A pattern emerges. Probably part of the Grammaticalization Cycle is drawing morphs closer together when they're in construction together, and part of that requires they be shorn of unneeded auxiliaries and markers. Note, for instance, that the for of the for...to infinitive complementizer is regularly dispensed with with Raising, and is required only when the infinitive begins a sentence (For me to leave now/*Me to leave now would be a bad idea). – John Lawler Jan 4 '14 at 16:54
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It was not always thus...see the following http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Psalms-23-2/

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In comments, John Lawler wrote:

It's not a simple question, and there may not be any single reason why they license bare infinitives. However, verbs that take bare infinitives include causatives, inchoatives, modals, and sense verbs, at least, and all of these are to a certain extent grammaticalized. I.e, they, as verbs, are bleached of semantic coloring, and represent general rather than specific phemonena; and, in addition, they are party to literally thousands of idioms, frozen forms, irregularities, syntactic constructions, and other grammatical phenomena that are not semantic so much as syntactic.

A pattern emerges. Probably part of the Grammaticalization Cycle is drawing morphs closer together when they're in construction together, and part of that requires they be shorn of unneeded auxiliaries and markers. Note, for instance, that the for of the for...to infinitive complementizer is regularly dispensed with with Raising, and is required only when the infinitive begins a sentence (For me to leave now/*Me to leave now would be a bad idea).

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