Mark Liberman at the Log discusses Merja Kytö’s “Be/have + past participle: The choice of the auxiliary with intransitives from Late Middle to Modern English,” which “explains very clearly how English changed from be to have as the marker of perfect aspect in intransitive verbs. … Based on tracking the use of be/have + past participle in a corpus of about 2.7 million words spanning the period from 1350 to 1990, Kytö demonstrates that ‘in the late Middle English period, the use of have increases gradually, gains in momentum in the late 1700s and supersedes the use of be in the early 1800s’.” Mark says:
What puzzles me is why this process seems to have escaped the notice of prescriptive grammarians. Here’s a change that ‘[gained] in momentum in the late 1700s’, just when the likes of Robert Lowth and Lindley Murray were in bloom. Did anyone stand up against the rising tide of have for marking the perfect in intransitives? If so, their delaying action was ineffective and quickly forgotten.
Which is a good question, and I hope one of the people who froth about misused apostrophes will take up the cudgels for a return to the good old King James way of “the king of Israel is come out to seek a flea.” At any rate, it’s nice to have the chronology pinned down; I’m all for more facts and less hand-waving when it comes to talking about language.