The aim of this paper is to take a position in an ongoing debate over the direction of the derivation in the causative alternation. Since the solutions offered by synchronic linguistics carry with them certain problems, the research presented here accounts for the issue from the diachronic perspective, thus combining methods of corpus and theoretical linguistics. The results obtained from the quantitative analysis of the frequency of occurence of two Old English ‘change of state’ verbs in transitive and intransitive structures seem to support the detransitivization claim for at least one of the verbs. The qualitative study of the nature of the Old English causative alternation, in turn, indicates two different patterns according to which ‘change of state’ verbs may have alternated in the past. On the basis of this observation, the paper suggests a hypothesis about the temporal and directional diversification among the members of the group of ‘change of state’ verbs. This initial hypothesis offers solutions to certain problems for synchronic approaches to the direction of the derivation in the causative alternation.