Traditional approaches to verbal periphrasis (compound tenses) treat auxiliary verbs as lexical items that enter syntactic derivation like any other lexical item, via Selection/Merge. An alternative view is that auxiliary verbs are inserted into a previously built structure (e.g., Bach 1967, Arregi 2000, Embick 2000, Cowper 2010, Bjorkman 2011, Arregi and Klecha 2015). Arguments for the insertion approach include auxiliaries’ last-resort distribution and the fact that, in many languages, auxiliaries are not systematically associated with a given inflectional category (Bjorkman’s (2011) “overflow” distribution). Here, I argue against the insertion approach. I demonstrate that the overflow pattern and last-resort distribution follow from Cyclic Selection (Pietraszko 2017)—a Merge counterpart of Cyclic Agree (Béjar and Rezac 2009). I also show that the insertion approach makes wrong predictions about compound tenses in Swahili, a language with overflow periphrasis. Under my approach, an auxiliary verb is a verbal head externally merged as a specifier of a functional head, such as T. It then undergoes m-merger with that head, instantiating an External-Merge version of Matushansky’s (2006) conception of head movement.
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March 21 2023
Cyclic Selection: Auxiliaries Are Merged, Not Inserted
In Special Collection: CogNet
Online ISSN: 1530-9150
Print ISSN: 0024-3892
© 2021 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Linguistic Inquiry (2023) 54 (2): 350–377.
Asia Pietraszko; Cyclic Selection: Auxiliaries Are Merged, Not Inserted. Linguistic Inquiry 2023; 54 (2): 350–377. doi: https://doi.org/10.1162/ling_a_00439
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