Cyclic Selection. Auxiliaries are merged, not inserted.
Asia Pietraszko
June 2021

Traditional approaches to verbal periphrasis (compound tenses) treat auxiliary verbs as lexical items that enter syntactic derivation like any other lexical item, i.e. via Selection/Merge. An alternative view that has received much attention in recent years is that auxiliary verbs are not base-generated but rather inserted in a previously built structure (i.a. Bach 1967; Embick 2000; Arregi 2000; Cowper 2010; Bjorkman 2011; Arregi & Klecha 2015). Arguments for the insertion approach to auxiliaries include their last-resort distribution and the fact that, in many languages, auxiliaries are not systematically associated with a given inflectional category (the "overflow" distribution discussed in Bjorkman 2011). In this paper, I argue against the insertion approach. First, I demonstrate that the overflow pattern and last-resort distribution follow from Cyclic Selection (Pietraszko 2017) – a Merge-counterpart of Cyclic Agree (Béjar & Rezac 2009). And second, I show that the insertion approach makes wrong predictions about compound tenses in Swahili, a language with overflow periphrasis. Under the approach advocated here, 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.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/005194
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: to appear in Linguistic Inquiry
keywords: selection, cyclicity, auxiliaries, compound tenses, swahili, head movement, morphology, syntax
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