Verbal Sequences: A Generative Approach

Student thesis: Doctoral thesis


This thesis attempts to provide an explanation of a syntactic contrast between English, Catalan and Spanish assuming specific theoretical proposals in the generative framework within the Government and Binding model. These languages construct their verbal sequences by means of auxiliaries and lexical verbs, as in the following examples: (1) La Maria ha ballat a la festa (2) María ha bailado en la fiesta (3) Mary has danced at the party Nevertheless, when other elements are introduced in the sentences, the behaviour of the auxiliary and the lexical verb constrasts between English and the other two languages: (4) Ha ballat la María a la festa? (5) Ha bailado María en la fiesta? (6) Has Mary danced at the party? (7) La María no ha ballat a la festa (8) María no ha bailado en la fiesta (9) Mary has not danced at the party As can be observed, the verbal sequence AUX+V in Catalan and Spanish must remain adjacent in the interrogative and the negative constructions. In English, the sequence must be separated, the auxiliary is placed in the initial position in the interrogative and the negative particle intervenes between the auxiliary and the lexical verb. The thesis provides a description of the behaviour of several verbal constructions. It includes not only the verbal sequences of auxiliaries plus lexical verbs exemplified above but also other sequences known as complex predicates (including causative, aspectual and modal verbs). The thesis also analyses another contrast found in the syntax of the two Romance languages studied, namely a higher degree of cohesion between auxiliaries and lexical verbs contrasting with the combination of a causative, aspectual or modal verb and a lexical verb. Several syntactic tests are used to assess the degree of cohesion, such as clitic-climbing. The second chapter of the thesis includes an overview of the relevant literature on the subject. The focus of the overview is to determine the degree of cohesion between the verbal elements in each of the constructions, to propose a basic syntactic structure and to discover the mechanism responsible for the constrasts observed. The third chapter of the thesis explains this mechanism which is taken to be responsible for the differences in degree of cohesion of the sequences analysed. The mechanism is known as incorporation (Baker 1988), an essential head-to-head movement which is highly active in polysynthetic languages like Chichewa. The thesis includes a chapter of introduction to the framework (chapter 1) and a final chapter where some considerations are made on how to adapt the structural proposals in the thesis to the emerging theory of functional categories (chapter 4).
Date of Award26 Oct 1990
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJosep Maria Brucart Marraco (Director)

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