The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Ling-Lunch 5/12 - Bronwyn Bjorkman

Speaker: Bronwyn Bjorkman
Title: The crosslinguistic defaultness of be
Time: Thursday, May 12, 12:30-1:45pm
Location: 32-D461

In this talk I propose that auxiliaries such as be are a morphological strategy for realizing verbal inflection that has been “stranded” by the syntactic derivation. This is an alternative to the view that auxiliaries head dedicated projections idiosyncratically subcategorized for in particular inflectional contexts. I argue that viewing auxiliary verbs as morphological defaults allows us to unify two superficially different patterns of auxiliary use: a pattern like the one we find in English, where auxiliary-taking categories always occur with an auxiliary (i.e. the passive and progressive), and a pattern that we find in languages like Latin and Kinande (Bantu) (among other languages), where auxiliaries only arise in certain combinations of categories. Kinande, for example, has synthetic past tense and progressive forms, but requires an auxiliary to express both at once (the past progressive). In addition to developing a model of verbal inflection that can account for both these patterns, I discuss some implications of the approach for inflectional marking in counterfactuals.