The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

MorPhun 3/4 - Paula Fenger (Harvard/UConn)

Speakers: Paula Fenger (University of Connecticut/Harvard University)
Title: Words within words: The internal syntax of verbs
Time: Monday, March 4th, 5-6:30 pm
Location: 32-D831

Abstract: Superficially, languages differ in how grammatical categories like tense and aspect are expressed on the verb; e.g. in English, both [progressive] and [past] cannot be suffixes on the verb (*stay-ing-ed) and require a periphrastic realization (was stay-ing), whereas in Turkish both [progressive] and [past] appear as agglutinating suffixes on the verb (kal-ıy’or-dı, stayprog-past). Moreover, a language like Turkish is not uniformly agglutinating and can have periphrastic constructions in other environments, which makes it seem like the existence of periphrasis is contextually defined within a language. In this talk I explore the idea that Turkish-type languages and English-type languages are underlyingly the same. By looking at stress assignment patterns and behavior under coordination, it is revealed that the agglutinative pattern is only superficial. That is, syntax-phonology mismatches in Turkish in fact reveal a domain inside the verb and this domain is similar to the domain found for the periphrastic construction in English. Specifically, the syntactic operation that creates words (main verbs and auxiliaries) is uniform in both types of languages, the differences between them arise only at PF. This approach does not treat notions like “agglutinating” and “periphrastic” as deep properties of grammar, but as superficial differences.