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The Germanic VO languages and the full paradigm: A theory of V to I raising

Bernhard Wolfgang Rohrbacher, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation investigates the conditions under which the verb moves to the highest inflectional category. The description and the morpho-syntactic theory of V to I raising are initially based on those Germanic languages that have a left-headed verb phrase (English, Yiddish and the Scandinavian languages), although data from Romance languages (Italian, French, and European and Brazilian Portuguese) are later shown to support the same conclusions. V to I raising occurs in those languages where, in the singular or plural of at least one tense, subject-verb agreement uniquely marks the person features (1st) and (2nd) by overtly distinguishing the forms for first and second person from each other, the form for third person and the infinitive. This correlation can be explained if it is assumed that the lexicon contains all and only referential elements and the referential features of inflection are those for person (and number). The paradigms of inflectional affixes which distinctively mark (1st), (2nd) and (singular) are referential and hence listed in the lexicon. Inserted under the highest inflectional head, these affixes trigger V to I raising in order to be bound. The paradigms of inflectional affixes which fail to distinctively mark one of the referential inflectional features are non-referential and hence not listed in the lexicon. Affixes of these paradigms are postsyntactic spell-outs of the abstract agreement features on the verb. The highest inflectional head remains empty throughout syntax and V to I raising is not triggered. This theory is corroborated by the fact that in the history of English and Mainland Scandinavian, V to I raising was lost after one of the referential inflectional features ceased to be distinctively marked. The distinction between lexical and post-syntactic inflectional affixes also plays a crucial role in the theory of empty referential subjects. Projections must be identified via distinct phonological or semantic matrixes in their specifiers or their heads (Speas (1993)). Accordingly, the s-structural subject position (i.e. the specifier of the highest inflectional projection) can remain empty in languages with referential, lexical agreement affixes but it must be overtly filled in languages with non-referential, post-syntactic agreement affixes.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Rohrbacher, Bernhard Wolfgang, "The Germanic VO languages and the full paradigm: A theory of V to I raising" (1994). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9420684.