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The perfect participle paradox: some implications for the architecture of grammar1


The topic of this article can be exemplified by the final clause of the following attested sentence: I don't know how he found out that she belonged to that lass, but find out he has. Clauses like this one show a preposed verb phrase that is headed by a plain verb whereas the non-preposed verb phrase of their canonical counterparts is obligatorily headed by a perfect participle (i.e. he has {found / *find} out). This peculiarity of verb phrase preposing, which will be referred to as the perfect participle paradox, has seldom been discussed. The article starts by showing that clauses that manifest the paradox are more frequent in the Corpus of Contemporary American English and in the British National Corpus than their non-paradoxical analogues with preposed canonical perfect participles. The article then looks at the paradox from the point of view of generative syntax, discusses and rejects previous analyses, and argues that a solution entails the rejection of two assumptions that have been associated with a lexicalist position, especially by proponents of distributed morphology. These are the assumptions that (a) a syntactic terminal is an item supplied by the lexicon and comprising a phonological representation and (b) that syntax may not manipulate the internal structure of syntactic terminals. The article proposes an analysis that is not based on these assumptions, but argues that the analysis does not entail the superiority of a distributed morphology framework.

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I am grateful to Alex Thiel and Dennis Wegner for help, discussion and proofreading.

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