Thursday 17 May – Jan-Wouter Zwart

Speaker: Jan-Wouter Zwart (University of Groningen)
Title: Tense in infinitives: a non-cartographic approach
Date: Thursday 17 May
Venue: Van Eyckhof 2/003
Time: 15.15-16.30 hrs


The presence or absence of T inside infinitival clauses informs the structural analysis of infinitival complements. On a cartographic approach to syntactic structure, absence of T leads to the hypothesis of a truncated clause structure, where the infinitive fails to grow into a fullsized clause. On this approach, the structure of the clause with its functional projections is universally given, so that absence of a low functional projection necessarily implies absence of all higher projections in the universal structure.
This cartographic approach to infinitival clause structure underlies the analysis of Wurmbrand (2001) (and, to a lesser extent, also Ter Beek 2008), where the projection for licensing objects vP is lower than the projection of the tense operator TP. As we will see, objects in German and Dutch typically cannot be realized internal to an infinitival complement clause, suggesting to Wurmbrand that in those situations the truncation point is below vP, and absence of object licensing and absence of tense go hand in hand. But as we will see, an independent tense operator can be present inside the infinitival complement, even if objects cannot be licensed internal to the infinitival clause, suggesting that the cartographic approach, where size of the infinitival clause is determined by an implicational hierarchy, is unsuccessful in this domain.
This paper proposes an alternative, more dynamic approach to clause structure, capitalizing on the idea, tacitly assumed in most approaches, that a derivation must be a network of derivations (‘layered derivations’, cf. Zwart 2009), with subsidiary derivations feeding into a main derivation at various points. On this approach, infinitival tense points to the construction of a tensed verb cluster in a separate derivation.

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