aspectual morpheme

the morphemes -ing and -en responsible for the progressive and perfective aspectual meanings, respectively.


a structure containing a (visible or invisible) subject and a predicate.


(a) a morpheme added to the end of words of a given category in sentence structure as required by the given structure, e.g. s in Peter like s his dog or er in Peter is clever er than Tony.

(b) the head of an Inflectional Phrase. It can be realised as a modal auxiliary or a zero agreement morpheme. Information about tense can be found in a separate vP directly under IP.

inflectional phrase (IP)

in traditional grammars the IP is a phrase headed by an inflectional element which can be a modal auxiliary (e.g. may, should, will), infinitival to or the bound morphemes expressing tense ( ed, s) the latter undergoing Affix Lowering to form a unit with the verb. In the present approach, however, it has been argued that the head position of the IP contains only the modal auxiliaries and the (in English) invisible agreement morpheme, information about Tense can be found in an independent vP hosting infinitival to, and the bound morphemes -ed and -s also appear here. The specifier position of an IP is occupied by the subject (see canonical subject position), the complement of an I is usually a VP or vP (but see small clauses for an exception). IPs are complements of CPs or ECM verbs.

light verb

a verb occupying the head of a vP used in combination with another element, typically a noun or verb, where the light verb’s contribution to the meaning of the whole construction is less than that of a fully thematic main verb, e.g. to take a shower=to shower. Certain verbs expressing aspectual (be, have) or modal (let) meaning also belong here. According to the proposals in the present book the following constituents can appear within the vP in a visible or abstract form (see also vP-shells):

– agentive arguments in the specifier positions

– experiencer arguments in the specifier position

– goal arguments in the double-object construction as specifiers

– the passive -en morpheme in the head of vP

– the aspectual morphemes -en and -ing in the head of vP

– the tense morpheme in the head of vP


the smallest meaningful unit. Words can be made up of one or more morphemes. See also bound morpheme, free morpheme.


S-structure constituents do not always appear in the position where they are base-generated in D-structure, they often move from their base positions to other structural positions. There can be various reasons motivating movement, see wh-movement and DP-movement.


the study of meaning. It covers both lexical meaning and the meaning of sentences with special emphasis on their truth conditions (under what circumstances a sentence is true/false).


a syntactic category with the help of which we can locate an event or situation in time. In syntactic representation information about tense can be found within the vP appearing directly under the IP in the form of -s, -ed or the zero tense morpheme.

verb phrase (VP)

a phrase headed by a verb. It is in the VP together with the vp(s) that the basic argument structure of the clause is formed, thus, theta-role assignment takes place here. The specifier position of the VP is occupied by the constituent bearing the theme/patient theta role. In passive structures this constituent has to move from the specifier position of the verb to the specifier position of IP in order to get Case. A VP can have different types of complements such as a DP, CP, IP, PP.

word category

a set of expressions that share certain linguistic features, a grouping of words that cluster together, e.g. noun, verb. See also functional category, thematic category.

Basic English Syntax with Exercises

Chapter 6 Inflectional Phrases

In the previous chapter we detailed the structure of the central part of the clause, the VP and its extensions into light verb and aspectual morpheme structures. In this chapter we will look at the further extension of the structure so far built into what we can conceive of as ‘clause structure’, though as we shall see, what is traditionally thought of as a clause is actually a number of hierarchically organised extensions of the basic VP, each of which adds a specific level of semantic and grammatical interpretation. In connection with these extra levels we will see there are specific syntactic phenomena, most of which involves the movement of elements.

In chapter 1 we introduced the category of inflection, consisting of modal auxiliaries, the marker of the infinitival clause to and tense morphemes. It is with this category that we will be concerned in the present chapter. We will show that providing a standard X-bar treatment of this element solves a number of problems that we have noted in previous chapters.



6.1   The structure of IP

6.2   The syntax of inflection

        6.2.1 Inserting auxiliaries into I

        6.2.2 Do-insertion

        6.2.3 Tense and Agreement

        6.2.4 Movement to tense and I

6.3   Movement to Spec IP

6.4   Adjunction within IP

6.5   Conclusion

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