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Tense, finiteness and the survive principle

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Abstract

This paper describes how temporal chains are construed in a syntactic structure. The links in T-chains are local T-heads, where every main verb and auxiliary brings its own tense package. The semantic difference between finite and non-finite T-elements consists in the choice of first argument, the speech event S (finite tense) or any preceding verbal event e (non-finite tense). Overt inflectional markings encoding finiteness are a crucial difference between Modern English and Mainland Scandinavian languages (MSc). Middle English, like MSc, encoded finiteness. MSc retained the finiteness distinction but lost the agreement markings; English main verbs lost the finiteness distinction but retained their tense and agreement markings. This development fuelled many syntactic differences between MSc and English, e.g., <i>do</i>-support versus verb-second.

References

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