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University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics

Abstract

This paper discusses the syntax of the have yet to construction in English, as in John has yet to eat dinner. As pointed out by Kelly (2008), this construction raises a number of questions. How is the NPI yet licensed? Why is have interpreted as a perfect auxiliary verb, in spite of the fact that it appears to take an infinitival complement, rather than a perfect participle? We argue that have in the have yet to construction is, for many speakers, perfect have, which selects for a silent raising predicate that has negative implicative semantics. This predicate, which we identify as a silent counterpart of fail, is responsible for licensing the NPI yet. We propose that FAILED is made silent as a result of yet moving into its specifier (invoking Koopman’s (1996) Generalized Doubly-filled COMP filter). This same movement accounts for yet’s unusual word-order behavior in the have yet to construction.

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