English Main Verbs Move Never

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Rohrbacher, Bernhard

The traditional view holds that English main verbs do not move to any of the inflectional heads AgrS, Tns or AgrO. Recently, it has been claimed that while English main verbs cannot move to the highest inflectional head (i.e. AgrS), they may move to an intermediate inflectional head such as AgrO or Tns (cf. section 2). In earlier work, I have argued that all verb movement to inflectional heads is triggered by the overt morphology of the latter (cf. Rohrbacher (1993)). This approach is not compatible with movement of English main verbs to AgrO or Tns since the language does not have overt object agreement and its overt tense morphology is not significantly 'richer' than that of the Mainland Scandinavian V in situ languages. The current paper presents new evidence from Quantifier Floating against (short) main verb movement in English. If English main verbs could move out of VP and leftwards to an intermediate inflectional head, they should be able to precede a floating subject quantifier in the specifier of VP. The resulting word order is however ungrammatical, a fact which strongly suggests that English main verbs stay in situ (cf. section 3). This conclusion is confirmed by the inability of adverbs that do not adjoin to the right of VP to surface after main verbs. The paper closes with a reëxamination of the arguments adduced in support of short verb main verb movement in English and finds that most if not all of them are less than convincing (cf. sections 4 and 5).1

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University of Pennsylvania Institute for Research in Cognitive Science Technical Report No. IRCS-94-04.
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