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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Aspectual Verbs and the Aspect Phrase Hypothesis


Since influential work by Perlmutter (1968, 1970), the standard analysis of English aspectual verbs (EAVs) is that they are ambiguous between control and raising verbs. In this paper, I first argue against the control/raising analysis of EAVs by showing that: (i) there is no clear evidence that any EAV is thematic and (ii) there is no clear evidence that EAVs form bi-clausal sentences. As an alternative, I propose that EAVs are functional heads projecting their own phrases, or aspect phrases (Travis 1991), in two different positions in a clause: inside the verbal projection (between v and VP) or outside it (immediately above vP). The difference in the position of an EAV is spelled out as two different forms of their complements. When an EAV is between v and VP, it is realized as a gerundive. When an EAV is above vP, it is realized as an infinitive. I argue that the analysis accounts for the evidence used to motivate the control/raising analysis as well as previously overlooked differences among EAVs. Further arguments for the proposed analysis of EAVs are provided by data from aspectual verbs in other languages.

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