Microvariation in verbal rather
Jim Wood
September 2022

This talk uses survey results and mapping tools to analyze correlations across different versions of the non-standard verbal use of the word rather, in particular with participial morphology, as in rathered. Across numerous possible instantiations of the construction, there appear to be in fact a quite limited number of grammars, which are generated by an implicational hierarchy of functional heads, along with the availability of a silent verb HAVE. The overall picture supports several broader conclusions. First, silent verbs can be licensed by head-moving to a modal head in the extended projection. This movement is freely available, but silence demands recoverability, which limits its application only to certain verbs, and certain uses/meanings of those verbs. Second, bare-infinitive–selecting verbs are nearly “closed class” because they have special syntactic properties that go beyond semantic or even syntactic selection: They must license the temporal verbal features of the embedded verb, or else provide a structural context for such licensing. Third, in addition to previously known configurations for building parasitic participle constructions, movement of a lower verb to a higher verb can extend the phase of the lower verb and lead to its silence. Fourth, the distribution of rather suggests that volitional meaning is not a primitive, but is constructed from smaller primitives. Finally, microvariation reveals a tight connection among logically distinct functional heads, suggesting that they are not acquired independently of each other, but interact in significant ways.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/006387
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: To appear in Yale Working Papers in Grammatical Diversity
keywords: verbal rather, modals, microvariation, dialect syntax, m-merger, verbhood, silent verbs, volition, reverse agree, parasitic participles, morphology, syntax
previous versions: v1 [April 2019]
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