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In particular, the question is regarding the steps of the process. The following sentence is to be used as an example:

(a) John ate.
(b) Did John eat?

As per Radford and Chomsky, it is assumed that sentence (a) comprises (1) a subject (John), (2) an unfilled inflection position that has a [past] tense feature, having "attracted" the features of the following verb, and (3) a verb (ate).

So "do" is inserted in the inflection position before it is inverted. I presume that since the position has a [past] tense feature, "do" becomes "did". My question is, how/why does the verb (ate) then lose it phonetic tense form (becoming the non-tensed "eat")?

Sorry if this is a silly or naive question.

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  • The is probably because (a) can be rephrased as "John did eat." In this case eat loses its past tense because it has an auxiliary verb. May 13 at 21:08
  • Because auxiliary verbs require a plain form verb as complement.
    – BillJ
    May 15 at 7:19
  • Yes, auxiliaries select plain forms. But as I said in the first line, the question is about the process. Are you saying that an inserted "do" selects a whole new complement with a whole new set of morphosemantic features? If not, what's the mechanism through which de-inflection occurs? Or is the whole premise wrong and "do" is not inserted during a transformation?
    – ishtar
    May 15 at 8:55
  • 1
    take a look at Adger 2003 (Core syntax), pp. 185-194
    – Alex B.
    May 15 at 16:33

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