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.

  • 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


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.