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An affixal tense is a theoretical approach to defining the realization of T as the category of tense features in the whole sentence which assumes that Neg is merely ahead, while T is defined as a suffix. If there is nothing left for T suffixation, it is attached to the head of its sister.
In sentences containing auxiliaries, the suffixal nature of tense is ensured, creating the conditions for the right structure (1).
T can suffix to the head of its sister (little v) in case if the auxiliary is missing (2).
As to the negative sentences, the head of the sister of T is found in Neg which lacks verbal characteristics and cannot be regarded as a verbal category. Then, T cannot suffix onto anything and the need for the do-support arises (3).
Concerning the phenomena of VP-ellipsis (4), (5) and VP-fronting (6), it can be stated that the overt sister to T is missing, consequently, there is nothing left for T suffixation, and do-support has to be involved in the process similar to the previous example of the negative sentences.
4. Mary leaves London and John does [ ] too.
5. Mary likes spring and John does [ ] as well.
6. Mary wanted to leave London, and leave London she did [ ].
However, this approach is rather controversial, and it gives rise to two theoretical problems. The first problem is the question of why it is impossible to combine do-support and an inflected verb (7), (8) (Adger 154). According to grammatical rules, this combination would be a mistake. The problem is that the past features of T get transferred towards little v, however, taking into account the morphological component, it should be noted that after T is spelled out, do-support gets triggered.
7. * Mary didn’t left London.
8. * Mary don’t left London.
The second problem focuses on the syntactic movement operation. According to the approach of affixal tense, the syntactic movement operation is applied not in the syntax proper, but rather after the Spellout point (Campos and Kempchinsky 358). This assumption could be regarded as appropriate but for the meaning of the Spellout rules which are mostly treated as pronunciation rules. Due to the demand of preserving the simplicity of these rules on the one hand and linking the movement operation with the syntax component, on the other hand, it can be stated that this analysis would be rejected.
An alternative approach which also based on the assumption that T is affixal would be an unconventional recognition of the syntactic nature of the suffixing operation instead of insisting on its morphological character.
This approach has certain advantages. To begin with, it assumes that the tense characteristic of the verb results from the movement of T down the tree and its following attachment to v. The necessary structure can be found in syntax. By the way, this approach allows explaining the impossibility of marking v with do-support and tense by emphasizing that a verb is derived through suffixing T to v as opposed to the assumption that it is derived by the spell out of little v. The main disadvantage of this approach is the lack of attention to VP-fronting and VP-ellipsis phenomena.
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Moreover, there is evidence that the interplay of syntactic and semantic features with purely morphological factors is present in the processes which change the grammatical functions (Trommer 322). Though the consideration of semantic parameters is not in the scope of this paper, it should be noted that some theoreticians are inclined to define affixal tense as a morphosemantic feature, rejecting the role of syntax (Kibort 230).
In general, it can be concluded that the theoretical approach of affixal tense maintaining that T is affixal deserves serious consideration regardless of its particular disadvantages.
Adger, David. Core Syntax: A Minimalist Approach. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. Print.
Campos, Hector, and Paula Kempchinsky. Evolution and Revolution in Linguistic Theory. Washington: Georgetown University Press, 2007. Print.
Kibort, Anna. “The feature of tense at the interface of morphology and semantics”. In: Galani, Alexandra, Glyn Hicks, and George Tsoulas (eds) Morphology and Its Interfaces. Amsterdam: Benjamins. 229- 251. Print.
Trommer, Jochen. “The Interaction of Morphology and Syntax in Affix Order”. Yearbook of Morphology 2003, 3: 283 – 324. Print.