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Anderson, Gregory D. S. (2006): Auxiliary Verb Constructions.

Anderson, Gregory D. S. (2006): Auxiliary Verb Constructions. Oxford Studies in Typology and Linguistic Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. xviii + 473 pp. ISBN 0-19-928031-2.

Anderson's book is a typological study of auxiliary verb constructions based on a large sample of 800 languages. The author shows the various ways in which inflectional morphology is realized on either the lexical verb or the auxiliary, or on both. Rather than investigating the functional range associated with auxiliary verb constructions, the focus of this study is on the variation of morphological coding of verbal categories in analytic verb constructions and its historic relation to other complex verb constructions such as serial verbs. The first chapter defines auxiliaries and auxiliary verb constructions, thereby pointing out the gradient nature of the phenomenon and the corresponding difficulties that await the typologist in identifying and classifying a given complex verb construction. He points out the vagueness of the notion "auxiliary", briefly surveys the history of its treatment in the literature, and lists some definitional criteria for the distinction of auxiliary verb constructions from other types of complex predicate constructions. The first chapter provides a definition of "head" as the central element of the construction. Anderson identifies three types of head: the inflectional head is that element that bears obligatory inflections, the phrasal or syntactic head, and the semantic head, which determines the argument structure of the predicate in an auxiliary verb construction. The proposed typology of inflectional patterns is based on the concept of inflectional head and consists of five macrotypes. The first two types are the AUX-headed pattern, in which inflections appear on the auxiliary and the lexical verb is nonfinite, and its reverse counterpart, the LEX-headed pattern, in which inflections are realized on the lexical verb, while the auxiliary is unmarked. The remaining types are the doubled pattern, with inflections on both elements of the construction, the split pattern with different inflectional categories realized on the component elements, and the doubled/split pattern, which combines properties of the latter two types. Although auxiliary verb constructions are likewise possible in which both component elements are unmarked; these are not discussed in much detail in the book. According to Anderson, the proposed types represent the logically possible distribution of inflectional elements in predicate constructions that contain a lexical verb and an auxiliary as potential hosts for these elements. The first chapter furthermore provides a brief functional typology of auxiliary verb constructions in that it lists the inflectional categories typically encoded in auxiliary verb constructions. Chapter 2 presents what is the perhaps most prototypical and familiar kind of inflectional pattern encountered in auxiliary verb constructions, the AUX-headed construction. Here obligatory inflections are realized on the auxiliary, while the lexical verb is either unmarked or marked as nonfinite, gerundive, or participial. This pattern displays a clear split between the domain of the "functional" and that of the "lexical". In Chapter 3 the inverse pattern is presented, i.e., one in which the lexical verb functions as the inflectional head and the auxiliary is unmarked, bearing some resemblance to a verbal particle. This pattern shows a regular divergence of phrasal or syntactic head and inflectional head. In constructions of this type the auxiliary can mostly be identified as the syntactic head on grounds of syntactic position and dependent marking on the lexical verb. Chapter 4 deals with cases where obligatory inflectional categories are encoded on both elements of the auxiliary verb constructions, so that both elements function as the inflectional head. Subject is identified as the most common doubly encoded category, followed by tense and aspect. In Chapter 5 Anderson discusses auxiliary verb constructions in which some categories are marked on the lexical verb, while others are marked on the auxiliary, including some cases of doubly marked categories as well. Again data from a remarkable range of languages is provided to illustrate this inflectional type. Chapter 6 discusses univerbations, i.e., phonologically fused structures that can nevertheless be identified as auxiliary verb constructions. Anderson shows formal and functional similarity with the inflectional patterns defined and illustrated in Chapters 2-5 and on these grounds argues for an analysis of fused structures as former auxiliary verb constructions. An important claim of this chapter is that TAM-marking pronouns that are encountered in numerous languages are the result of fusion of auxiliary and subject markers. This in turn is viewed as an intermediate stage on the way to fully fused complex verb forms. In Chapter 7 Anderson takes each of his macrotypes of inflectional patterns and discusses the range of likely diachronic source patterns encompassing biclausal as well as monoclausal structures. He presents at a number of source patterns and sketches paths of development, thereby pointing out that there is a correspondence between certain source structures and certain types of inflectional patterns in auxiliary verb constructions. The inflectional properties of the types are thus explained in terms of transparent diachronic developments from originally nonauxiliary constructions.

Anderson's monograph is, to my knowledge, the most comprehensive study of inflectional patterns of auxiliary verb constructions to date. The study is based on a convenience sample that tries to ensure maximal diversity by taking into account languages not only from major language families, but also from microfamilies as well as language isolates. The sheer size of the sample is impressive and, bearing in mind that 800 languages make up a considerable percentage of the world's total number of languages, the generalizations arrived at in this study may well be treated as universally valid. Anderson manages to boil down the enormous morphosyntactic diversity encountered in the study of auxiliary verb constructions to a small number of inflectional types, each defined in terms of formal patterns and sufficiently illustrated by an abundance of crosslinguistic data. There are, however, a few points of criticism that I would like to address. Types are established on the basis of the patterning of morphosyntactic material on the component parts of auxiliary verb constructions. The realization of an inflectional element as prefix or suffix is therefore crucially relevant for the identification of an element's status as inflectional head, which is the basis for the proposed typology. The phenomenon of univerbation is particularly problematic for such a classification of structures, since material occurring between auxiliary and lexical verb may be analyzed as suffixed to one or affixed to the other, which in terms of Anderson's classification would result in assignment to a different type. Furthermore, cases are mentioned where an auxiliary verb construction contains more than one auxiliary (see for instance the Sukuma example on page 216 or the Jarawara example on page 373). This calls for a more detailed evaluation of the proposed inflectional types, since more obligatory elements in the construction necessarily widen the spectrum of possible inflectional patterns. At various points in the book Anderson points out that there is a considerable degree of overlap, that is to say that an auxiliary verb construction in a given language may be classified one way or another in his inflectional typology, thereby illustrating the problem of crosslinguistic identification (cf. Croft 1990:11ff). The accuracy of the assignment of a given structure to a constructional type and the reduction of the number of borderline cases to a minimum crucially depends on the definitional criteria that exist for such types.

In Chapter 1 Anderson introduces a number of complex predicate constructions that resemble auxiliary verb constructions, but there is comparatively little data to illustrate these types and their resemblance to auxiliary verb constructions. A more detailed discussion of, for instance, light verb constructions, and a more extensive list of definitional criteria would have made possible a clearer distinction between the constructional types. However, Anderson correctly points out the vagueness that obtains in the relevant literature and consequently reanalyzes some structures as auxiliary verb constructions, particularly those that have been classified as instances of verb serialization by others. In this respect, he claims that once the lexical meaning of one of the lexical verbs in a serial construction becomes somewhat obscure and shifts from the lexical domain to that of functional elements, the construction must be considered an auxiliary construction. Furthermore, he claims that serial verb constructions and auxiliary verb constructions may exist side by side within a single given language involving the same element interpretable as verb or auxiliary, respectively. While there are examples of single language sentence pairs that show the formal similarity between serial verb constructions and auxiliary verb constructions, these mostly involve different auxiliary elements. This interesting aspect of grammaticalization is not clearly demonstrated until page 334, where the same element, in this case English go, is shown to enter into constructions of various degrees of grammaticalization within a single language and synchronic state. In Chapter 1 Anderson points out that the same element may occur in a single language and synchronic state as bound element, auxiliary and lexical verb, thus indicating a clear diachronic relationship between present auxiliaries and former verbs. Furthermore, in Section 1.2. he defines "auxiliary verb" as an item on the lexical verb-functional affix scale expressing verbal categories, thus emphasizing the former verbal character of the elements in question. Even though he discusses lexical sources of auxiliaries in the final chapter of the book and nicely lists a number of common lexical source verbs and their function in their synchronic use as auxiliaries in some of the languages of the sample in Table 7.7 on page 369, the massive amount of data presented in the preceding chapters would have benefited greatly from consideration of these sources in the interlinear glosses throughout the book, wherever possible. This would have given a clearer idea of what the distribution of lexical sources is across the languages in the sample. Instead in the majority of cases the auxiliary is simply glossed as AUX, providing no clues to the lexical origin. The final chapter provides a thorough account of the historical development of the various types of auxiliary verb constructions, demonstrated by a wide range of crosslinguistic data as in the preceding chapters. In contrast to the other chapters, however, the point of discussion here is diachronic processes. Perhaps the investigation would have benefited from a more detailed discussion of grammatical change in a small number of selected languages that exhibit synchronic co-existence of various degrees of grammaticalization. The diachronic claims made in Chapter 7 could have been backed up with an even greater number of source- and target patterns from a small number of single languages, which would have meant a divergence from the presentational approach adhered to throughout previous chapters, i.e., provision of broad crosslinguistic data for the illustration observed patterns. On page 368, Anderson remarks that there is a "general typological pressure" for more marked structures to be replaced by less marked ones. As an example he states the doubled pattern and the AUX-headed pattern. This tendency is extremely crucial and it would have been worth elaborating on perhaps in a separate subsection, considering that an entire chapter has been devoted to the doubled pattern. Although the book is generally organized very well, there are a few presentational shortcomings that may cause some inconvenience for the reader. Some of the tables do not appear in their appropriate sections (Tables 7.2 and 7.3). Also the circumstance that interlinear glosses are not aligned throughout the book is not helpful, particularly if the reader is presented with such a large amount of language data and a broad spectrum of grammatical systems.

Despite these minor points of criticism the book is an excellent contribution to linguistic typology. It provides a good overview of this often discussed topic and at the same time provides new insights into the nature of auxiliary verb constructions, the limits of inflectional variation thereof and common paths of grammatical change based on an enormous corpus of data. Moreover Anderson opens up new avenues of research in his monograph in that it calls for further investigation of the relationship between formal grammaticalization paths, i.e., the development of inflectional patterns on the one hand and grammaticalization of certain verbal elements in auxiliary function on the other hand. The book is structured in a clear and convenient fashion and serves as a valuable resource for all researchers working in the field of typology.


Croft, William (1990). Typology and Universals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


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Author:Jager, Andreas
Publication:Linguistics: an interdisciplinary journal of the language sciences
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2007
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