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Title: The syntax and morphology of English -ing
Author: Sennrich, Xin
ISNI:       0000 0004 8509 1596
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis discusses the syntax and morphology of English -ing forms and draws a categorial distinction between gerunds and present participles. In English, the suffix -ing can attach to almost any verb, except modal verbs (*caning, musting, etc.). This thesis attempts to find out whether all the words in the form of V-ing are instances of the same lexical element or whether some or all of them are distinct elements. The form V-ing can be realised as prototypical nouns, which denote entities (e.g. a tall building, a long meeting) and prototypical adjectives, which denote properties (e.g. very boring, more interesting), etc. There are also V-ing nouns that describe events, and they are called associated V-ing nominals in the thesis (e.g. The building of the bridge took three years, The writing of a book is difficult). Among words in the form of V-ing, it is hard to decide the categorial status of gerunds (e.g. Writing a book is difficult, The kids discussed visiting their grandparents) and present participles (e.g. He is writing a book. The kids kept visiting their grandparents), as well as to distinguish them from each other. In traditional grammar, gerunds and participles are both inflected verb forms but distinct from each other. According to The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (Huddleston & Pullum 2002), no verb shows any difference between gerunds and present participles. Huddleston & Pullum (2002) have just one inflectional form of the verb marked by the -ing suffix; the form is labelled with the term 'gerund-participle'. Huddleston & Pullum (2002) also take the view that from the point of syntax (as opposed to inflection) the distinction between gerunds and participles is not viable. Their conclusion is that 'there is no difference of form, function, or interpretation that correlates systematically with the traditional distinction between "gerund" and "present participle". The distinction introduces an unmotivated complication into the grammar: it is one of the features of traditional grammar that should be discarded' (Huddleston, 2002a: 1222). This thesis argues against Huddleston & Pullum's (2002) claim that a distinction between gerunds and present participles cannot be sustained. This thesis will show that gerunds and present participles are different in distribution and thus belong to separate categories. I analyse that gerunds belong to the category of nouns, and participles belong to the category of adjectives. The analysis involves the contrast of gerunds with associated V-ing nominals and the comparison of participles and prototypical adjectives. Both gerunds and associated V-ing nominals have the distribution of nouns and thus belong to the category of nouns. However, phrases headed by gerunds, unlike ordinary NPs, have the internal structure of VPs. I will show that gerunds are categorially nouns because they inherit the distribution from nouns, and they inherit theta-marking and adverb modification from relationals, which give rise to the phrase structure of VPs. Participles have the distribution of adjectives, though they are different from prototypical adjectives in certain ways. I will show that the differences are due to the fact that participles and prototypical adjective have different semantics. Thus the differences are not distributional, i.e. they do not distinguish categories. From the perspective of morphology, in traditional grammar and Huddleston & Pullum (2002), both gerunds and present participles are inflected forms of verbs. However, I argue that gerunds are categorially nouns and participles are categorially adjectives. Therefore, they are derived from verbs via -ing suffixation, gerunds being derived nominals whereas participles being derived adjectives. In addition, the analysis of participles being adjectives is also supported by the morphology of prototypical adjectives that are in the form of participles. If participles were inflected verb forms, there would not be a plausible, single morphological explanation for boring, interesting, tired, drunk, hurt to arise in the system. The thesis ends with a discussion of Verb-ing-Noun combination. There are two types of V-ing-N compounds: one type such as drinking water, sleeping pill, the other such as hummingbird, sleeping partner, etc. The two types differ in the categorial status of V-ing and the attribution relation. The combination can also be a noun phrase, e.g. interesting story, sleeping baby, etc. The difference in attribution relation and the compound-phrase distinction are closely related to the categorial status of the V-ing, because of which we need a theory of distinguishing different - ing forms; that is why I start the thesis. The patterns of Verb-ing-Noun combination, in turn, show that present participles and gerunds are distinct in the category.
Supervisor: Gisborne, Nikolas ; Giegerich, Heinz Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English -ing forms ; gerunds ; present participles ; prototypical nouns ; V-ing forms ; morphology ; Verb-ing-Noun combination