Volume 2005 (2005) Issue 128 Pages 73-111
This paper claims that the English to-infinitives base-generated in the complement position of VP represent a type of syntactic (grammatical) aspect.
The argument is partly motivated by a historical parallel: the fact that both to-infinitives and progressive participles have developed from prepositional phrases with spatial meanings.
The semantics of the to-infinitive are analyzed along with those of the perfective and progressive constructions. It is argued that a verb that takes a to-infinitive as its complement describes an event or state with implicit relevance to the infinitive event or state, while the perfective participle has similar relevance to the matrix tense. The referential nature of verb-following to-infinitives and that of perfective participles are thus temporally symmetrical, suggesting that such to-infinitives form part of the syntactic aspect system of English. The ‘future- oriented’ use of toinfinitives is shown to be the syntactic representation of ‘prospective aspect’, discussed in Comrie (1976) and others.
Following and modifying Felser (1999), Lasnik (2000), and others, it is assumed here that a typical English sentence has the structure [IP [NegP[ VP [AspP [VP]]]]], with infinitival to, progressive -ing, and perfective -en each checking their syntactic aspect feature in the head of AspP. The negation marker not, which normally precedes to, is assumed to occur either in the head of NegP or as an adjunct to AspP.