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Cognitive Linguistics

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Volume 27, Issue 2


The role of DO-auxiliary in subject-auxiliary inversion: Developing Langacker’s notion of existential negotiation

Patrick Duffley
Published Online: 2016-03-26 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cog-2015-0125


This paper builds on Langacker’s (in press. How to build an English clause. Journal of Foreign Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics 2(2)) analysis of subject-auxiliary inversion (SAI) as involving “existential negotiation”. Langacker’s account is completed by relating it to full verb inversion (FVI). In FVI, non-core elements are fronted, resulting in inversion without an auxiliary, as in Into the room walked Mary; however, non-core elements are also frontable in SAI, as in Bitterly did we regret our decision. Do is treated as denoting full actualization and SAI is accounted for by focus on an exceptionally intense mode of actualization, whence the use of do to explicitly express what is focused on. The role of into the room in the FVI example is to define a locus into which an entity is introduced. Since this does not involve focus on the fact or manner of the verbal event’s actualization, do is not used. This leads to a different division of inverted structures than that of Chen (2013. Subject auxiliary inversion and linguistic generalization: Evidence for functional/cognitive motivation in language. Cognitive Linguistics 24. 1–32), who distinguishes those that merely reverse subject and auxiliary (argued to denote non-indicative mood) from those where the inverted auxiliary-subject order is accompanied by fronting of a non-subject element (treated as involving focus on the fronted item). It is argued here that fronting do-auxiliary marks focus on the actualization of the verbal event itself.

Keywords: subject-auxiliary inversion; full-verb inversion; do-auxiliary; wh- words; interrogatives; modality; polarity; focus; anaphora


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About the article

Received: 2015-12-02

Revised: 2016-02-16

Accepted: 2016-02-16

Published Online: 2016-03-26

Published in Print: 2016-05-01

Citation Information: Cognitive Linguistics, Volume 27, Issue 2, Pages 269–287, ISSN (Online) 1613-3641, ISSN (Print) 0936-5907, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cog-2015-0125.

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