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Chapter Six. The Verb Phrase and Related Issues

Chapter Six. The Verb Phrase and Related Issues

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1 6 0 6. The Verb Phrase and Related Issues

the coreferential clitics in itself does not guarantee that the predications

constitute a single clause, however. Also recall that the coreferential

clitics are never used for first and second person singular referents,

regardless of the degree of linkage between predications.)

6.1.1. Same-subject infinitival complements

As discussed in Section 3.11, the clitic jfy- (COR) can be used in certain

constructions if subjects of successive verbs or predications are coreferential. Alternatively, one of the verbs might have no Set I clitic. Use of other

Set I clitics on both verbs in such constructions would be interpreted as

indicating non-coreferential subjects (except for first or second person

singular referents). One such construction involves same-subject (SS)

infinitival complements. These complements are marked with the

infinitival/participial nominalizer -jada or -janu (depending on dialect).

The complement can precede or follow the main verb whether or not jfyis used:


Sajỗỗtanumaa rupớfyadỏjy.

sa-jỗỗta-numaa rupớớy-jada-jy

3SG-begin-now walk-INF-AL

'She/he is now beginning to walk.'


Mỷrrỗỗtyanu savỗỗta.

mỳrr^y-janu sa-v^ta



'To sing she/he wants.'






3SG-want COR-eat-INF-3SG

'She/he wants to eat the fish.'



SS infinitival complements, as in (1-3), contrast with sequences of SS

predications, as in (4). In (4b, c), the non-coreferential Set I clitic sa- is

used rather than zero or jfy- to refer to the same participant referred to in

(4a). Out of context, use of sa- on the three verbs in (4) could be ambiguous: it could refer to one, two, or three different participants. This correlates with the fact that the predications are all finite in form and they do

not evidence the same degree of conceptual unity as do main verb and

complement in (1-3) above. (4a-c) will be interpreted as encoding three

different actions, whereas (1) will be interpreted as encoding two different

6.1. Verbal nexus 161

facets of a single action or state of affairs. In (2) and (3) the infinitive

expresses the goal of wanting.


a. Sa-jaachfy.


b. Sa-jaachfy.


c. Sacỗỗsiityộeniớ

munuủu jỏsiy.


3SG-terminate-EMPH-3SG savage there

(a) 'HeĂ threw a spear, (b) He¡ threw a spear,

(c) He/terminated the enemy there.' (TW032-034)

If tense is marked in constructions like (1-3), it can only occur on the

finite verb and may have scope over both predications. Tense interpretation in (2) and (3) need not be the same between main and complement

predications (the singing could be future to the wanting), but tense could

not be marked on the complement.1

There is no one well-defined set of aspectual morphology in Yagua.

Some second position clitics, and verbal locational, iterativity, movement,

completive, and imperfectivity suffixes all have aspectual meanings (cf.

Section 6.5). Certain iterativity or distributive formatives, at least, may

occur on infinitival complements. However, in all such cases that I know

of, the iterativity or distributive suffix forms a well-lexicalized stem with

the verb root and does not have scope over the finite verb, as in (5-6):2


Savỗỗta jaachipifyỗỗjada.

sa-v^^ta jaachiy-pớớy-y^-jada


'He wants to study (a problem).'

Compare: jaachipớớtya 'remember'







'He likes to dance.'

Compare: rỗtỗy 'jump'

Aspectual formatives may occur in the finite predicate and do have

scope over the infinitival predicate. In (7), for example, the jumping

would most likely have to be taken as iterative or as a customary habitual

162 6. The Verb Phrase and Related Issues

action in the past, given occurrence of -núúy 'imperfective' in the finite

verb. Iterative and habitual are types of imperfective aspect.






3SG-like-IMPF-PAST3 jump-INF

'He used to like to jump.'

SS infinitival complements are different from other infinitival clauses

and other complement clauses (Section 3.11) in that SS infinitives may

intervene between the finite verb and its subject (though the infinitive

need not occur contiguous to the finite verb as illustrated in (22) below).

This is the only construction in which a non-adverbial, non-clitic element

may occur between the verb and its post-verbal subject:3


Sajỗỗtanumaa juvatadooda

sa-jỗỗta-numaa juvatanu-jada

3SG-begin-now get.agitated-INF






'The bird(s) now began to get agitated in front of

him.' (IS059)

Example (9) shows that second position clitics may intervene between

the main and infinitival complement predications:







3PL-begin JIITA march-INF


'They all began to march.' (CLS063)

To summarize, SS infinitival complements are different from independent clauses which have coreferential subjects as in (4) above, in that the

former cannot take independent tense and aspect. SS infinitival complements also require either coreferential clitics, or no Set I clitics. (If the

subjects are first or second person singular, coreferential clitics cannot be

used. But no Set I clitic need occur.) SS infinitival complements differ

from indirect quote complements in that the latter can have independent

tense and aspect even though the coreferential clitics are employed

(Section 3.11.6). SS infinitives are different from infinitival adverbials

(Section 3.11.7) in that the former can intervene between the finite verb

and its subject. This last fact also distinguishes SS infinitival complements

6.1. Verbal nexus 163

from nominal object arguments of finite verbs. The latter cannot intervene

between the verb and its subject. Thus, there is evidence that SS infinitival

complements form a more tightly knit unit with the main verb than do

other types of nominal and verbal complements. However, placement of

second position clitics as in (9) recognizes that they are still separate

constituents from the main verb.

The facts about SS infinitival complements accord well with the notion

of "core juncture" discussed by Foley and Olson (1985). Foley and Olson

distinguish three levels in the clause. In simplex clauses the "nucleus" is

essentially the verb plus its aspectual operators. The "core" is the

nucleus plus those arguments which are subcategorized or selectionally

restricted by the verb (more or less equivalent to what I term the nuclear

predication in Chapters 3 and 7). The "periphery" is the core plus noncore arguments such as locatives and other oblique noun phrases. Operators at the peripheral level include epistemic modals and evidentials. At

any given level tokens of the same type may join together to form complex

constructions, potentially resulting in nuclear junctures, core junctures,

and peripheral junctures. In a nuclear juncture, verbs or verb roots are

joined together (not necessarily phonologically), and share all arguments

equally. In a core juncture, however, the core arguments of each nucleus

(verb) are still selected independently, though certain serial core junctures

require the actors of the two nuclei to be coreferential. The two cores

share a common set of locational and time arguments, as well as tense

and mood specification (though not necessarily aspect). Peripheral

junctures result in conjoined clauses.

Foley and Olson are primarily concerned with types of verb serialization when they propose this schema, and serial constructions may have

either nuclear or core junctures. But they clearly intend that the general

framework should extend to languages which do not have canonical serial

constructions. In Yagua, SS infinitival complements could be said to form

core junctures with their main verbs. One of the arguments is, by definition, coreferential between the two verbs. But other arguments are

selected independently. In (3) above, for example, quiivỗ 'fish' is not an

argument of vỗỗta "want' but only of jimyiy 'eat'. Nevertheless, the infinitival complement cannot have independent tense and person/number specification. Its immediately post-verbal placement also indicates a special

type of juncture with the main verb. This is represented in (10) (adapted

from Foley and Olson).

We might hypothesize that whenever participants within a single C 1 or

C clause are coreferential with one another, the coreferential clitics jtyand -yii will express all but the linearly first mention of the participant.

This would cover the case of infinitival adverbials discussed in Section

164 tí. The Verb Phrase and Related Issues

3.11.7 which cannot have independent tense specification from the finite

verb, and which could be paradigmatically substituted for nominal objects

of postpositions. As with SS infinitival complements, infinitival adverbial

phrases have lost their clausal status and are nothing more than parts of a

simplex C 1 or C clause.



S Οχ



Where " = " indicates core juncture within the scope

of a single clause. The subject argument S is shared

between V j and V-INF. (The relative order between

O j and C>2, if they occur, and their verbs varies from

instance to instance.)

This hypothesis also accounts for why the coreferential clitics are not

used within relative clauses even though relative clauses share an argument with their main clause (Section 3.11.4). In this case not everything

within the syntactic scope of the higher c V c clause forms a single clause.

Rather, there is embedding of a relative C 1 clause within the higher c V c

clause. The relative clause retains its status as a clause. A single tense or

aspect need not govern both clauses. In order to interpret reference inside

the relative clause, a C 1 boundary must be crossed, but this is not true

with SS infinitival complements and infinitival adverbials.

The notion of core juncture and occurrence within a single C 1 clause

does not account so nicely for use of coreferential clitics in indirect quote

complements. As illustrated in Section 3.11.6, except for use of the coreferential clitics, indirect quote complements are fully independent clauses.

They may have independent tense and aspect and there is no overt

complementizer. The time phrase in example (226) also illustrates that

oblique ("peripheral") elements need not have scope over both verbs. In

sum, occurrence of coreferential participants within a single c V c clause

is a sufficient, but not a necessary nor the only, condition for use of the

coreferential clitics.

6.1.2. Verb serialization

A limited amount of verb serialization in the sense of Foley and Olson

occurs. Only movement verbs may occur as the second member of a serial

complex. These form one phonological word with the main verb as shown

6.1. Verbal nexüs 165

by palatalization and metathesis processes. The movement root immediately follows the other verb root or lexicalized stem.





'He ran out long ago.'





Ί stood and got up earlier today.'





'It sprouted up.'

Unlike movement suffixes (cf. Section 6.5), movement roots can occur

as main verbs. (A classifier serves as a nominalizer on the verb maay

'sleep' in [15].)




sa-jasỳmiy músajo-va

3SG-go.up ladder-DAT

'He goes up by the ladder (e.g. into the house).'




sa-maasiy jiy-maay-jày-mu-siy

3SG-go.out COR-sleep-CL.cloth-LOC-AB

'He got up out of his sleeping mat/cloth.'

Foley and Olson argue that cross-linguistically, the most likely verbs to

occur in serializing constructions are intransitive verbs of motion, location,

or position (41):

Intransitive verbs, particularly active intransitive verbs of motion,

location, or posture, are favored in a restricted slot to form nuclear

junctures with another verb in an open slot. These are favored because

as active intransitive verbs they introduce no new arguments in the core,

all core arguments being a function of the lexical entry of the verb in the

open slot in the juncture.

166 6. The Verb Phrase and Related Issues

Following Foley and Olson, I hypothesize that the difference between

finite verb plus SS infinitival complements and serial verb complexes in

Yagua is one of "core" versus "nuclear" juncture. In a nuclear juncture,

all arguments of the two verbs must be the same.4 This is represented in




[V l : V 2 ] S O j

02 ]


Where " : " indicates nuclear juncture and V 2 is a movement verb


6.2. Adverbs

Within the verb phrase the majority of adverbs most neutrally follow the




jimyiy munỏtya.




'We're going to eat first.'

When an adverb precedes the verb, it conveys extra pragmatic force or

degree of the quality expressed by the adverb. Compare (18) and (19):


Sa-rupíty váneera.

3SG-walk fast

'She is walking fast.'


Váneera sa-rupífy.

'She is walking very fast.'

The heightened degree of the quality expressed or the pragmatic force

communicated by preverbal position suggests that the preverbal adverb is

actually occurring in the pragmatically marked PM position (cf. Chapters

3 and 7). However, some adverbs always precede the verb. Mitya 'just' is

one such case. Mitya can be used postverbally, but only with appropriate

pauses as indicated by the commas in (20a). Mitya also has the idea of

'nothing' and that is the sense conveyed in the following case.

6.2. Adverbs 167


a. Nộộ

rỗ. suv¡¿chcharavi¿i¿y

néé t|{


NEG someone IRR be.afraid-TRNS-HABIT-lPL

Η . » Λ»


ti , muya,



There wouldn't be anyone who would frighten us, nothing,

b. níínítyiy





3SG-NIY-TCY bother-INF-INAN forest-CU-in

of those who are bothering ones in the forest.' (LX045)

Jááryiy 'really5 and adverbial phrases with jááryiy most commonly

precede the verb. By its very meaning, jááryiy heightens the degree of

whatever quality or action is being expressed; it thus expresses a type of

semantic markedness (Chapter 7).


Jááryiy váneera sa-rupífy.

really fast


'She is walking really fast.'


Jááryiy εμμεάημμ/γα



sa-jycányyy-rá jíniy-vnmu


really 3SG-like-INAN hammock-inside sit-INF

'He really likes to sit in the hammock.'

6.3. Subject - object asymmetries: Evidence for a verb phrase

containing the object?

Positing a structural verb phrase constituent containing the verb and

object is one possible way to account for subject - object asymmetries.

This would be particularly motivated if the subject - object asymmetries in

question could be argued to stem directly from a structural difference

where the subject is immediately dominated by the sentence (or clause),

while the object is immediately dominated by the verb phrase.

One subject - object asymmetry in Yagua concerns what can determine

the index of the coreferential clitics jfy- and -yù. As discussed in Chapters

3 and 4, jfy- is part of the Set I clitic paradigm and can refer to a subject,

168 6. The Verb Phrase and Related Issues

a genitive, or an object of a postposition. The clitic -yù is part of the Set

II clitic paradigm and can only refer to objects.

The clitics jfy- and -yù do not have an inherent person/number index,

but take their index from something else within the C1 clause. This index

can be controlled by a linearly preceding subject as in (23), but not by a

linearly preceding object as in the ungrammatical reading for (24).5

Linearity alone does not account for the asymmetry, as both subject and

object phrases can precede jfy- and -yù clitics. Here I illustrate just for jfy-:


Preceding subject (in bold):


Celina jiryoorivyiimuntL



3SG-wash Celina COR-house-inside-3SG

'Celinaj washes him/her inside herj house.'


Preceding object (in bold):


Anita jiryoorivyiimu.



3SG-wash-3SG Anita COR-house-inside

'She/hej washes Anita inside his/her^ house.'

*'She/he washes Anitaj inside herj house.'

Within certain frameworks, an explanation for this asymmetry might be

(partially) sought in positing a constituent-command relation between a

preceding subject and the jfy-1-yù clitic, a relation which does not obtain

between a preceding object and the jfy-1-yù clitic.6 This relation does not

hold between the object and the clitic because the object is "lower" in

the structure, occurring inside the verb phrase constituent. Positing SVO

as the underlying basic order would facilitate such an analysis in that the

verb and object are then contiguous, and a verb-plus-object constituent

may be more easily argued for.

Even if one were to posit SVO as basic in some underlying sense in

order to facilitate this analysis, existence of a verb-plus-object constituent

would not in itself provide a unified account for the asymmetry in what

can control the index of jfy- and -yù. Not only can the index be controlled

by a preceding subject, but also by a preceding genitive noun as in (25)

and (26), or by the object of a postposition as in (27). That is, the index

can be controlled by any Set I argument.

6.3. Subject - object asymmetries 169


Control by Genitive (bold; genitive NP is bracketed):

[Tomása roorijvyiimu jíchuutaníí.

rooriy-vïïmu jíy-suuta-níí

house-inside COR-wash-3SG

'In Tom'Sj house hej washed him/herj.'





[Anita roorijvyiimúyu


Anita house-inside-CORO

'She¡ washes her· inside Anita's- house.'

OR: 'She¡ washes herself inside Anita'Sj house.'


Control by Object of Postposition (bold):

Radi'fy sííva


ray-dííy sa-íva


lSG-see 3SG-DAT COR-house-inside

Ί saw him/herj inside his/herj house.'

What we need to account for is not the subject - object asymmetry, but

the Set I vs. object asymmetry. Most likely a mixture of pragmatic and

syntactic factors must be acknowledged in order to completely account for

what can control the index of jfy- and -yù? My major point here is to

show that positing SVO as the basic constituent order, such that one can

more comfortably say the object is part of the verb phrase, does not in

itself provide a unified explanation for what can control the indices of

these clitics.

In Section 3.8 I noted another possible asymmetry between subject and

object relative to question formation on arguments of embedded clauses.

The available data are not conclusive as to whether such an asymmetry

exists. But even if it should, there are other possible solutions besides

positing a structural VP containing verb and object.

First of all, subject - object (and even Set I argument - object) asymmetries are not the only ones that need to be accounted for in language.

Second, there is no a priori reason that such asymmetries have to be

accounted for in terms of structural or configurational relations. In

particular, Keenan (1984) discusses the closer semantic ties which hold

between verbs and their objects, as opposed to verbs and their transitive

subjects (A). By itself this semantic tie might predict the existence of

languages where asymmetries also exist between A and S, particularly as

such semantic relations might have historically resulted in differential

grammaticization of A versus S arguments, or differential syntactic

1 7 0 6. The Verb Phrase and Related Issues

behavior of A versus S arguments. Exactly such syntactic asymmetries are,

in fact, claimed to exist in some ergative-absolutive languages (Dixon

1979, T. Payne 1982). However, Keenan's observation in itself does not

account for languages such as Yagua where there may be asymmetries

between objects and intransitive subjects as well. In languages such as

this, why should transitive and intransitive subjects (A and S) be grouped

together as opposed to objects? This is due to the fact that A and S share

certain other properties which motivate grammaticization of a "subject"

category comprised of both S and A. For example, Du Bois (1985)

discusses the functional role which both S and A share in encoding

given/highly topical information in discourse. Such grammaticization may

have consequences in terms of subcategorization of verbs for their objects,

as opposed to their subjects (both S and A). 8 S. Anderson (1984) argues

that in Kwakwala, a verb-subject-object Wakashan language, subjectobject asymmetries can be accounted for by subcategorization relations,

rather than a configurational relation which presupposes a structural VP

consisting of verb and object. A similar account could be argued for in

Yagua (if not in most languages).

Some further suggestive evidence that verb and object do not form a

constituent comes from placement of the second position clitic jffta and

placement of certain adverbs.

In general, second position Yagua clitics follow the first constituent of

the sentence and indicate a variety of aspectual/ modal and discourse

functions. When there is no preverbal element, jffta and all other second

position clitics, such as numaa 'now', directly follow the main verb within

a simple verb phrase. This has been amply illustrated in Chapter 3 where

we discussed second position clitics in C and C 2 . However, if some

constituent other than the verb occurs in first position, jffta always follows

that constituent. This constituent can consist of more than word, as shown

by example 82 of Chapter 3. The point is, these clitics occur after whatever is the first constituent of the C 1 or C 2 clause (depending on the

subclass of the clitic).

Note, now, that jffta always intervenes between a verb and its object. It

does not occur after the verb-plus-object complex - even if there is no

intervening constituent. If the basic order was SVO and if the verb and

object formed a constituent, we might expect that jffta would be able to

occur after the verb-plus-object constituent, particularly when the subject

was preverbal or expressed simply by a subject pro-clitic.

In Chapter 3 we discussed the fact that jffta can alternatively follow

auxiliary-plus-verb complex, or can follow the auxiliary and precede the

verb (cf. Section 3.4.3). We discussed various aspects of this variable

placement of jffta within the verb phrase and suggested that it may have

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