This paper describes the results of a corpus study of English auxiliary contraction and their implications for the place of variation in a grammatical architecture. Specifically, I argue that the quantitative patterns displayed by this variable lend themselves to a two-stage analysis of contraction, as follows: a variable process of morphosyntactic adjunction conditions insertion of either a full or a contracted form; then, low-level phonetic and phonological processes alter the phonological shape of that form. I support this analysis with data showing an effect of subject length on contracted forms, such that contracted forms are disfavored after longer subjects, with an apparent eight-word cut-off after which contracted forms categorically do not surface. I conclude by addressing the implications of this finding for a grammatical architecture, proposing that this eight-word cut-off may be best localized in a system of "usage" distinct from the grammar.
Proceedings of the 29th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Jaehoon Choi, E. Alan Hogue, Jeffrey Punske, Deniz Tat, Jessamyn Schertz, and Alex Trueman Table of contents
ISBN 978-1-57473-451-5 library binding
viii + 406 pages
publication date: 2012
published by Cascadilla Proceedings Project, Somerville, MA, USA