Second-Position Clitics in the vP Phase: The Case of the Armenian Auxiliary
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Second-Position Clitics in the vP Phase:
The Case of the Armenian Auxiliary

1 Introduction

Special clitics appear in a position that is different from the one favored by their associated full forms (Zwicky 1977). Linguistic analyses have identified two main categories of special clitics: (a) second-position or Wackernagel clitics that must appear as the second element in a clause (as in Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian (henceforth, BCS), Czech, [End Page 152] Cypriot, Pashto, and Tagalog); and (b) verb-adjacent clitics that take the verb as their host (as in Romance languages such as French, Spanish, and Catalan). The auxiliary verb in Eastern Armenian1 (henceforth, EA) is a clitic that carries tense and agreement features and appears on seemingly unrelated elements within the clause in focus-neutral sentences, as exemplified in (1), where italics indicate main clausal stress. The auxiliary is a special clitic by virtue of the fact that it can appear in varying positions that a full-form verb cannot occupy. However, it appears to defy classification in the major known categories of special clitics: The auxiliary remains low in the main clause in neutral contexts and does not occupy the second position in the sentence, as shown in (1c). In addition, it does not have to be adjacent to the main verb, as illustrated in (1d).

  1. 1.

    1. a. On the verb

           šun-ə      vaz-um     a

           dog-nom run-prog be.3sg.pres

           'The dog is running.'

    2. b. On nonspecific object

           ara-n        girkh a                  karth-um

           Ara-nom book be.3sg.pres read-prog

           'Ara is reading a book / Ara reads books.'

    3. c. On manner adverb

           es    šun-ə      arag a                vaz-um

           this dog-nom fast   be.3sg.pres run-prog

           'This dog runs fast.'

    4. d. On measure adverb

           ara-n     šat    a             girkh karth-um

           Ara-nom very be.3sg.pres book read-prog

           'Ara reads (books) a lot.'

The goal of this squib is to account for the puzzling positional distribution of the Armenian auxiliary clitic in the focus-neutral context.2 We propose that the auxiliary is a case of a second-position clitic in the vP domain, akin to the second-position phenomena observed across languages in the CP domain. In doing so, we draw heavily on the parallel between CP and vP in recent syntactic literature—in particular, their status as phases in the minimalist framework (e.g., Chomsky 2001). [End Page 153]

2 The Auxiliary Clitic

The verbal auxiliary 'be' in EA is an enclitic that carries tense and agreement features. The auxiliary occurs in all the tenses of the indicative with the exception of the aorist, as shown in (2a–b) for the progressive, (2c–d) for the perfective, and (2e–f) for the future. (3) shows the absence of the auxiliary in the aorist.

  1. 2.

    1. a. yes karth-um    em

          I      read-prog be.1sg.pres

          'I am reading / I read.'

    2. b. yes karth-um    ei

          I      read-prog be.1sg.past

          'I was reading.'

    3. c. yes karthach-el        em

          I      read(aor)-perf be.1sg.pres

          'I have read.'

    4. d. yes karthach-el        ei

          I      read(aor)-perf be.1sg.past

          'I had read.'

    5. e. yes      em

          I      read.inf-fut be.1sg.pres

           'I am going to read.'

    6. f. yes      ei

          I      read.inf-fut be.1sg.past

          'I was going to read.'

  1. 3. yes karthach-i

           I      read(aor)-1sg

           'I read.'

Tamrazian (1994) argues that the EA auxiliary is an enclitic since it does not carry stress and requires a host to precede it. This can be seen in the contrast between the behavior of the auxiliary and that of an attached agreement suffix. Word-level stress, which falls on the final syllable in EA, appears on the agreement suffix in (4a), whereas it falls on the last syllable of the word preceding the auxiliary in (4b). Moreover, the auxiliary does not undergo morphophonological alternations, whereas the agreement suffix for the 3rd singular form changes...