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Ing forms and the progressive puzzle: a construction-based approach to English progressives

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 February 2007

Ewha Womans University


This paper argues for a constructional approach to English progressives. On this view, progressivity is a construction-level property, rather than a lexical property of the ing forms that progressive verb phrases contain or of the auxiliary. The incompatibility of ing forms with state verbs in progressive constructions provides crucial evidence in support of the construction-based perspective, given that stative ing forms are fully acceptable in gerundive and other ing constructions. Of course, underlying this approach is the proposal that gerund is neutralizable with present participle (Huddleston 1984, 2002b, c; Pullum 1991; Blevins 1994). A lexicalist and construction-based analysis of gerundive nominals, as in Pullum (1991) and Blevins (1994), offers a means of claiming that progressivity is a property of the combination of an auxiliary and ing participle, just as the perfect aspect is expressed by the combination of have and a past participle, as proposed in Ackerman & Webelhuth (1998) and Spencer (2001b), and implicitly in Curme (1935) and other traditional grammars.

Research Article
2007 Cambridge University Press

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This paper considerably expands on the proposals in chapters 2 and 5 of Lee (2004). I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Jim Blevins for helpful comments and discussions on earlier drafts of this paper. I am also grateful to Keith Brown, Luna Filipovic, Keith Mitchell, and Peter Sells for feedback on previous versions, and to the editor Nigel Fabb and two anonymous JL reviewers for constructive comments and suggestions that have led to improvements in the present version.