The "Have Got" Construction
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explanation at the same time.
This is the construction which is designed to account for the acceptable and
unacceptable paraphrase relations seen in the following list.
- 1a. She has blue eyes.
- 1b. She's got blue eyes.
- 2a. I have to leave.
- 2b. I've got to leave.
- 3a. She has a baby every two years.
- 3b. *She's got a baby every two years.
- 4a. He has his hands in his pockets.
- 4b. He's got his hands in his pockets.
- 5a. She has me cut her hair.
- 5b. *She's got me cut her hair.
- 6a. He has them washing his car.
- 6b. He's got them washing his car.
- 7a. He had blue eyes.
- 7b. *He'd got blue eyes.
- 8a. I have seen them
- 8b. *I've got seen them.
The phenomenon of GOT-extension concerns several uses of the verb HAVE,
hence it needs to leave its semantics and valence as a variables. The basic
observations are these.
GOT-extension allows HAVE to be used as an auxiliary. One of the properties
of the auxiliary HAVE is the possibility of contraction; that's the reason all the
examples above have pronoun subjects. It's not quite so common to contract
to 'VE or 'S after a phrasal subject. Other auxiliary properties are the ability to
occur with negation (HAVEN'T) or in Inversion constructions ("Have you
GOT-extension is limited to present tense. Compare (1) above with (7).
GOT-extension is limited to stative meaning. Compare (2) with (3), and (5)
GOT-extension is not possible with the perfect auxiliary. Notice (8).
The word GOT has no meaning on its own. American English (which
distinguishes this GOT from the past participle GOTTEN) makes it clear that
it is not, synchronically, a form of, or a use of, the past participle of GET.
The ss|syn|head path in the upper left corner of the diagram tells us
that the lexical verb identified in this construction is HAVE and that it is an
The ss|syn|head path in the smaller box at the bottom tells us that
the input lexical item is a non-auxiliary (that is, is marked "aux -") verb
The two ss|sem paths in the upper left corner and in the small box
both lead to feature structures linked by the unification index #1. This tells us
that the semantics of the GOT-extended HAVE is the same as that of the input
HAVE, but also that it is limited to stative uses and to the present tense.
Now look at the valence description in the middle of the large box. This tells
you that there is a theta-null subject (hence GOT-extended HAVE is a
"raising" verb, as with other auxiliaries). The other argument is a "VP"
headed by the word GOT. The path ss|syn|head tells us that this
lexical head is the form GOT, classified as a verb, with null inflection. That
means only that there's no particular reason to assign it any of the standard
inflections. The path ss|syn|level leads to the information that this
constituent is a VP ("srs -" = "subject requirement not satisfied").
Now notice that the valence of the input HAVE and the valence of the GOT
The WXDY Construction
- By proposing that GOT is the verbal head of a VP complement of the
auxiliary HAVE, rather than simply an addition to the valence of the input
HAVE, we assign constituency to the phrase beginning with GOT. (Hence,
"[have] [you] [got any]" rather than "[have] [you] [got] [any]", etc.), and we
avoid the problem of specifying the position of this word in the VP.
- There are some uses of HAVE which can function either as a main
verb or as an auxiliary. Thus, we have - in some people's speech, anyway -
both "Have you anything to do?" and "Do you have anything to do?". This
means that this 'possession' use of the verb will have to be represented as
unspecified for auxiliarity. ("aux [ ]" rather than "aux +" or "aux -") This
unspecified character of "aux" for this use makes it available for GOT-
extension, thus allowing "Have you got anything to do?".
- What we know about auxiliary functions, negation, and GOT-
extension predicts the acceptability of "You haven't got to do that", but at least
some speakers regard that as ungrammatical, or at least strongly dispreferred.
- There remains the problem of what to do with the simple present-
tense use of GOT without a supporting auxiliary, expecially since we
apparently need to show that the simplest way of explaining it is in terms of
the "deletion" of the contraction to [v]. Thus "I've got nothing to do" and "I
got nothing to do" mean the same thing, but "He's got nothing to do" doesn't
allow reduction to "*He got nothing to do." The fact that unsupported GOT is
available for plural subjects and first and second person subjects, but not for
third person singular, seems to show that [v]-deletion is possible, but [z]-
deletion is not. How to say that in a constructionist formalism is a problem.
See the relevant text surrounding Figure 8 in
The March 18, 20 lecture notes [="What's X doing Y?"] for explanation.