LINGUIST List 12.1117

Mon Apr 23 2001

Disc: New: Moss Review/Verbal Complexes

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  1. �ysteinNilsen, re: Review: Verbal Complexes, Issue 12.1083

Message 1: re: Review: Verbal Complexes, Issue 12.1083

Date: Mon, 23 Apr 2001 17:45:51 +0200
From: �ysteinNilsen <oystein.nilsenlet.uu.nl>
Subject: re: Review: Verbal Complexes, Issue 12.1083

The linguist list (issue 12.1083) contains a review of Hilda Koopman
and Anna Szabolcsi's book ``Verbal Complexes'' by Michael Moss. Moss
finds the book ``technically difficult to read'' and complains that
some concepts are only partially defined. I do not share Moss'
opinions about the book and, perhaps more importantly, I find his
synopsis and later discussion of its contents both inaccurate and 
incomplete. 
	Moss fails to mention major theoretical issues that the book
explicitly addresses, such as the utility of the distinction between
head movement and phrasal movement and of operations like covert
movement (or equivalent reformulations of it, such as 'feature
movement' or the operation 'Agree'). The book contains a chapter
(chapter 4) in which it is argued in detail that (Hungarian) verbal
clusters cannot be formed by head movement. This is an issue of great
importance to syntactic theory, since it points to the conclusion that
generally accepted basic assumptions about clause structure and
constituency cannot survive closer scrutiny. In my view, one of the
most important contributions of the book is its detailed development
and motivation of alternative assumptions that do not suffer from the
same problems. 
	Moss does not comment upon the question whether infinitival
verbs represent full clauses, a question to which a chapter of the
book is devoted (chapter 6), and which is a matter of some current
debate (cf. Cinque 2000). Finally, some of his claims about the book
are simply false. For example, Moss claims that 

	``[t]he authors introduce several new universal functional
	projections such as PredP, RefP, DistP, FP, LP, InfP...''

but the authors do not introduce any of these and they are not 'new'.
For PredP, RefP, DistP and FP there is an extensive literature and the
authors refer the reader to that for motivation and discussion. LP
(licensing phrase) is a new name, but LP is nothing but a generalized
version of the familiar AgrPs; generalized in the sense that,
according to Koopman and Szabolcsi, other constituents than noun
phrases need licensing and move to the specifier of such projections. 
InfP is just a TP with infinitival features. I think it would be
unreasonable to demand that every contribution to theoretical
linguistics should be exhaustive in the sense that it motivates even
widely known concepts and assumptions. In general, ``partial
definitions'' serve two purposes in linguistic literature. On the one
hand the concepts in question may be well-known and widely used, as
argued above for the functional projections. On the other hand, the
author(s) may want to remain uncommital about certain aspects of the
concept. This is standard practise, and it is hard to see how
linguistic theory could ever get off the ground if it were not
possible. 
	In my view, the book addresses crucial issues in current
generative syntax in innovative and interesting ways. It is carefully
argued and reads well. The book should be of great interest, not only 
to researchers interested in the syntax of verbal clusters, but to the
general community of syntactic researchers. 

best regards,
�ystein Nilsen 


- 
�ystein Nilsen
Utrecht institute of Linguistics OTS
Trans 10, 3512 JK Utrecht
office: Achter de Dom 22-24, room 1.09
tlf.: +31 30253 6372
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