LINGUIST List 12.1900

Wed Jul 25 2001

Review: Cann et al, Grammatical Interfaces in HPSG

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  1. Milena Slavcheva, review of Cann et al, Grammatical Interfaces in HPSG

Message 1: review of Cann et al, Grammatical Interfaces in HPSG

Date: Wed, 25 Jul 2001 11:23:40 +0300
From: Milena Slavcheva <>
Subject: review of Cann et al, Grammatical Interfaces in HPSG

Cann, Ronnie, Claire Grover and Philip Miller, ed. (2000) Grammatical
Interfaces in HPSG. CSLI Publications, paperback, xxii+292 pp., 
ISBN 1-57586-314-6, Studies in Constraint-Based Lexicalism 8

Milena Slavcheva, Central Laboratory for Parallel Information Processing,
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

The book is an edited collection of papers, many of them presented at the
Sixth HPSG Conference, held at the University of Edinburgh in August 1999.
An introduction by the editors overviews the papers exploring interface
phenomena between various grammatical components within HPSG. The papers
deal with a whole range of languages and constructions of those languages.
The book consists of 15 chapters, each one of them being an independent
article (including the bibliography referred to in the text). There is also
a list of the contributors and their affiliations, as well as a Subject
Index and a Name Index.

Chapter 1 is entitled "Incorporation in Danish: Implications for
Interfaces" and is written by Ash Asudeh and Line Hove Mikkelsen. The
authors explore the syntax-prosody interface in their attempt to provide a
formal analysis of a linguistic phenomenon in Danish: syntactic noun
incorporation. Their approach is compatible with the core HPSG notion of
parallelism in information encoding and introduces a lexical account of the
Danish syntactic noun incorporation that extends the HPSG phonology in a
non-trivial way. The phenomenon is first linguistically analyzed on all
four basic levels of description: phonology, syntax, semantics and
pragmatics. The formal analysis shows how phonological phrasing can be
built in parallel with syntactic combination and is based on three
mechanisms: 1) the multiple-inheritance type hierarchy of Abeille and
Godard (2000) which cross-classifies the type sign for weight and
phrasality (lite/non-lite signs, words/phrases); 2) description level
lexical rules (Meurers, 1999) stating the lexical relationship between
normal transitive verbs and syntactic-noun-incorporation verbs;
3)phonological constituency stemming from the string-based approach of Bird
and Klein (1994), and Monachesi (1999) for partition of the sort "phon" and
appropriate extensions to the PHONOLOGY feature in the HPSG feature
structure descriptions.

The morphology-syntax interface is demonstrated in Chapter 2,
"Incorporating Contracted Auxiliaries in English" by Emily M. Bender and
Ivan A. Sag, whose topic is the auxiliary contraction in English. A
previous approach to the phenomenon is that of Sadler (1997) and Barron
(1998) who propose an inflected-pronoun analysis where the tense inflection
is treated as a morpheme attaching to a nominal that does not head the
sentence. Bender and Sag suggest an alternative to the "inflected subject"
analysis: they propose to treat contracted auxiliary forms as verbs with an
incorporated pronominal subject. In such a way, the fused lexical element
is the head of the clause and this representation is consonant with the
cross-linguistic nature of headed constructions. Argumentation is provided
in favour of the "subject incorporation" analysis, which is linguistically
motivated for English, conforms to HPSG basic assumptions about headedness
and locality, and makes use of the HPSG well-established conception of

In Chapter 3, "Negation in Colloquial Welsh" by Robert D. Borsley and Bob
Morris Jones, an HPSG analysis of negative sentences (main clauses) in
colloquial Welsh is proposed. A considerable amount of data is presented
which illustrates the interplay between verb forms and the positioning of
certain verbal particles and negative words (n-words) responsible for the
negative or non-negative interpretation of the sentence. Types of negative
verbs are defined and their syntactic relations with negative words
(n-words) are postulated. The authors foresee two possible mechanisms for
capturing generalizations over negative verb categories and their
interaction with n-words: 1) lexical rules for providing the necessary
negative verb categories; 2) formulation of constraints over certain basic
underspecified verbal categories. The second approach is the preferred one
due to two main reasons: a number of members of the HPSG community have
argued against the use of lexical rules for capturing relations between
lexical items; the first approach misses a generalization of the
similarities between the four types of negative verbs that are
distinguished. The HPSG analysis is based on the distinction of the
selectional properties of the types of negative verbs compared to the
affirmative ones. The authors demonstrate the appropriateness of their
formal analysis and suppose that this analysis for Welsh is "potentially
relevant to both English and French, and perhaps to other languages as
well" (p.49).

Chapter 4, "Argument Realization and Dutch R-Pronouns: Solving Bech's
Problem without Movement or Deletion" by Gosse Bouma, as the title
suggests, presents an analysis of R-pronouns in Dutch which accounts for
their properties as extracted arguments of prepositions, as adverbs of the
Middle Field of the Dutch sentence binding a gap originating in a
prepositional phrase, and as subjects. Previous analyses of the phenomenon
involve movement of R-pronouns in the phrase structure or, in the case of
HPSG treatment, introduce an ad hoc phrase structure schema. G. Bouma's
analysis of the Dutch R-pronouns follows the formalization presented in the
article of Bouma et al. (2001) which has already become a milestone in the
development of HPSG: an auxiliary level of representation DEPS (dependency
structure) is the mediator between the ARG-ST (argument structure) and
VALENCE of lexical signs. Appropriate principles and constraints are
formulated (like the Verbal Argument Structure Extension Principle, the
Prepositional Argument Realization, the Bind R-Pronoun Principle, the
Passive Argument Structure Extension, the Locative Subject Constraint),
which interact with the principles and constraints that are at the core of
Bouma et al.'s (2001) formalization (like Argument Realization and Slash

The interface between morphology and syntax is also explored in Chapter 5,
"Syntactic Transparency of Pronominal Affixes" by Berthold Crysmann. Bound
pronominals in European Portuguese are examined which challenge the
dichotomy established in clitic analysis where clitics are formally
described either at the morphological level as lexical affixes, or at the
syntactic level in terms of linearization. Clitics in European Portuguese
occupy a transitional place between morphology and syntax. From one side,
they clearly manifest the morphological properties of affixes, and at the
same time, their placement preverbal or postverbal is clearly conditioned
by the presence and position of distinct classes of syntactic items:
wh-phrases, nominal and adverbial quantifiers. B. Crysmann provides a
linearization-based analysis triggered by a technically suitable
representation of the clitic cluster and the verbal host as separate domain
objects. Besides the strong argument of the existence of classes of
triggers and non-triggers of proclisis, the analysis is favoured by another
syntactic factor: the possible intervention of syntactic material between
the clitic and its host. Thus a multi-dimensional HPSG grammatical
representation is provided where the internal morphological structure of
the clitic cluster is encoded in the lexical component in a way suitable
for the syntactic treatment of clitic placement in the word-order component.

Chapter 6, "From Argument Raising to Dependent Raising" by Kordula De
Kurthy and W. Detmar Meurers addresses the partial constituent phenomenon
in German. The phenomenon can be, so to say, split into two parts: 1)
constituents are fronted leaving behind one or more complements: this is
the partial constituency that is extensively discussed in the literature;
2) constituents are fronted leaving behind adjuncts: this sub-phenomenon
has generally been neglected in the literature. In this paper the authors
concentrate on the second sub-phenomenon. The assets of their analysis lie
not only in the fact that they promote the much less discussed side of
German partial constituent fronting, but, what is more, they provide an
integrated HPSG analysis that captures the parallel character of the two
kinds of partial constituent phenomena and derives both from the same
underlying mechanism. In the HPSG tradition of Pollard and Sag (1994),
adjuncts are not represented lexically but are inserted syntactically in a
head-adjunct structure. The recently emerging and gaining grounds idea of
lexicalizing the selection of adjuncts (the most recent development being
the above mentioned Bouma et al. (2001)) provides the underlying mechanism
for a uniform analysis of lexical dependents (both arguments and adjuncts).
The authors extend their lexical argument-raising principle, so that
partial constituents can result not only from raising of complements but
also from raising of adjuncts.

Chapter 7, "The Nature of Pragmatic Information" by Georgia M. Green
discusses the character of pragmatic information revealed in its relation
to the rest of the information carried by the signs of language. The
underlying statement in this paper is that pragmatic information is about
mental models (that is, the speaker's and the addressee's mental models of
each other) and that neither the problem, nor the solution of context and
background presupposition (the HPSG repositories of the information
generally treated as stemming from the level of pragmatics) is strictly
linguistic. Conversational implicature is a function of a general theory of
action, in particular, a certain kind of intentional action and its
interpretation. The idea suggested in the paper is demonstrated in
discussion of sentence-final particles in languages like Chinese and
Japanese, sentence-initial discourse markers and honorifics. The inference
from the discussion is that it is not necessary to try to encode this part
of the information, which turns out to be not of linguistic nature, in the
CONTEXT and BACKGROUND component of a feature structure description of a
sign. Thus the formal analysis correctly avoids the overload of the
pragmatics zone of the sign description with rather complex and highly
structured linguistic information, which, intended to convey facts about
the utterance, will never be enough and sufficient to explain the utterance
due to the fact that the pragmatic side of the utterance tends to be
explained in terms of world knowledge rather than in an exhaustive
description of the linguistic reality. General principles like the CONTEXT
Inheritance Principle of Pollard and Sag (1994) or the Cooperative
Principle (Grice, 1975) (together with Grice's "Maxims") would suffice to
operate on a grossly but appropriately structured pragmatic component of
the description of a language sign.

Chapter 8, "The Morphosyntax of Lai Relative Clauses" by Andreas Kathol
advocates a lexicalist HPSG analysis of the relative clause construction in
Lai (Hakha Chin), a Tibeto-Burman language spoken in Western Burma (Chin
State). Relative clauses in Lai are formed by means of an invariant
relative marker following the verb and depend on the fact that Lai is a
predominantly SOV and hence a head-final language. A. Kathol argues that a
long-distance approach is not suitable for Lai relatives. This statement is
supported by the fact that there is lack of evidence for unbounded
dependencies of the filler-gap sort in other parts of the grammar of Lai.
A. Kathol proposes a lexicalist analysis that triggers generalizations
about the relationship between verbal morphology and a relativized
grammatical function for two types of constructions: internally and
externally headed relative clauses. The analysis follows the recent
developments in HPSG in terms of the interface between the two levels of
representation in the feature structure description of lexical signs:
argument structure (the invariant syntactic structure) and valence (the
overt syntactic realization of arguments in a given construction).

Relative clauses challenge the HPSG framework also in Chapter 9,
"Grammatical Interfaces in Korean Relatives" by Jong-Bok Kim and Byung-Soo
Park. In this paper Korean relative clause constructions are analysed whose
structural complexity (strong context-dependence and violation of the
canonical, syntactic island constraints) requires grammatical interfaces
among morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics. On the morphological
level, the verbal form of the highest verb in the relative clause marks the
realization of that clause. This modification information is distributed in
sentences in accordance with syntactic constraints which further interact
with lexical, semantic and pragmatic factors. The constraints ensure the
account of relativization of both complements and adjuncts, based on Bouma
et al.'s (1998) analysis involving a DEPENDENTS level of representation in
a feature structure description. It should be noted that the authors employ
information structure (topic/focus constructions) to provide analysis of
the specific Korean phenomena. It is demonstrated that the complex, at
first sight, interaction of different grammatical levels results in a
simpler grammar of the whole variety of Korean relative constructions.

In Chapter 10, "Prosodic Constituency in HPSG" by Ewan Klein, the relation
between prosodic and syntactic structure is explored and it is demonstrated
how prosodic constituency can be built recursively in parallel with the
definition of syntactic constituency. The analysis is restricted to 'core'
syntactic constructions including transitive and ditransitive VPs, modals,
nominal complements and pronominal subjects. The standard HPSG approach to
phonology is elaborated by modifying the value of the phonology feature in
the description of signs which now can be of two types: word-forms and
metrical trees. Metrical trees introduce prosodic domains (possibly nested)
and a way of marking the most prominent element in a given domain. A
prosodic relation between phonology values and metrical trees is defined
and this relation is incorporated into prosodic constraints within a
constructional hierarchy. Thus the analysis shows how HPSG techniques can
license the expression of syntax-prosody mismatches, define independent
prosodic constraints and relate prosodic structure to syntactic phrases by
means of a multiple inheritance hierarchy in which the dimensions of
clausality and headedness are augmented by the dimension of prosody.

Chapter 11, "A Head-Driven Account of Long-Distance Case Assignment" by
Robert Malouf presents an analysis of case assignment that is generalized
enough to capture the more complex case systems of some languages where
case is associated with a particular structural position rather than a
particular lexical head. R. Malouf provides evidence from some Australian
languages characterized by non-local case marking. The author provides an
HPSG head-driven account of case stacking and long-distance case assignment
by generalizing the value of the CASE feature so that it becomes a list of
morphosyntactic cases. In this way, the core HPSG analysis of case
assignment as a local relationship between a lexical head and its arguments
is preserved and there is no addition of new mechanisms of a structural
nature (contrary to some other approaches mentioned in the paper). A Case
Concord Principle and a Case Realization Principle are formulated on the
basis of Bouma et al.'s (2001) geometry of feature structure descriptions
of lexical signs (three-level representation of the subcategorization
properties: ARGUMENT STRUCTURE, DEPENDENTS and VALENCE). R. Malouf claims
that the analysis presented in the paper sheds some light on a number of
'case attraction phenomena', in which a constituent bears the case of a
larger constituent of which it is a part. Examples of Classical Armenian
and of Gothic support this claim.

In Chapter 12, "German Particle Verbs and the Predicate Complex", the
author, Stefan Mueller, argues that preverbs or verbal particles (preferred
recent terms for the traditionally called separable prefixes of German
finite verbs) behave similarly to other elements of the predicate complex
(an extended notion of verbal complex). Evidence for the above statement
lies in the following linguistic facts: preverbs can be fronted in the same
way as other parts of the predicate complex are; preverbs are serialized
like verbal or predicative adjectival complements in the right periphery of
a clause; resultative constructions and object predicatives share a lot of
properties with particle verbs. The HPSG analysis that S. Mueller proposes
treats preverbs as part of the verbal complex, hence they are selected by
the same valence feature as other elements that form a complex with their
head. This analysis accounts for the similarities that particle verbs share
with resultative constructions and object predicatives. The advantage of
the approach is in the uniform analysis of a range of constructions, which
leads to generalization of existing mechanisms rather than introduction of
new ones.

In Chapter 13, "A Constraint-Based Semantics for Tenses and Temporal
Auxiliaries" by Frank Van Eynde, the syntax-semantics interface is
demonstrated by the development of a constraint-based semantic
representation of a substantial part of the tense-aspect system of Dutch.
The analysis is inspired by insights of Donald Davidson, Hans Reichenbach
and Discourse Representation Theory (DRT) but has become an integrated part
of the HPSG framework. The semantic representation of tensed verbs is
facilitated by the introduction of verbal indices as a value of the CONTENT
feature of verbal signs, which thus obtain the same format as nominal
signs. By adding appropriate features to the structure of CONTENT and
CONTEXT in the descriptions of verbal signs, information is encoded about
the relation between utterance time, reference time and event time. The
analysis of the different aspectual tenses in Dutch and the proper semantic
interpretation of sentences are guaranteed by the introduction of a sortal
distinction between substantive and nonsubstantive verbal signs and the
application of a small set of implicational constraints. The
syntax-semantics interface described in this paper is non-directional and
that is advantageous for expressing the relation between the syntactic,
semantic and pragmatic properties of signs.

Chapter 14, "Spanish Psychological Predicates" by Carl Vogel and Begona
Villada examines the issue of argument structure and subject-verb agreement
in Spanish psychological predicates. In view of the conclusion about the
problematic notion of sentence "subject" and the idiosyncrasies of the
argument structure and agreement control of predicates in Spanish, the
authors revert to the first version of HPSG (Pollard and Sag, 1987) for
handling the language phenomenon in terms of positioning of the arguments
in the single SUBCATEGORIZATION list of the predicate. The Spanish
psychological predicates are grouped in five valency patterns depending on
the relation between argument position and agreement control, and between
the semantic entities of cause and experiencer. The analysis is based on
the introduction of positional features (like the head feature POS
(position)) associated with lexical items. The subcategorization frame of a
verb is the local domain in which the head occurs, and a lexical head
declares its position within that domain as at the beginning, the end, or
somewhere in the middle. Related to argument structure and agreement is the
problem of raising and control in Spanish. The authors add the head feature
AGRC (agreement controller) to the description of signs for capturing
subject and object control, as well as subject raising (object raising is
not permitted) in Spanish.

In Chapter 15, "A Bistratal Approach to the Prosody-Syntax Interface in
Japanese" by Kei Yoshimoto, an HPSG-based analysis integrates information
from what is traditionally assumed to be the syntactic structure and
independently represented prosodic information. The two types of
information are encoded in the proposed P(ROSODIC)-STRUCTURE and
C(ONSTUTUENT)-STRUCTURE of the feature structure descriptions of signs.
Keeping the distinction between phonology and syntax intact, minimal
interfaces are posited for capturing the bi-directional interdependencies
between the two strata of grammatical representation. The definition of the
interface from C-structure to P-structure is connected with the phenomenon
of metrical boost, an effect of the syntactic structure on the pitch of the
modifying phrase, where the information about the branching of the
syntactic tree is percolated to the level of prosody. The interface from
P-structure to C-structure is defined in terms of constraining the position
of Japanese interjectional postpositions via the Prosodic-Hierarchy
Principle operating on the structurally enriched HPSG stratum of phonology.

In sum, this collection of papers is a snapshot of the development of the
theory and practice of HPSG, from which several tendencies are inferred.
The feature structure geometry is continuously elaborated by means of
structural expansion of the phonology, semantics and pragmatics components
of the description of linguistic signs. In parallel, the interaction of the
information encoded at all levels of grammatical representation is explored
and the appropriate mechanisms for supporting this interaction are devised.
The general tendency towards lexicalism in the linguistic analyses is
confirmed and further deepened: the analysis of Lai relatives (Chapter 8),
as well as the adoption of the integrated lexicalist approach to argument
and adjunct selection (Bouma et al., 2001) as the grounds for the analysis
in Chaper 6, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, and Chapter 11 are just the most
prominent manifestations. Also the tendency of drawing generalizations over
constructions, languages and representational devices is evident from this
valuable collection of HPSG grammatical analyses.


Abeille, A. and D. Godard (2000). French word order and lexical weight. In
R. D. Borsley, ed., The Nature and Function of Syntactic Categories, New
York: Academic Press.

Barron, J. (1998) Have contraction: Explaining "trace effects" in a theory
without movement. Linguistics 36(2):223-251.

Bird, S. and E. Klein (1994) Phonological analysis in typed feature
systems. Computational Linguistics 20:55-90.

Bouma, G., R. Malouf, and I. A. Sag (1998) A unified theory of complement,
adjunct and subject extraction. Proceedings of the FHCG-98, pp. 83-97.

Bouma, G., R. Malouf, and I. A. Sag (2001) Satisfying constraints on
extraction and adjunction. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 19:1-65.

Grice, H. P. (1975) Logic and conversation. In P. Cole and J. L. Morgan,
ed., Syntax and Semantics 3: Speech Acts, New York: Academic Press.

Meurers, W. D. (1999) Lexical generalizations in the Syntax of German
Non-Finite Constructions, Ph.D. thesis, Seminar fuer Sprachwissenschaft,
University of Tuebingen, Germany, Volume 145 in Arbeitspapiere des SFB 340.

Monachesi, P. (1999) A Lexical Approach to Italian Cliticization. CSLI
Publications, Stanford.

Pollard, C. and I. A. Sag (1987) Information-Based Syntax and Semantics,
Volume 1: Fundamentals. CSLI Publications, Stanford, CA.

Pollard, C. and I. A. Sag (1994) Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar.
Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Sadler, L. (1997) English auxiliaries as tense inflections. To appear in
the Special Issue of Essex Research Reports produced on the occasion of the
retirement of Keith Brown.

The reviewer, Milena Slavcheva, is currently a team member of BulTreeBank
(HPSG-based Syntactic Tree Bank of Bulgarian): a joint project between
Linguistic Modeling Department, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and Seminar
fuer Sprachwissenschaft, University of Tuebingen, Germany, funded by the
Volkswagen Foundation, Germany. Her research interests are in the
application of the theory and formalism of HPSG to Bulgarian (argument
structure and reflexivity of verbs), as well as in the standardization and
automation of the production and processing of annotated electronic text
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