LINGUIST List 14.2699

Tue Oct 7 2003

Review: Syntax: Gerlach (2002)

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  1. Eva Monr�s Mar�n, Clitics between Syntax and Lexicon

Message 1: Clitics between Syntax and Lexicon

Date: Sat, 04 Oct 2003 23:01:15 +0000
From: Eva Monr�s Mar�n <>
Subject: Clitics between Syntax and Lexicon

Gerlach, Birgit (2002) Clitics between Syntax and Lexicon, John
Benjamins Publishing Co., Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 51.

Announced at

Eva Monr�s, Departament de Ling��stica General, Universitat de


In this volume Birgit Gerlach offers a morphological analysis of
Romance clitics with frequent references to both the phonological and
syntactic levels. This kind of analysis allows for the integration of
constraints and rules from all grammatical modules in order to deal
properly with such a complex phenomenon. On the other hand, the book
covers the main problems of cliticisation discussed in the linguistic

CHAPTER 1. Introduction

A clitic is generally understood to be a word that cannot stand on its
own and leans on a host word in order to become integrated into a
prosodic constituent. Clitics lack stress and exhibit a specific
phonological behaviour, as well as syntactical and morphological
particularities. They are usually functional elements (i.e. pronouns,
determiners, auxiliaries, negation particles and question markers).

This book is devoted to the study of verbal clitics in several Romance
languages, mainly standard Italian, Iberian and Rio de la Plata
Spanish, standard French, Iberian and Brazilian Portuguese and
standard Romanian. In this chapter, three problematic issues are
introduced: the crosslinguistic differences in clitic paradigms
(i.e. inventory, lexical entries and syncretism), clitic sequencing
(i.e. order, restrictions on combination and separability), clitic
placement (i.e. generation, surface position) and doubling. These
three issues are dealt in detail in chapters 3-5. The main theoretical
assumptions used in the analysis are taken from the framework of
Minimalist Morphology (MM), Lexical Decomposition Grammar (LDG),
Optimality Theory (OT), and Correspondence Theory (CT) (see section

CHAPTER 2. The status of Romance clitics between words and affixes

In chapter 2 the author argues in favour of considering clitics an
independent morphological category. The reasons go beyond the
traditional descriptive properties. Clitics have a different status
from inflectional and even phrasal affixes. Let us see the main
prosodic and morphological motivations.

The phonological properties of clitics have been largely described
throughout linguistic research. Section 2.2 reviews the main
contributions of prosodic structure theories. On one hand, some
proposals regard clitics as constituting an autonomous prosodic unit,
as they generally do not affect stress distribution. On the other,
they are also assumed to integrate a prosodic word together with a
stressed element. Gerlach seems to prefer the second option, stress
assignment and readjustment being crucial in this choice.

As regards morphology, what are the differences between clitics and
inflectional affixes? The so-called 'Zwicky-criteria' (Zwicky, 1985)
are used to determine the morphological status of an element and its
degree of autonomy. Combining Zwicky-criteria and N�bling's (1992)
bundle of scales, Gerlach concludes that Romance pronominal clitics
are neither words nor affixes, but constitute an independent category.

Clitic morphology differs from affixal morphology in several
respects. All of them are explored and thoroughly exemplified in
section 2.2. The following phenomena can only be explained by specific
restrictions on clitics, as affixal elements do not allow as much
variation: arbitrary gaps in clitic-verb and clitic-clitic
combinations, morphophonological idiosyncrasies (e.g. vowel deletion,
consonant neutralisations, opaque sequences), particular internal
ordering, host selectivity and partial changeability with full

As for other clitic-like forms, most of them are also given the
morphological status of clitics, different from affixes and words. The
discussion focuses on Romanian auxiliaries and French negation, among

To close chapter 2, the problems of Anderson's model of phrasal
affixation are presented (Anderson, 1992). The empirical and
theoretical problems arise with respect to the domain of clisis, as it
can depend even on semantic conditions or on the internal
morphological structure of the verbal host (e.g. future forms in

CHAPTER 3. Clitics in the lexicon

Chapter 3 provides the first theoretical formulation of the book. As
mentioned above, the theoretical background combines MM, LDG, OT and
CT. According to MM, all linguistic elements are represented in the
lexicon with their phonological form, their morphosyntactic features
and their semantics; it is an early insertion model. The lexicon
supplies the input information for the utterance and a set of rules
and constrains generate a set of output candidates. The
language-specific constraint ranking and the Faithfulness constraints
evaluate each of the output candidates. For instance, a Faithfulness
constraint such as the MAX(arg)M constraint will require that an
argument is realised as a clitic - or an affix - in the output. OT and
CT provide notions of ranking and violability of constraints.

Besides the theoretical background, this chapter analyses the clitic
inventories in each of the studied languages. The phonological
representation and morphological value of pronominal clitics are very
similar among languages, whereas the lexical entries differ a great
deal depending on the paradigmatic opposition inside the
language-specific clitic paradigm. As regards the realisation of
arguments by clitics, Gerlach analysis resembles Grimshaw's (1997)
optimal approach. After discussing Grimshaw's analysis of Italian, the
author explains her own proposal.

Within the lexicon, clitic inventories reflect the contrasts and
syncretisms among elements. Syncretism is accounted for by
underspecification; for example, gender is underspecified in the
lexical entry of 1st and 2nd object pronouns in all Romance
languages. The relevant features consigned in the clitic paradigms
are: person, gender, number, case, reflexivity, category [+D],
[-max,-min] (i.e. they are neither words nor affixes) and [+V]
(i.e. they are attached to a verb). In general, 3rd person exhibits
the most unambiguous forms.

As for the choice of clitics from the paradigm, the Faithfulness
constraints will assure that every feature of the input is represented
in the output sequence. On the other hand, the Markedness constraints
regulate the co-occurrence of certain features; this explains, for
example, the lack of gender marking in dative pronominal clitics (i.e.
case is ranked over gender).

The reader can see the details of the analysis for each language in
sections 3.2.2-3.2.7. Among them, Portuguese and Spanish have the
simplest paradigm, whereas French and Romanian have the most complex
ones; The French inventory incorporates the negation, a partitive, a
locative and the subject clitics, and Romanian includes also auxiliary

CHAPTER 4. Clitic sequences

Clitic combinations exhibit a particular behaviour as regards
linearisation, co-occurrence and surface forms. In chapter 4 the
author claims that clitic sequences form a morphological unit with its
own rules.

One of the most relevant properties of those units is inseparability:
all the clitics of the same verb are placed in the same sentential
position. Moreover, clitics are strictly ordered with respect to each
other within the sequence. The features responsible for the order are
case and person; for instance, IO clitics almost always precede DO
clitics, whereas 1st and 2nd person precede 3rd person. Another
well-known characteristic of the combinations of clitics is opacity,
due to deletion, substitution or changes in the surface form of the
sequenced elements (cf. Bonet, 1995). As usual in this book, a lot of
examples are offered for these properties.

Gerlach proposes an Optimality-theoretical explanation for clitic
sequences. As she points out, this kind of analysis allows combining
simultaneously constraints from different grammatical modules. The
relevant set of output candidates for the sequence is formed from
elements of the input; then, evaluation constraints operate. For the
sake of illustration, let us briefly see some examples.

At the morphological level, ALIGNMENT constraints - linked to
markedness in the person and argument hierarchy - are responsible for
the internal order of the elements. On the other hand, prohibited
combinations (i.e. 1/2OD+3OI) are prevented by means of a 'harmonic
alignment' restriction between person and argument hierarchies (cf.
section 4.3.4 for details). In the phonological level, clitic
sequences obey minimality conditions that, among other operations,
trigger phonological reduction or deletion. Besides, they also obey
certain dissimilation conditions (i.e. the elements of a clitic
sequence must be dissimilar) which are the reason for the opaque

CHAPTER 5. Clitics at the interfaces: clitic placement and clitic

Chapter 5 is concerned with the placement of clitics in the sentence
which is different from that of full DPs. To begin with, Gerlach
summarises two well-known purely syntactic approaches: movement
(Kayne, 1975) and base generation (Jaeggli, 1982). Next, she offers an
analysis in terms of OT, combining syntactic, morphological and
prosodic ALIGN constraints. These constraints regulate the syntactic
domain of cliticisation (i.e. V), the position of the clitics within
this domain (i.e. enclisis or proclisis), and the prosodic
attachment. Among the most problematic issues we find mesoclisis in
European Portuguese.

As regards clitic doubling, it is a prohibited phenomenon in many
Romance languages. When allowed, clitic doubling must obey certain
properties, such as animacy, specificity, and the argument grammatical
relation and discourse status.


One of the most outstanding qualities of this book is probably the
important empirical background provided. Each property, condition or
restriction is exemplified in the specific language containing it,
rending the exposition comprehensible. The data come from a wide range
of several sources, such as Perlmutter (1970), Monachesi (1995),
Grimshaw (1997), Crysmann (2000), among others.

The examples almost always reach deep detail. For instance, when
dealing with arbitrary gaps, Gerlach presents the personal restriction
*1+2 and does not forget to remark that this combination is possible
in Spanish if one of the pronouns is an ethical dative. However, on
other occasions - certainly rare -, the lack of detail can be
misleading: in pp. 222-223 the author states that clitic doubling is
obligatory in Spanish with indirect objects, which would require
further explanations.

On the other hand, the analysis is well framed within the reference
theoretical models. The postulate presentation of the before mentioned
models given in chapter 1 allows the reader to get familiar with the
theoretical framework and comfortably follow the author
explanations. The exposition is explicit throughout the analysis
despite its complexity. I would like to highlight that this
observation does not stem from a critical position, it only pretends
to make evident that the book is written for a specialized reader.

The study of the particularities of the Romance pronominal clitics
leads to several theoretical conclusions. From the point of view of
clitics themselves, we have already pointed out the fact that there is
enough evidence to consider them an independent morphological
category. Therefore, we can claim that cliticisation is an interface
phenomenon. However, Gerlach's analysis has much deeper implications
such as the need to postulate an autonomous morphological component
within the grammatical system (cf. section 3.1.)

To conclude, this volume offers us an exhaustive revision of the main
aspects concerning Romance pronominal clitics. To put it in nutshell,
we are dealing with a book which contains both a solid empirical basis
and a consistent theoretical formulation.


BONET, E. (1995). ''Feature structure of Romance clitics''. Natural
Language and Linguistic Theory 13, pp. 607-647.

CRYSMANN, B. (2000). ''Clitics and coordination in linear structure''.
Dins: Gerlach, B. I J. Grijzenhout (eds.) Clitics in Phonology,
Morphology and Syntax, Amsterdam/Philadelphia, John Benjamins, pp.

GRIMSHAW, J. (1997). ''The best clitic: constraint conflict in
Morphosyntax''. Dins: Haegemann, L. (ed.) Elements of Grammar,
Dordrecht, Cluwer, pp. 169-196.

JAEGGLI, O. A. (1982). Topics in Romance Syntax. Dordrecht: Foris.

KAYNE, R. S. (1975). French Syntax: the Transformational Cycle.
Cambridge MA: MIT Press.

MONACHESI, P. (1995). A Grammar of Italian Clitics. PhD Diss. Tilburg

N�BLING, D. (1992). Klitika im Deutschen. Schriftsprache,
Umgangssprache, Alemanische Dialekte. T�bingen: Gunter Narr.

PERLMUTTER, D. M. (1970). ''Surface structure constraints in syntax''.
Linguistic Inquiry 1, pp. 187-255.

ZWICKY, A. M. (1985). ''Clitics and particles''. Language 61.2, pp.


Eva Monr�s holds a degree in Catalan Language and Literature (1997)
and in General Linguistics (2000). She is a researcher at the
Universitat de Barcelona (Spain) under a grant for postgraduate
students from the Catalan Government and is currently working with a
team of researchers from Brazil. Her research interests are syntactic
typology and minimalist framework. Her on-going PhD project deals with
ergativity in Amazonian languages.
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