LINGUIST List 15.1857

Fri Jun 18 2004

Review: Syntax: Toivonen (2003)

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  1. Nicole Deh�, Non-Projecting Words: A Case Study of Swedish Particles

Message 1: Non-Projecting Words: A Case Study of Swedish Particles

Date: Fri, 18 Jun 2004 01:27:43 -0400 (EDT)
From: Nicole Deh� <>
Subject: Non-Projecting Words: A Case Study of Swedish Particles

Toivonen, Ida (2003) Non-Projecting Words: A Case Study of Swedish
Particles, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Studies in Natural Language and
Linguistic Theory 58.

Announced at

Nicole Deh�, University College London


Ida Toivonen's book contributes to the discussion of the verb particle
combination (VPC, also referred to e.g. as phrasal verbs, particle
verbs or separable complex verbs). It focuses primarily on Swedish,
which sets it apart from most previous literature in the field. The
book is divided into seven chapters plus an appendix. The chapters are
well organised with an introduction/overview at the beginning and a
summary or conclusion at the end of each chapter. In Swedish, as
opposed to other Germanic languages, the particle must immediately
follow the verb it occurs with, preceding the nominal object (e.g. Pia
sparkade UPP bollen, 'Pia kicked up the ball'; *Pia sparkade bollen
UPP). In her monograph, Toivonen argues that this is due to the phrase
structural realisation of the Swedish VPC which differs from other
languages such as English or Danish. Her analysis is motivated on
empirical grounds and formulated within the theoretical framework of
Lexical-Functional Grammar (LFG).


Chapter 1 serves as an introduction to the phenomenon at hand: it
provides examples of the Swedish VPC, establishes (traditional)
criteria to distinguish between particles and related categories, and
offers a short, useful introduction to LFG as the framework employed
in the study. The Swedish verbal particle is defined as ''a
non-projecting word which is adjoined to V�'' (p. 4). The particle is
base-generated in its adjoined position. It is crucial to understand
that the particle is not part of a morphologically complex V; rather,
head adjunction occurs in syntax.

Chapter 2 is intended to further motivate and explain the proposed
analysis which is based on two ''distributional facts''
(p. 16). Firstly, particles and full phrases cannot occur in identical
positions, and secondly, particles cannot be modified. Toivonen also
argues that there is no syntactic category 'particle', but rather that
elements of all lexical categories can function as particles. The
special status of particles is thus merely due to their phrase
structure realization (p. 19). Note that other authors have argued in
favour of a category 'particle', among them Olsen (1998) for English
and German. Interestingly, Toivonen and Olsen arrive at opposite
conclusions on the basis of similar arguments related to some
distributional properties of particles. Toivonen's work on Swedish
thus seems to confirm the special distributional status that has
previously been attributed to particles in other languages. As opposed
to previous literature, however, this status does not translate into a
separate category, but is taken care of by the idea that particles are
non-projecting words. The author then discusses alternative analyses
previously suggested in the literature:

(1) She argues that the particle cannot be a (PP-) projecting head
e.g. in terms of particle positions (particles, but not full PPs
precede the object) and in terms of phrase structure (if particles
were prepositions, there wouldn't be a structural difference between
particles and true intransitive prepositions).

(2) A morphological approach to VPCs is rejected on the basis of two
main arguments:
(i) verbs and particles can be separated in c-structure and 
(ii) whereas morphological constructs are head-final in Swedish, VPCs 
are head initial (i.e. the verb precedes the particle). 

More precisely, Toivonen argues that since compounds in Swedish are
head- final, and particle verbs are head-initial, VPCs cannot form a
morphological unit. However, the direction of headedness clearly does
not provide conclusive evidence since the same difference between
compounds and VPCs holds in English, a language for which Toivonen
assumes the morphological analysis. Toivonen gives examples where
Swedish VPCs enter into morphological processes such as passive
formation, A-formation and N-formation, in which the particle ends up
to the left of the verbal base and the derivative is non-separable in
syntax, showing that the derivative, but not the underlying VPC forms
a real morphological unit. Here the comparison with English becomes
even more interesting. In English both the VPC and the derivative are
left- headed (the looking up of the information/*the up-looking ...),
while compounds are right- headed. However, English VPCs are analysed
by Toivonen as complex heads. If VPCs are compared to compounds, and
if exceptional left-headedness is allowed in English, then the
direction of headedness in general cannot provide conclusive evidence
regarding the complex head status of VPCs in Swedish. The author
returns to this issue in Chapter 6. (3) The idea that particles might
be clitics is rejected mainly on stress-related grounds: whereas
clitics are phonologically weak, Swedish particles are accented. This
observation has also been made in previous work on German
(e.g. Wurmbrand 1998) and English (Fraser 1976, Nespor & Vogel 1986,
Deh� 2001, 2002 among others).

Chapter 3 modifies and reviews the theory of c-structure in LFG and
addresses phrase structure (X' theory) in order to accommodate non-
projecting words such as Swedish particles. I'll be concerned mainly
with one point related to phrase structure. In the framework employed
here, each projecting category is realized in three levels: X-X'-XP,
i.e. if an X is present it projects an X' which in turn projects an
XP. On the other hand, the presence of an XP does not entail the
presence of a head-X (i.e. we do get both structures like Y'-XP-X'-X
and Y'-XP- X', but not Y'-X'-X). Structures that directly violate
X-bar-theory are not allowed, which is why a structure such as VP[V'[V
P]] is impossible (here the P fails to project a P'). It also follows
from these constraints on phrase structure that the particle cannot
accompany the V to I in V2 contexts. This would lead to a structure
such as IP[I'[V[V Prt]]] where V wouldn't project V'. As regards
adjunction, it follows that only non-projecting heads are allowed to
head-adjoin. A structure like I[I V] is thus out, whereas V[V Prt] is
allowed because a particle doesn't project. These assumptions about
phrase structure are crucial for Toivonen's analysis. They account
e.g. for the ungrammaticality of particle pied-piping in V2 contexts
and for the ungrammaticality of the order where the particle follows
the object. The latter is accounted for in terms of economy, such that
the order V Obj Prt is less economical than the order V Prt Obj
because it involves more structure. This idea is also further
discussed in Chapter 4 (pp. 101-103) and in the Appendix.

At this stage, one point about phrase structure that deserves
attention remains unaddressed. If projecting words must be
''immediately dominated'' by an X'(p. 66) and V� is a projecting head,
then why is it possible for V� to occur in the adjunction structure
V�[V� Prt], since clearly the lower V� is not immediately dominated by
V', but only the higher V� is. I suppose this problem could be
addressed and taken care of e.g. along the lines of the
category-segment distinction of Chomsky (1986, 1995). As it stands,
however, it seems to me that the lower V� violates the principles of
X-bar-structure as employed here. In Chapter 4 Toivonen mentions that
it ''is important that our theory of phrase structure permits
recursive head-adjunction'' (p. 99), but unfortunately an explanation
as to how this can be accounted for is not offered.

Chapter 4 further discusses and empirically supports the analysis. It
also addresses apparent problems related to word order and provides
suggestions as to how they can be accounted for in the present
framework. Crucially, there is a Swedish-specific constraint that
holds that verbal particles adjoin as non-projecting heads to V�, and
V� only. Toivonen provides evidence for the adjunction structure from
topicalization (only verb and particle together can be topicalized)
and coordination (a VPC can be coordinated with another V�),
(pp. 94-99). It seems to me that these facts do indeed support the
assumption that the VPC forms a syntactic constituent of some kind at
some point, but not necessarily the head-adjunction analysis.

In this chapter, Toivonen also draws the reader's attention to the
fact that Swedish particles immediately followed by a PP can sometimes
follow the nominal object (pp. 103-107). She suggests that in these
cases the particle is in fact a projecting preposition which modifies
the following PP, rather than a non-projecting particle. This is
reminiscent of what has been argued for English elsewhere (Olsen 1998,
2000, Deh� 2002), namely that particles and prepositions are
homophonous and that there often is a structural ambiguity between
VPCs and adverbial structures which can be disambiguated along the
lines of the scope of an additional modifier ('right' or 'straight').

Chapter 5 addresses the semantics of the Swedish VPC. In particular,
three groups are identified: resultative constructions, aspectual
constructions, and idiomatic verb- particle combinations. No
structural difference is assumed between the different classes:
differences are only related to meaning. There is also a section on
argument structure which basically argues that if a verb is used in a
VPC, the number and type of arguments it takes can be different from
those it takes when it occurs on its own. As regards the semantic
groups, a threefold classification of this kind has long been
suggested in the literature for other languages (Emonds 1985 among
others). Similarly, the influence of the particle on the argument
structure of the verb has frequently been discussed at least for
Dutch, English and German (Booij 1990, McIntyre 2001, 2003, Olsen
1998, Zeller 2001). As far as I can see, the results that Toivonen
arrives at for Swedish fit into the overall pattern.

Chapter 6 offers a comparison between the VPC in Swedish and three
other languages: Danish, German and English.

1) For Danish (pp. 160-162): Although the elements under question
correspond closely to particles in Swedish in both meaning and form,
Toivonen argues that Danish has no particles in the structural sense
at all (i.e. under the definition where particles are non-projecting
words that adjoin to the verb). Evidence comes from the observation
that in Danish all particles must follow the object. They also appear
to be modifiable and thus display the same behaviour as PPs.

2) For German (pp. 162-166), the same analysis as for Swedish is
proposed except for word order. One piece of evidence comes from the
fact that particles always attach outside a prefix-V combination, i.e.
prefix and V do, but particle and V do not form a morphological unit.

3) The discussion of the English VPC (pp. 166-176) leads Toivonen to
the conclusion that there is a crucial structural difference between
the two languages: While a VPC in English is seen as a morphological
unit, verb and particle are syntactically combined in Swedish (via
head- adjunction). She explains that in English, but not Swedish,
particles can optionally follow the direct object, and particles that
appear verb adjacent in English seem to have a ''tighter connection''
(p.169) to the verb than their Swedish counterparts (illustrated along
the lines of coordination/gapping examples). Some possible counter-
arguments, such as the frequently mentioned separability of verb and
particle in the syntax and the fact that the particle can be modified
when following the object, are taken care of by the assumption that
the particle projects a PP of its own when following the object, but
forms a morphological unit with the V when verb-adjacent. This seems
to me to be the 'default analysis' which has been around for many

It is also worth mentioning that in English economy does not seem to
have the same effect as in Swedish since in English it is possible for
the particle to follow the object, thus violating economy under the
present assumptions. This seems odd, in particular because in the
Appendix Toivonen claims as a merit of her analysis that Swedish
particles provide empirical evidence for the Economy principle (e.g.
Bresnan 2001). Economy is argued to be powerful enough to rule out the
V Obj Prt order in Swedish (''Without Economy, the ungrammaticality of
[V Obj Prt] would be unexplained. ... Swedish particles show that ...
an Economy principle is warranted in the grammar''; p. 103). If taken
as evidence for economy in language in general, this seems neutralized
by the fact that in English economy does not seem powerful enough to
rule out an otherwise parallel construction. Under the assumptions
about economy pursued here, it remains unclear to me why the V Obj Prt
order is possible with unmodified particles in English. To put it
differently: If ''[w]ithout Economy, the ungrammaticality of [V Obj
Prt] would be unexplained'' in Swedish, then with economy, the
grammaticality of [V Obj Prt] in English remains unexplained. It
should at least be mentioned that in English (and presumably other
languages such as Norwegian and Icelandic) there seem to be other
factors at work which interact in such a way that they win over
economy. This then is reminiscent of Grimshaw's (2001) hypothesis that
economy is enforced by collective effects of general constraints on
phrase structure, rather than by an economy principle.

Chapter 7 summarises the results of the previous chapters and serves
as a conclusion. It is followed by the Appendix on Economy referred to


Although this work was intended as a language specific study, it would
have immensely benefited from more comparative remarks and more
frequent references to related work. This holds in particular for the
classification in Chapter 5 and for the empirical discussions in
Chapters 2 and 4. In Chapter 6, Swedish is compared to other
languages, but justice is not done to the huge amount of previous work
on the VPC in these languages. Furthermore, it remains to be
investigated if it is necessary to assume a language specific phrase
structural realisation for particles or whether word order variation
between languages follows from more general constraints on phrase
structure. Unfortunately, there are also quite a few typing mistakes,
errors in references, and misleading index entries.

Despite these drawbacks, Toivonen's book is a very welcome
contribution to the ongoing discussion of the verb particle
construction, in particular because it provides (at least to my
knowledge) the first extensive study of the VPC in Swedish. Not least
because of the wealth of data it provides, Toivonen's book will be an
invaluable reference work for anyone doing specific or comparative
work on the (Swedish) VPC.


Booij, G. 1990. ''The boundary between morphology and syntax:
Separable complex verbs in Dutch.'' In Yearbook of Morphology 1990:

Bresnan, J. 2001. Lexical-Functional Syntax. Oxford: Blackwell. 

Chomsky, N. 1986. Barriers. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 

Chomsky, N. 1995. The Minimalist Program. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 

Deh�, N. 2001. ''Intonation patterns of particle verb constructions in
English.'' In NELS 31: 183-197.

Deh�, N. 2002. Particle Verbs in English: Syntax, Information
Structure and Intonation (= Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 59).
Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Emonds, J. E. 1985. A Unified Theory of Syntactic
Categories. Dordrecht Foris.

Fraser, B. 1976. The Verb-Particle Combination in English. New York/
San Francisco/ London: Academic Press.

Grimshaw, J. 2001. ''Economy of structure in OT''. Ms., Rutgers
University. Available as ROA 434-0601 at Rutgers Optimality Archive.

McIntyre, A. 2001. ''Argument blockages induced by verb particles in
English and German: Event modification and secondary predication''. In
N. Deh� & A. Wanner (eds.), Structural Aspects of Semantically Complex
Verbs, pp. 131-164. Berlin/ Frankfurt/ New York: Peter Lang.

McIntyre, A. 2003. ''Preverbs, argument linking and verb semantics.''
In Yearbook of Morphology 2003: 119-144.

Nespor, M. & I. Vogel. 1986. Prosodic Phonology (= Studies in
Generative Grammar 28). Dordrecht: Foris.

Olsen, S. 1998. ''Pr�dikative Argumente syntaktischer und
lexikalischer K�pfe - Zum Status von Partikelverben im Englischen und
Deutschen.'' In Folia Linguistica 16: 301-329.

Olsen, S. 2000. ''Against incorporation''. In J. D�lling & T. Pechmann
(eds.), Linguistische Arbeitsberichte 74, pp. 149-172. University of
Leipzig: Linguistics Department.

Wurmbrand, S. 1998. ''Heads or phrases? Particles in particular.'' In
W. Kehrein & R. Wiese (eds.), Phonology and Morphology of the
Germanic Languages. (= Linguistische Arbeiten 386),
pp. 267-295. T�bingen: Niemeyer.

Zeller, J. 2001. ''How syntax restricts the lexicon: Particle verbs
and internal arguments.'' In Linguistische Berichte 188: 461-494.


Nicole Deh� is an Honorary Research Fellow at UCL, Dept of Phonetics
and Linguistics. She received her PhD in 2001 from the University of
Leipzig. She is the author of Particle Verbs in English: Syntax,
Information Structure and Intonation, 2002, Amsterdam: Benjamins, and
co-editor of a volume on particle verbs (Verb-Particle Explorations,
2002, Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter; with Ray Jackendoff, Andrew
McIntyre and Silke Urban).
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