LINGUIST List 15.2131

Thu Jul 22 2004

Review: Typology/Syntax: Pica & Rooryck, ed. (2003)

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  1. Kleanthes Grohmann, Linguistic Variation Yearbook, Volume 2

Message 1: Linguistic Variation Yearbook, Volume 2

Date: Tue, 20 Jul 2004 21:47:16 -0400 (EDT)
From: Kleanthes Grohmann <>
Subject: Linguistic Variation Yearbook, Volume 2

EDITORS: Pica, Pierre; Rooryck, Johan
TITLE: Linguistic Variation Yearbook
SUBTITLE: Volume 2, 2002
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2003 
Announced at

Kleanthes K. Grohmann, Department of English Studies, University of Cyprus


LVYB 2 is the second installment of what looks like a very exciting
and welcome addition to annual periodicals on the theoretical market,
the Linguistic Variation Yearbook. The aim and scope of LVYB,
according to the inside cover blurb and the website is ''the study of
the nature and scope of linguistic variation from the point of view of
a Minimalist program.'' Having read (and reviewed) the first two
issues, it is my impression that LVYB achieves this goal rather
well. The specific theoretical take on variation gives LVYB its edge
over comparable periodicals (and it is competition-free in the
yearbook market) -- both those dealing with linguistic change and
variation from a non- theoretical or broader, typological perspective
and those more theoretically inclined ones dealing with natural
language as a whole. Moreover, the indefinite article preceding
''Minimalist program'' suggests, at least in theory, a wider range of
theoretical perspectives than *the* Minimalist program (Chomsky 1995
and subsequent work). In fact, this also holds in practice as can be
witnessed by at least the first contribution to this issue (and one
more in LVYB 1 as I pointed out in my book notice forthcoming in
Language; see also my EVALUATION below for more comments).

The LVYB-editors, Pierre Pica and Johan Rooryck, kick the second issue
off with their brief ''Introduction'' (1-3), in which they mainly
provide a brief synopsis of the articles included here. The volume is
rounded off by a useful ''Subject Index'' (305-307). With further
regard to usefulness, each article is preceded by an abstract (often
quite comprehensive) and keywords (up to eleven items). In between we
find eight contributions of varying length and high quality.

Introducing *a* minimalist approach to ''Markedness, Antisymmetry and
Complexity of Constructions'' (5-30), Peter W. Culicover and Andrzej
Nowak sketch the beginnings of an ambitious project. The authors aim
at no less than providing an approach to ''the interactions between
language change, language acquisition, markedness, and computational
complexity of mappings between grammatical representations'' (5). The
most salient ingredient of their proposal is markedness understood as
degree of transparency in the mapping between syntactic and conceptual

Heidi Harley considers the relation between ''Possession and the
Double Object Construction'' (31-70) and comes to the conclusion that
an ''alternative projection''-style analysis (roughly of the sorts
argued for by Pesetsky 1995) be preferred to a ''transform'' approach
such as Larson (1988). The specific analysis she presents decomposes
the double-object verb into two heads identified as a CAUSE and a
prepositional head, respectively. V_CAUSE is the predicate that
selects the external argument, P_HAVE is the well-known prepositional
component of the verb 'have', supported here with an investigation as
promised in the title.

Wh-question formation and its relation to focus in American Sign
Language (ASL) is the topic of Carol Neidlle's ''Language across
Modalities: ASL Focus and Question Constructions'' (71-98). There is
an apparent optionality of wh-movement in ASL: wh-phrases may move to
SpecCP (which is situated at the right periphery of the clause) or
remain in situ. Neidle's analysis for this state of affairs involves
two functional projections outside IP. First, there is an FP which
hosts focused phrases, but also 'if'-, 'when'- and relative clauses. A
wh-phrase, inherently focused, targets this position first to check
its focus feature. Second, FP is dominated by CP, the usual host for
wh- phrases, so fronted wh-elements end up here. In-situ wh-phrases
are non-focused and lack of movement is accounted for in terms of
Relativized Minimality.

Ileana Paul provides ''An Explanation of Extraction Asymmetries in
Malagasy'' (99-122), namely the fact that objects cannot move out of
VP -- or rather, from within the light verb phrase vP. Paul employs
the notion of a ''phase'' (Chomsky 1998, 1999) according to which a
linguistic expression must first move to the edge of a phase head (=
to one of its specifiers) in order to move on, for example, to then
undergo wh-movement. Now v is a phase head and if the possibility for
the Malagasy object to move to an outer specifier of v is ruled out,
there will never be extraction proper of objects. By arguing that
objects are licensed in situ, Paul restricts the in situ-only
occurrence of objects and impossibility of extraction. The analysis is
extended to other languages with similar extraction patterns
(discussed here: Tagalog, Indonesian).

Alain Rouveret asks: ''How are Resumptive Pronouns Linked to the
Periphery?'' (123-184). Concentrating on relative clauses (mainly in
Welsh and Irish), the answer he reaches is through Agree (Chomsky
2001) in resumptive relatives and through Agree followed by Move in
gap relatives. Agree is the long-distance checking relation between a
relative C head and the relativized element, which bears an
uninterpretable [Rel]-feature. This movement/ resumption divide is
further accounted for by, to quote from the abstract, ''[a] sharpening
of the notion of 'phase''' -- which means in this case that ''[i]n
Welsh relatives, the resumptive strategy is not available when the
relativization site is an argument position belonging to the highest
CP-phase or accessible at that phase'' (144). This results in a
difference of strategies in short- and long-distance relativization
for both subjects and objects.

Cristina Schmitt and Alan Munn are concerned with ''The Syntax and
Semantics of Bare Arguments in Brazilian Portuguese'' (185-216). Both
English and Brazilian Portuguese (BrP) allow bare plurals -- but in
BrP bare singulars are also licensed. Also, the syntactic and semantic
restrictions holding of bare plurals across Romance languages don't
apply to BrP. These three (cross-linguistic) facts are not accounted
for in terms of present syntactic proposals (such as Longobardi 1994)
or even semantic parametrization (as could be implemented according to
Chierchia 1998), but on the sole basis of morpho-syntactic properties.
The obviously desirable result is that all syntactic variation can be
expressed as such.

Myriam Uribe-Etxebarria investigates ''In situ Questions and Masked
Movement'' (217-257). Unlike under Neidle's account, for example, in-
situ wh-questions (at least across Romance dialects) are not what they
seem. Uribe-Etxebarria argues that all wh-questions involve movement
of the wh-element, and the landing site is invariably SpecCP (although
the exact nature of CP may vary, but it is some operator-position in
the left periphery). Apparent in-situ questions involve two movement
steps: first movement of the wh-phrase to SpecCP, the remnant movement
of the IP to a higher position. (For alternative analyses for French,
see e.g. Chang 1997, Boskovic 1998 [not 1997!], Cheng & Rooryck 2000,
Boeckx 2001, Butler & Mathieu 2004.) Apart from a detailed
argumentation and discussion (primarily for Spanish, but extended to
varying degrees to Bellunese, French, Portuguese), one theoretical
result achieved here is that covert movement operations can be
excluded from the grammar (cf. Groat & O'Neil 1996, Kayne 1998).

An account of ''Variation in P-Phrasing in Bengali'' (259-303) is
Hubert Truckenbrodt's goal. His ''minimalist'' analysis is one couched
in Optimality Theory (OT; Prince & Smolensky 1993). The phenomenon
expressed in the title -- where p-phrasing in Bengali is informed by
either tones of the intonational system or segmental spreading
phenomena (Hayes & Lahiri 1991) -- is accounted for by free ranking of
the relevant constraints involved (cf. Ito & Mester 1997) and allows
new insights into the relation between syntactic and phonological
phrases. This can be expressed through output-to-output faithfulness
between (internal) phonological phrase boundaries and syntactic (=
maximal) phrase boundaries when they occur in isolation. Variation in
more complex forms is derived from simpler forms of this OO-
faithfulness constraint, following a suggestion of Elenbaas (1999).


As an editorial critique -- the only one, in fact -- I would like to
mention that some of us look closely at references and the style of
listing in the bibliographies is not always coherent. It would be nice
to avoid some easily avoidable slips in the future.

It is impossible within the scope of this review to address and
critically evaluate all contributions to LVYB 2 -- primarily because
the topics studied in these papers are rarely connected. (As a
yearbook, this property, among others, sets it apart from most edited
volumes with contributions circling around a particular topic.) One
aspect in which they are, or should be, connected, however, concerns
part of the aim and scope defined for LVYB as mentioned above already.

The ''point of view of a Minimalist program'' is, of course,
ambiguous. One's initial interpretation might possibly relate the
points of view expressed in each contribution to LVYB to *the*
Minimalist [P]rogram, i.e. the new turn in generative syntax that
started with Chomsky's earliest minimalist papers collectively
published as Chomsky (1995), the host of scholars who followed these
ideas and expanded the program, and the latest installments
vis-�-vis the phase-based framework (Chomsky 1998, 1999, 2001). But
this is apparently not the reading intended.

For example, the ''minimalist'' theory Culicover and Nowak pursue
looks like a derivation of 'constructions' (Goldberg 1995) from
'conceptual structure' (Jackendoff 1990), where 'complexity' is
understood as in e.g. Hawkins (1994) or Culicover (1999) and
'antisymmetry' (Kayne 1994) is just an epiphenomenon -- no (real)
mention of *the* Minimalist Program.

The obvious absence of the syntactic minimalism in one's (or my)
initial interpretation in Truckenbrodt's article can also be
mentioned. While his study on phonological phrasing has obvious
consequences for syntactic theory and minimalism in particular,
Optimality ain't minimalist. At least not for me. And this paper was
the least (if at all) syntacticky one -- but again, this doesn't mean
much (primarily because of its intrinsic interest to syntacticians).

Both papers have their place in a periodical that aims at
investigating linguistic variation from a *theoretical* perspective
(which is more focused than some variation journals out there, but
less specific than, possibly a particular form of, minimalism).

The minimalism espoused in the other papers varies also. What is
striking is that Rouveret's implementation involves tools that Chomsky
(1999) introduced which could have been used by Paul as well -- and
since she cites Chomsky (1999) I'm puzzled that she doesn't. I'm
thinking, for example, of note 10 in which she cites several works
that might help her justify lack of ex-situ movement of the object in
Malagasy. Accusative-checking through Agree, concomitant with the
postulation that v only has one EPP-feature (a program sketched more
concretely in Chomsky 2001), would probably have done the trick --
which, interestingly, is implicit in Paul's suggestion without putting
her thumb on the source.

It is my firm belief that LVYB might well play an integral role in
future research shedding light on both linguistic theory and
explaining variation. The contributions to the first issue set a high
standard which carries over to the second issue, confirming this
belief so far. Maybe a future editorial can shed some light on the
''point of view of a Minimalist program'' that partly defines the
scope of variation to be presented in LVYB. Alternatively, the editors
can inform potential contributors in which way they would like to see
''a Minimalist program'' expressed in the articles, so as to create
some common thread among the articles published. This said, a lot of
linguistic variation and ''organization of the language faculty''
(also from the aim & scope blurb) exists which could not have possibly
been addressed in two issues. So I for one am very excited about
future volumes.

There is, of course, another way to interpret the stated aims and
scope (which beyond the half-sentence I keep referring to consists of
three paragraphs). LVYB can, and possibly should, be seen as a new
platform for researchers interested in linguistic variation to develop
new theoretical approaches with consequences for more than one
(narrowly defined) part of the grammar. ''Minimalist'' in this sense
would then refer to a wider enterprise that goes beyond the work of
Noam Chomsky and linguists who work within that framework. In other
words, taking a wider minimalist-cognitive perspective (how ever to be
defined concretely) might finally give people working within the
so-called ''Chomskyan paradigm'' a break to always defend themselves
and cast doubts on their own achievements and at the same time opens
the door to a whole new world of research.

As a note to the publisher, the quality of the first two volumes and
the gap that LVYB obviously aims to fill could be taken as a sign that
there might be more to get out of the aim & scope than an annual
yearbook. My mixing of terminology throughout (journal, periodical,
yearbook) already suggests that as far as I am concerned I would love
to see LVYB turn into a full-fledged journal with at least two or
three issues a year. It's a commitment that both publisher and editors
would have to make, but I'm sure many readers will agree that it would
be worthwhile once they lay their hands on LVYB. And if the previous
paragraph makes any sense, the need for a theoretical journal for
linguistic variation from the point of view of a minimalist program
becomes not stronger, but simply indispensable.


Boeckx, C. 2003. French Wh-in-situ Interrogatives as (C)overt Clefts.
Ms., Harvard University.

Boskovic, Z. 1998. LF Movement and the Minimalist Program. In P.
Tamanji & K. Kusumoto, eds. Proceedings of NELS 28. University of
Massachusetts, Amherst: GLSA, 43-51.

Butler, J. & E. Mathieu. 2004. The Syntax and Semantics of Split
Constructions: A Comparative Study. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Chang, L. 1997. Wh-in situ Phenomena in French. MA thesis, University
of British Columbia.

Cheng, L. & J. Rooryck. 2000. Licensing Wh-in-situ. Syntax 3, 1-19.

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

Chomsky, N. 1998. Minimalist Inquiries: The Framework. MIT Occasional
Papers in Linguistics 15. Appeared in R. Martin, D. Michaels & J.
Uriagereka, eds. 2000. Step by Step: Minimalist Essays in Honor of
Howard Lasnik. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 89-155.

Chomsky, N. 1999. Derivation by Phase. MIT Occasional Papers in
Linguistics 18. Appeared in M. Kenstowicz, ed. 2001. Ken Hale. A Life
in Language. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1-52.

Chomsky, N. 2001. Beyond Explanatory Adequacy. MIT Occasional Papers
in Linguistics 20, 1-28. To appear in A. Belletti, ed. Structures and
Beyond. The Cartography of Syntactic Structures, Vol. 3. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.

Culicover, P.W. 1999. Syntactic Nuts. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Elenbaas, N. 1999. A Unified Account of Binary and Ternary Stress:
Considerations from Sentani and Finnish. PhD thesis, Universiteit

Goldberg, A. 1995. Constructions: A Construction Grammar Approach to
Argument Structure. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Groat, E. & J. O'Neil. 1996. Spell Out at the LF Interface. In W.
Abraham, S.D. Epstein, H. Thr�insson & C. J.-W. Zwart, eds. Minimal
Ideas. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 113-139.

Hawkins, J. 1994. A Performance Theory of Order and Constituency.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hayes, B. & A. Lahiri. 1991. Bengali Intonational Phonology. Natural
Language and Linguistic Theory 9, 47-96.

Ito, J. & A. Mester. 1997. Correspondence and Compositionality: The
Ga- Gyo Variation in Japanese Phonology. In I. Roca, ed. Derivations
and Constraints in Phonology. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 419-462.

Jackendoff, R. 1990. Semantic Structures. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Kayne, R. S. 1994. The Antisymmetry of Syntax. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT

Kayne, R. S. 1998. Overt vs. Covert Movement. Syntax 1, 128-191.

Larson, R. K. 1988. On the Double Object Construction. Linguistic
Inquiry 19, 335-391.

Pesetsky, D. 1995. Zero Syntax: Experiencers and Cascades. Cambridge,
Mass.: MIT Press.

Prince, A. & P. Smolensky 1993. Optimality Theory: Constraint
Interaction in Generative Grammar. Ms., Rutgers University, Brunswick
and University of Colorado, Boulder.


I am Assistant Professor for Theoretical Linguistics in the Department
of English Studies at the University of Cyprus in Nicosia. My general
interests include syntactic theory and comparative syntax; please see
my homepage for more
information. If you're interested in PUNKS IN SCIENCE, please go to
I'm also a member of the expert panel of the Ask-a-Linguist service
offered by LINGUIST, and a number of my reviews have appeared on
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