LINGUIST List 15.653

Sat Feb 21 2004

Review: Syntax: Quer et al., ed. (2003)

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  1. Kleanthes Grohmann, Romance Languages and Linguistic Theory 2001

Message 1: Romance Languages and Linguistic Theory 2001

Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2004 23:03:47 -0500 (EST)
From: Kleanthes Grohmann <>
Subject: Romance Languages and Linguistic Theory 2001

Quer, Josep, Jan Schroten, Mauro Scorretti, Petra Sleeman, and Els
Verheugd, ed. (2003) Romance Languages and Linguistic Theory 2001:
Selected Papers from 'Going Romance', Amsterdam, 6-8 December 2001,
John Benjamins.

Announced at

Kleanthes K. Grohmann, University of Cyprus


This volume offers what the title promises: a selection of papers from
the international workshop on Romance linguistics, 'Going Romance'
(henceforth, GR), held at the University of Amsterdam from December
6-8, 2001. The selection includes nineteen contributions (two by
invited speakers), of which two are co-authored (one by invited
speakers). From the introduction to this volume one can infer
further that four invited speakers did not contribute.

In the first sentence of their ''Introduction'' (pp. v-vi), which is
really a short preface preceding the tables of contents, the editors
(Josep Quer, Jan Schroten, Mauro Scorretti, Petra Sleeman, and Els
Verheugd) note that GR is ''a major European annual discussion forum
for theoretically relevant research on Romance languages'' -- quite
true, and usually of very high quality. As is common at GR, the
conference itself is followed by a workshop on a more specific
topic. In the case of GR XV (not an exceptionally-valved car, but the
fifteenth installment), this was on determiners. Although not
specifically mentioned, my guess is that some of the papers in this
volume were presented at that workshop.

Apart from 19 alphabetically ordered articles on issues in Romance
linguistics (and the realm of determiners), the volume also contains
an excellent index of languages *and dialects* (347-348) as well as
the more conventional subject index (349-353). References appear at
the end of each contribution.

The following section ''CONTENT'' presents a short description of each
paper in order of arrangement and summarizes its main contributions to
Romance linguistics and/or current (primarily, syntactic) theory. The
section ''EVALUATION'' below puts the value of the volume in a wider
perspective with the help of some minor criticisms, where I only
consider the actual contents of this book.

Independent of the quality of the contributions to this volume,
namely, it is this reviewer's belief that no proceedings volume with
such a general title and similarly general contents could ever be
justified the steep price tag -- it is obvious that only libraries and
independently wealthy bibliophiles will purchase this book. Why don't
John Benjamins simply publish such volumes as cheaper paperbacks for
the general public? (The same goes for any other publisher, especially
the upper tier of generally high-quality and accessible publishers, a
group to which I count JB, that do have entire series devoted to such

For the reader who can't be bothered to read the rest: if you're
interested in current issues in Romance linguistics, especially
pertaining to syntactic and semantic theories, read this volume (and
buy it if you're rich).


Luis Alonso-Ovalle argues that ''Spanish 'de'-Clauses Are Not Always
in the Right Mood'' (1-16). The author compares 'de'-conditionals
(which follow an infinitival antecedent and which he simply calls
'de'- clauses) with 'si'-conditionals (which follow an inflected
antecedent) with the background assumption that conditionals are modal
statements. He is concerned with finding an answer to the question
whether tense/mood marking of both the antecedent and the consequent
are interpreted, where a positive answer would challenge the
traditional view that the semantic import of tense and mood
inflections in the antecedent of the conditional is neglected. Simply
put, Alonso-Ovalle shows conclusively that the two types of
conditionals are not interpreted the same way and offers a positive
reply to the question asked at least for 'de'-clauses, where moodless
antecedents can feed both indicative and subjunctive modals.

Staying roughly with the topic, specific considerations of ''Mood and
Focus'' (17-30) keep Claudia Borgonovo busy. She analyses modal choice
in Spanish in terms of negation and its focus (hence the title).
Borgonovo presents and defends her thesis that mood in Spanish signals
how negation is to be interpreted: indicative mood signals that the
matrix predicate is the focus of negation, subjunctive does this for
the embedded clause. Her approach differs from previous attempts to
capture this intuition mainly in (i) focusing on the correlation
between mood and interpretation of negation and (ii) assuming that
mood marks two possible foci. This novel approach ties in very well
with existing approaches to the issue.

Jo�o Costa explores ''Null vs. Overt Spec,TP in European
Portuguese'' (31-47) with the main goal to find an answer to the
question of what type of conditions make it possible for an A-position
to be used as a landing site for the subject. Posing this question
first requires a negative answer on recent work that wonders whether
the specifier of VP (or vP) is the only possible subject position in
null subject languages (Alexiadou & Anagnostopoulou 1996 [1995]) and
second involves a discussion of the SpecTP-parameter, where a positive
value makes available two subject positions above v/VP, often
identified as Spec,TP and Spec,AgrSP (Bobaljik & Jonas 1996). For
European Portuguese, Costa argues that (i) there are indeed preverbal
A-positions for the subject, (ii) the availability of Spec,TP is
dependent on the existence of I-to- C movement, and (iii) this
dependency may be understood as a consequence of the syntax-morphology

In her contribution to the investigation of the syntax of nominal
projections from a micro-parametric perspective, Vivianne D�prez
discusses ''Determiner Architecture and Phrasal Movement in French
Lexifier Creoles'' (49-74) in the antisymmetric framework (Kayne
1994). With morphological evidence from French Lexifier Creoles, the
author identifies a finer architecture of DP, namely:
Def(inite)/D(eterminer)P > Dem(onstrative)/Agr(eement)P > Num(ber)P >

Aside from arguing for this particular structure, D�prez proposes,
motivates, and justifies the principle that specifiers of French
Lexifier Creole nominal functional heads (i.e. all but the lowest NP
in the hierarchy just mentioned) must always be filled. Assuming a
traditional checking theory (Chomsky 1995), this requirement is
implemented through strong features which must be checked in
specifier-head configurations.

Edward G�bbel reflects ''On the Relation between Focus, Prosody and
Word Order in Romanian'' (75-92). This contribution to the study of
information structure argues that Romanian offers evidence that
prosody acts with word order -- in other words, that the focus-prosody
relation does affect syntactic operations like movement (rather than
banning these into the PF-component, for example). The framework
G�bbel phrases his analysis of Romanian in is the Argument Structure
approach to focus structure (see e.g. Selkirk 1995 for a recent
exposition), despite recent rejections for Romance (such as
Zubizarreta 1998 for Romance in general). Having mentioned these
references, it is interesting to note that G�bbel turns around the
argumentation and in fact implements Zubizarreta's Nuclear Stress Rule
account to a modified version of Selkirk's Argument Structure.

Cecilia Goria's topic is ''Economy of Structure: The Case of Subject
Clitics in Piedmontese'' (93-112). Zooming in on this Northern Italian
dialect, Goria's study casts doubts on recent attempts that argue for
an articulate ''Agreement Field'' (Poletto 2000), a cascade of
agreement projections within both ''split Infl'' and ''split Comp''
(see also Rizzi 1997), which host among other things multiple
positions for subject clitics. Adopting the more recent Agr-less
structure of the clause (Chomsky 1995: sec. 4.10, 2000), Goria ties in
apparent structural variation without resorting to structural
complexity. Crucial ingredient of her analysis is the assumption of a
component relevant for the computation beyond ''narrow syntax''
(Chomsky 2000) which deals with the morphological realization of
agreement features, essentially aiming at a quasi-marriage between
optimality and minimalism.

''Identificational Focus vs. Contrastive Focus: A Syntactic
Distinction'' (113-130) is the title of Daniela Isac's
contribution. Implementing a suggestion by Rizzi (1997) that clitics
are focus operators of an anaphoric nature, she accounts for the
properties of clitic doubled direct object constructions in
Romanian. Specifically, Isac proposes that the clitic anaphorically
connects the doubled object to a set of alternatives and explores two
major consequences of this approach. First, it explains why bare
quantifiers cannot be clitic-doubled (where the empty object position
would have to be interpreted simultaneously as a null constant and as
a variable at LF); second, it accounts for the constraints on the
interpretation of a clitic-doubled object (such as the absence of
variable and kind-level readings for the clitic- doubled object).

Mary Aizawa Kato is concerned with ''Null Objects and VP Ellipsis in
European and Brazilian Portuguese'' (131-153). The basic proposal is
that all types of null objects can be analyzed as a unitary variable
category in European Portuguese, while they involve two distinct
categories in Brazilian Portuguese: a weak demonstrative and an empty
category that results from remnant movement of a higher VP. So, first
this paper contrasts the at first sight identical-looking properties
of VP-ellipsis in European vs. Brazilian Portuguese (where the latter
fails to show island effects in topicalized structures), suggesting
that in the latter, more is at stake than a simple variable bound by a
null operator. Second, Kato offers an analysis for the differences,
one that understands vP (the highest projection of a ''split VP'') to
move out of islands rather freely as either vP-topicalization or as a

Brenda Laca and Liliane Tasmowski's paper is titled ''From
Non-Identity to Plurality: French 'diff�rent' as an Adjective and as
a Determiner'' (155-176). As a contribution to the study of the syntax
and semantics of expressions that introduce indefinite or existential
noun phrases, this paper explores the thesis that French
'diff�rents' (the plural form of 'diff�rent') may act as an
adjective (in a symmetrical relational function) or as a determiner
(for indefinite plural NPs). In essence, the authors propose that (i)
what they call the ''NP-internal reading'' of adjectival 'diff�rent'
provides a link between adjectival and determiner-like uses of
diff�rents ' and (ii) some semantic properties of the determiner '
diff�rents ' stem directly from the semantics of the adjective
'diff�rent', whereas others stem from the fact that the determiner '
diff�rents ' cannot be an adjective.

''On the Non-Unitariness of NP Subject Inversion: A Comparison of
French NP Subject Inversion in Interrogatives and Temporal
Subordinates'' (177- 192) is the title and topic of Karen Lahousse's
contribution. Temporal subordinates offer a rarely studied environment
for inversion structures. The main goal of the study is to show that
NP subject inversion is not a unitary phenomenon, but comes in
different forms and shapes, where can distinguish, for example,
inversion in temporal clauses from inversion in interrogative
contexts. The main differences between these two types are (i)
flexibility, complexity, and pragmatic function of inversion; (ii)
position of the verb with respect to aspectual adverbs; and (iii)
extraction out of quantitative 'en' out of the post-verbal subject.

Paul Law explores ''Past Participle Agreement with Pronominal Clitics
and the Auxiliary Verbs in Italian and French'' (193-212). (Standard)
Italian and French compound tenses differ from those in their Romance
cousins (Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian) in two interesting properties,
past participle agreement with pronominal clitics and auxiliary
alternation. Law argues that past participle agreement is part of a
larger phenomenon, a more general pattern of agreement (including
adnominal adjective agreement), and subject to a condition on the
positioning of the argument with respect to the syntactic projection
of the agreeing predicate (namely, that it be outside). This paper is
an impressive study of some interesting properties which also offers
the beginnings of an account (as Law himself admits) with possibly
larger implications for the complex patterns of agreement and
auxiliary selection (cf. Kayne 1993).

Ana Maria Martins investigates ''Deficient Pronouns and Linguistic
Change in Portuguese and Spanish'' (213-230). Comparing the syntax of
accusative, dative, and 'se' pronouns with that of oblique pronouns,
Martins challenges widespread assumptions that Old Portuguese and Old
Spanish clitic pronouns were phrasal (developing from a phrase into a
head) and as such would allow a verb-second classification of these
(older stages in the two) languages. Rather, she argues, the
accusative, dative, and 'se' pronouns have been heads throughout the
history of Portuguese and Spanish, and are as such ''true clitics''
(in contrast to the oblique pronouns 'i' and 'en(de)', which display
properties of weak, and thus phrasal, pronouns).

''Nominalizations of French Psychological Verbs: Syntactic Complements
and Semantic Participants'' (231-246) by Judith Meinschaefer
investigates how derived nominalizations realize their arguments,
whether it is subject to the same rules governing argument realization
of verbs or differently. Meinschaefer opts for the former, accounting
for apparent differences by addressing in detail the semantics of the
underlying verb giving rise to nominalization (concentrating on three
realization rules for semantic participants). This study is restricted
to derived nominalizations of psych(ological)-verbs, a semantic class
in which verbs showing the same surface syntax and similar meaning
give rise to nouns which contrast in their realization of semantic

Andrea Moro offers ''Notes on Vocative Case: A Case Study in Clause
Structure'' (247-261). Vocative, an unusually understudied case, is
addressed seriously in two respects: the internal structure of a
phrase assigned vocative case (for which Moro offers a number of
diagnostics) and the structural environment requiring vocative case
assignment (for which Moro focuses on the left periphery of the
clause) -- two trivial- looking aspects of Case against the background
that these are instrumental properties that have been studied ad
nauseam for virtually all other cases, but one that is imminently
important given that vocative is indeed rarely looked at in the
(generative) literature on Case (Case-marking and properties). Moro's
language of investigation is Italian.

Sandra Paoli is concerned with ''Mapping out the Left Periphery of the
Clause: Evidence from North Western Italian Varieties'' (263-277). The
two dialects she looks at are Turinese (spoken in and around Turin,
one would assume) and Ligurian (presumably spoken in parts of
Liguria). While Paoli doesn't really provide identification of the
positions involved (taking a more ''relative'' approach in terms of
ordering), she certainly assumes a potential multitude of projections,
thus differing from Goria's approach. In the end, she finds arguments
supporting a lower C-head with modal content (cf. Rizzi 1997) and
contributing to the articulation of a ''split Comp'' with data from
left dislocation structures (bearing at least on topic and focus

Dorian Roehrs and Marie Labelle consider ''The Left Periphery in Child
French: Evidence for a Simply-Split CP'' (279-294), the third paper in
a row (and one of probably six in total) looking at the infamous
''left periphery'' of the clause. The authors claim their data to
further support Rizzi-inspired approaches to split Comp into finer
articulated projections, even in child language, which is here taken
as a grammatical system on the same level as adult grammar. In
particular, Roehrs and Labelle investigate the use of the French
complementizer ''QUE'' (as the form for 'that' which either surfaces
as 'que' or 'qui', I assume) by children in non-adult uses, namely
those where it is expected, but not produced (''Misplaced QUE'') and
those where it is unnecessarily repeated after a left-dislocated DP
(''Intrusive QUE''). Such performance errors are linked the
hypothesis that children may not have fully matured control over basic
operations (such as Merge or Delete/Copy Reduction) and more generally
to the claim that children have difficulties in acquiring the
structure of the CP-system.

Trying to account for the interpretation of French DPs introduced by
the ''particle article'' 'des' (in particular issues around wide vs.
narrow scope), Benjamin Spector identifies ''Plural Indefinite DPs as
Plural-Polarity Items'' (295-313). In particular, he argues that
'des'- DPs are forced to be interpreted as dependent plurals whenever
they can (if there is a licenser on which they can depend, where
licensers are plural DPs, intensional verbs, and some abstract
aspectual operators). In the absence of such a licenser, 'des'-DPs
receive a genuine plural reading and are free to take wide scope. The
discussion also addresses bare plurals in Spanish.

''On the Status of the Partitive Determiner in Italian'' (315-330) by
Gianluca Storto deals with the question whether the apparent
morphological similarity between ''bare partitives'' and ''full
partitives'' shed light on the nature of the partitive
determiner. Bare partitives are those in which a partitive nominal
structure involves the partitive preposition 'de'/'di'
(French/Italian), definite article, and noun, such as Italian 'degli
studenti' ''of two students''); full partitives are those which
involve a quantified expression beforehand, like 'due degli studenti'
''two of two students'' -- the partitive determiner is the structure
partitive preposition + definite article (e.g. 'de+gli' in
Italian). The upshot of his presentation of data (including
interpretation of bare partitives in Italian) and argumentation
against the assumption that bare partitives are unambiguously true
partitives (Chierchia 1998a) is that the partitive determiner is a
lexical indefinite determiner.

Tying in with the previous paper in addressing aspects of Chierchia's
work on the semantics of noun phrases and the like (this time,
Chierchia 1998b), Lucia Tovena discusses ''Determiners and Weakly
Discretised Domains'' (331-346). Building on previous work of hers,
she reiterates her position that the claim that plural count nouns and
mass are essentially the same and that no language has determiners for
the mass and singular count combination, made by Chierchia and others,
is not correct. Tovena argues that Italian does have a singular
determiner that may also apply to mass noun, such as 'nessuno'
''no/not any'' -- which may combine with count singular ('nessun
libro' ''not any book'') and mass ('nessuna pazienza' ''no
patience''), but not plural nouns (*'nessun(i) libri' ''not any
books''). Against this background, she develops her hypothesis of
different possible levels of discretization in the domain of
denotation of a noun, namely the relation between singular determiners
and weakly discretized domains, i.e. weakly discrete units, and the
consequence of the latter to define visibility conditions on the


To quote from a recent review (by Isabelle Lem�e in LINGUIST
15.298): ''This volume is not for those without background knowledge
in the fields addressed.'' As the discussion above has shown, these
papers are all specialized contributions to ongoing theoretical
research in syntax, semantics, and acquisition of a number of issues
(such as mood, left periphery, determiners) in a number of Romance
languages (virtually all of them addressed in one way or another). The
quality of the discussions is generally extremely good, on a high
level with insightful analyses and/or problems sketched out, and quite
a few of the authors suggest enough leeway for further research in
their area of interest. As such, this volume appeals to many
linguists, be it (advanced) students who want to know more about a
particular topic addressed or researchers who want to get an idea of
what's out there, and what's new.

Regarding the structure of the volume, an alphabetical ordering
requires little work on the editors' side and is straightforward
enough. However, it is also conservative. A more dynamic approach
could have ordered the papers according to field, topic, or language,
perhaps. Note that I followed the boring, conservative approach above
(so take this comment with a grain of salt): as nice as my objection
might sound, it becomes difficult as soon as one deals with a
collection of such divergent topics, where sometimes a similar issue
is investigated with different languages (say, the left periphery and
Italian, French, or Spanish) and other times different fields are
combined (such as syntax and semantics). How would one order these?
Well, let this be food for thought addressed to future editors -- it
certainly would make a change from alphabetical ordering.

And once again I have to close with a call to editors to take their
work more seriously -- or, as Phoevos Panagiotidis recently turned it
around with an interesting twist (LINGUIST 15.298), to the publishers:
''I would like to raise issues pertaining to the editing of the
volume. Researchers and scholars are not editors and should not be
expected to substitute for them: it is not only a matter of time or
workload but also, simply, of training. Nevertheless, even
international publishers such as [John Benjamins], who publish this
volume, assume that, at least in our field, we can also act as
unassisted editors -- and save them money.'' The editing quality of
this volume (in terms of consistency in style and format, for example)
is poor for the trained eye, acceptable for all others. I just mention
my personal favourite: only two and a half pages into Borgonovo's
article do we learn which Romance language she investigates, and like
many others, her (Spanish) data don't even contain glosses (and
sometimes mistakes or obvious typos, such as a second occurrence of
'ido', the past participle of 'ir' meaning 'gone', in example (1b) on
p. 17). Other authors that don't provide glosses, and this concerns
the ''consistency issue'' again, are Laca and Tasmowski, Meinschaefer
(or ''Meinschaeffer'' as the running header lists her), Spector, and
Toveno. (Incidentally, these authors might form a homogenous group,
but I refrain from classifying it.) As can be expected at this point,
the references section each author provides are often a mess and
neither consistent with one another nor within itself (see below for
some minor examples).


Alexiadou, A. & E. Anagnostopoulou. 1996. 'SVO and EPP in Null Subject
Languages and Germanic'. FAS Papers in Linguistics 4: 1-21. [NB: As
opposed to Costa's entry, this is dated as 1995 by one of the
co-authors, which can be viewed at 
- also, Costa does not provide any details regarding volume or page

Bobaljik, J. D. & D. Jonas. 1996. 'Subject Positions and the Role of
TP'. Linguistic Inquiry 27, 195-236.

Chierchia, G. 1998a. 'Partitives, Reference to Kinds and Semantic
Variation'. In A. Lawson, ed. Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic
Theory VII. Ithaca, NY: CLC Publications, Cornell University, 73-98.

Chierchia, G. 1998b. 'Plurality of Mass Nouns and the Notion of
''Semantic Parameter'''. In S. Rothstein, ed. Events and Grammar.
Dordrecht: Kluwer, 53-103.

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

Chomsky, N. 2000. 'Minimalist Inquiries: The Framework'. In R. Martin,
D. Michaels & J. Uriagereka, eds. Step by Step: Essays on Minimalist
Syntax in Honor of Howard Lasnik. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 89-155.

Kayne, R. 1993. 'Toward a Modular Theory of Auxiliary Selection'.
Studia Linguistica 47, 3-31.

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

Poletto, C. 2000. The Higher Functional Fields: Evidence from the
Northern Italian Dialects. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rizzi, L. 1997. 'The Fine Structure of the Left Periphery'. In L.
Haegeman, ed. Elements of Grammar: Handbook of Generative Syntax.
Dordrecht: Kluwer, 281-337. [NB: NOT 112-158, as listed by Goria, but
with a subtitle barely cited by any author.]

Selkirk, L. 1995. 'Sentence Prosody: Intonation, Stress, and
Phrasing'. In J. A. Goldsmith, ed. The Handbook of Phonological
Theory. Oxford: Blackwell, 550-569.

Zubizarreta, M.-L. 1998. Prosody, Focus, and Word Order. Cambridge,
Mass.: MIT Press.


Teaching and researching in the Department of English Studies at the
University of Cyprus in Nicosia, I'm generally interested in syntactic
theory (esp. within Principles-and-Parameters approaches) and
comparative syntax (esp. Germanic, Romance, Slavic, Greek) and have
worked on a range of different topics (see my homepage at for more). If you're
interested in PUNKS IN SCIENCE, a project in which I'm involved with
Jeffrey Parrott from Georgetown University, please go to
I'm also a member of the expert panel
of the Ask-A-Linguist service offered by LINGUIST List.
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