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LINGUIST List 19.1775

Tue Jun 03 2008

Review: Syntax: Kiss (2008)

Editor for this issue: Randall Eggert <randylinguistlist.org>


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        1.    Michael Moss, Event Structure and the Left Periphery


Message 1: Event Structure and the Left Periphery
Date: 03-Jun-2008
From: Michael Moss <angmmuniv.gda.pl>
Subject: Event Structure and the Left Periphery
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Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/17/17-1295.html
EDITOR: Kiss, Katalin É.
TITLE: Event Structure and the Left Periphery
SUBTITLE: Studies on Hungarian
PUBLISHER: Springer
YEAR: 2008

Reviewer: Michael Moss, PhD, University of Gdansk

SUMMARY
This is a collection of articles that has been produced as the conclusion of a
three year project that was conducted at the Research Institute for Linguistics
of the Hungarian Academy of Sci-ences. The main goal of the book is to explore
the possible connections between the structure of the'left periphery' (and the
varying word orders that this presents in Hungarian) and the structure related
to the event itself. In short, as Kiss herself writes: ''event type correlates
with word order, with the presence or absence of the verbal particle, with the
presence or absence of an internal argument, with its [+/-specific] feature,
with the aspectual interpretation of the sentence, with the interpretation of
focus, and with the interpretation of pronouns participating in negative
concord, among others'' (p. 1).

The first article, ''Aims and background'', by K. É. Kiss, introduces the reader
to the theoretical framework in which the volume is couched and gives a summary
of each of the articles. The ex-planation of the minimalist approach to the
problems analyzed in the volume and the structures assumed is clear and to the
point.

The second article, also by Kiss, ''The function and the syntax of the verbal
particle'', focuses on the verbal particle in Hungarian. Kiss analyzes particles
according to three major types which correspond to types of event. She forms
three groups of particle/event type groups: resultative particles are found in
telic sentences involving a change of state; terminative particles are found in
telic sentences involving a change of location and locative particles are found
in sentences of existence or sentences that involve spatial configuration. Kiss
proposes that the particle is located in a fixed position in the structure of a
clause, namely, the specifier of a Predicate Phrase. In this position, the
particle functions as a secondary predicate which licenses the theme argument.
This explains why particles are found with transitive and unaccusative verbs and
unergatives which are complemented by a non-thematic object.

''Verb particles telecizing stative psych verbs'' by Boldizsár Eszes is the third
article in the col-lection. There are three articles in the collection that are
written from a formal semantics per-spective (the other two are chapters 4 and
5). This one uses a scale-based degree semantics analysis to show that particles
act as telecizers changing the base verb from a situation aspect type to an
accomplishment type. Particles in this situation are said to be '''eventuality
description modifier[s]' (EDM[s])'' (p. 60). The article further analyzes various
problems that such verbs pose for mapping generalizations.

Chapter 4 ''Definiteness effect verbs'', by Christopher Piñón, discusses how verbs
that exhibit the so-called 'definiteness effect' work. In Hungarian these verbs
are characterized by not allowing a definite object, and by only appearing
without a particle. This leads to an analysis in which the bare verb moves from
a V projection to the Specifier of the Predication Phrase suggested by Kiss in
chapter 2. This analysis explains why the bare form of the verb can act as a
verb of completion and why it cannot occur with a particle. It also explains why
such verbs are more numerous in Hungarian than in English.

Christopher Piñón is also the author of chapter 5, ''Weak and strong
accomplishments''. This is the second article written in a framework of formal
semantics. The goal of the article is to show that traditional criteria used to
distinguish a class of 'accomplishment' verbs actually distinguish two more
subtle varieties of 'weak' and 'strong' accomplishments. Ultimately, the author
groups verbs of creation, coming into being, and appearance as 'weak' because
they are not diagnosed as accomplishment verbs by all of the traditional tests.
'Strong' accomplishment verbs are telic change-of-state and change-of-location
predicates. Furthermore, this distinction is shown to re-flect different
syntactic structure in the types of adverbial phrases allowed with each group.

Chapter 6, ''Particles and a two component theory of aspect'', by Aniko Csirmaz,
argues that as-pect in Hungarian is ''best described by adopting a two component
theory of aspect, which dis-tinguishes situation and viewpoint aspect'' (p. 107).
The arguments provided in this article for two distinct aspectual types in
Hungarian further supports the presence of an Aspect Phrase in the structure of
the clause. Because the Aspect Phrase dominates the Predicate Phrase, which, in
turn, dominate the verbal projections vP and VP, the author is able to explain
many interesting aspects of the relationship between particle placement and
aspect in Hungarian clauses.

Chapter 7, ''From the grammaticalization of viewpoint aspect to the
grammaticalization of situa-tion aspect'' is the second article in the collection
by Kiss. This article investigates the 'coinci-dence' that during its history
Hungarian has exchanged its complex tense system which ac-counted for viewpoint
aspect for a system that demarcates telicity using verbal particles. Kiss
proposes that this typological shift has not caused any loss in aspectual
information, because ''predicates marked as telic have the perfective viewpoint,
whereas stative atelic predicates have the imperfective viewpoint'' (p. 156).
Processes seem to have no default viewpoint. This means that unergative,
transitive, and unaccusative verbs are treated differently with tense or
telecizing particle being the deciding factor depending on the type.

''Accusative case and aspect'' is the title of chapter 8, the second article in
the collection by Aniko Csirmaz. This article concentrates on the relationship
between non-theta marked accusa-tive constituents and aspect in Hungarian. The
conclusion is that although there is not a single kind of behavior, all kinds of
non-theta marked accusative constituents do interact with the as-pectual
properties of the event.

Chapter 9, ''Apparent or real? On the complementary distribution of
identificational focus and the verbal particle'' by Kiss. This final article in
the volume by Kiss investigates the distribution of two constituents (focus and
the verbal particle) which both canonically appear in the slot im-mediately
preceding the verb. Kiss concludes that while the distribution is, in fact,
complemen-tary, the position of the two elements is not the same. The focus
structure is more complex and involves verb movement to a Non-Neutral Phase and
the focus element moves into the Focus Phrase. In non-focus structures, however,
the verb moves into the Predicate Phrase, and the par-ticle or bare nominal
moves into the Specifier of the Aspect Phase which has a phonologically empty head.

Chapter 10, ''Aspect, negation and quantifiers'' is the third and final article in
the collection by Aniko Csirmaz. The author argues that, in fact, negation does
not change the aspectual properties of the event. Rather, negation is argued to
affect the reference time of the event and not the event time itself.

The final chapter, 11, ''Predicates, negative quantifiers and focus: specificity
and quantification-ality of N-words'' by Balázs Suranyi also deals with negation
and the structure of the event. It is pointed out in earlier articles (chapters
4 and 5) that the theme argument of verbs of creation, coming into being and
existence must be [-specific], whereas the theme arguments of the pre-fixed
counterparts of these verbs must be [+specific]. This article explores the
significance of the fact that this [+/- specific] relationship is also reflected
in negative sentences and a pronominal theme. In such sentences, negative
concord dictates that the [+/- specific] feature is reflected in the negative
pronominal (which are referred to as 'n-words' in the article). The author
further ar-gues that this [+/- specific] difference reflects an ambiguity in the
interpretation of the negative items. The chapter also investigates the
distribution of this ambiguity.

EVALUATION
Because these papers are part of a guided project, this collection is different
from a collection of articles from a conference or a volume of articles written
by specialists in different places work-ing on different languages. This book is
more focused and feels more organized than books that do not have shared working
environment at their core. Furthermore, the authors incorporate the solutions
and proposals found in other chapters into their own analyses which gives the
book and the articles a much more integrated feeling.

This is a challenging book dealing with a range of difficult problems. Part of
the challenge is the Hungarian language itself, which is at the center of all of
the analyses in the book; it may be dif-ficult to read for those of us that do
not speak Hungarian. Nevertheless, the structures and prob-lems that are
discussed are common to human language. Furthermore, the presentation of the
data is very clear making the problems and their analyses accessible to people
that know no Hungarian. The other part of the challenge is that the analyses are
quite dense; the reader must keep several issues in mind at all times while
following the arguments. But these seem hardly to be criticisms, but rather
admiration of the authors for bringing to light detailed and well argued
analyses of structures found in a language which is not accessible to a wide
audience. We must wait and see if the actual proposals put forth in this volume
will stand the test of time. However, the range and the cohesion of the proposed
solutions make this an important volume. Whether in Hungarian or other
languages, aspect and its relationship to clause structure, and particularly the
so-called left periphery are central topics in modern linguistic analyses.

This book is set in the generative framework, which means that it may not be for
everyone. Within the generative framework, one might object to the constant
addition of new projections to the clause structure. For instance, this book
considers projections including Predicate Phrase, Aspect Phrase, and the
Non-Neutral Phrase. However, the presence of each of these projections is well
argued and each of the projections provides an explanation of the phenomena
described by the authors and are not simply plugs to fill the holes in the theory.

The only criticism that I might put forward about the book is that although the
title leads one to believe that the articles will explore the structure of or
movement of elements to the so-called left-periphery, this is not entirely the
case. In fact, the book deals much more with an exploration of the workings of
aspect in Hungarian. Of course there is discussion of the left periphery
throughout the book, but this is almost a secondary topic. Perhaps I was over
anticipating the amount of attention that would be dedicated to the
left-periphery itself, because that is an area that interests me personally at
the moment. Certainly the internal machinery of the event struc-ture and aspect
is of no less importance to our understanding of language in general.

Reviewer
Michael Moss, PhD, is an associate professor at the University of Gdansk. His
research interests include syntax (in the Minimalist Program) and historical
linguistics. His current research is cen-tered on Polish syntax and the
historical development of various clitics in that language.




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