From: Randall Eggert <randylinguistlist.org>
Subject: Review: Syntax: Chocano (2007)
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AUTHOR: Chocano, Gema
TITLE: Narrow Syntax and Phonological Form
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
Michael T. Putnam, Carson-Newman College
Generative linguistic theories are significantly challenged by languages that
license free word orders. Importantly, this challenge imposed on generative
theory exists because data exhibiting free word order in natural languages raise
questions about the nature of grammatical strings. In this book, Gema Chocano
investigates two free-word order phenomena scrambling and North Germanic 'Object
Shift' (hereafter, OS) guided by recent advancements in minimalist syntax. Based
on both syntactic and phonological evidence, Chocano advances the hypothesis
that both scrambling and OS can be unified under the same analysis and need not
be treated as separate movement types. To achieve this goal, Chocano invokes
Chomsky's (2001) notion of DISL (i.e., dislocation) in a phase-based analysis of
clausal structure. In this sense, German(ic) scrambling entails the same kind of
special spell-out procedure Chomsky (2001) proposes for Scandinavian OS. In
summation, Chocano contends that German(ic) scrambling strings are the product
of a single syntactic process and, moreover, that Germanic reordering
epiphenomena (i.e., scrambling and OS) are essentially motivated and licensed by
the same features and mechanisms in the narrow syntax.
Chapters 1 and 2 serve as introductions into the cross-linguistic variation
found under the loaded term 'scrambling' while the latter chapter functions as a
survey of some of the relevant properties of German(ic) syntax that Chocano
incorporates into her analysis. Both of these chapters provide a concise,
detail-oriented review of data that will be of significance later in her study.
Chapter 3, ''Scrambling in German'', however, hones in not only on the structural
properties of scrambling in German, but also on issues involving the
interpretation of grammatical strings at the external interfaces.
The third chapter focuses exclusively on scrambling in German, noting in the
previous chapters the difficulties of treating scrambling cross-linguistically
as a unitary process. Second, Chocano notes that much of the data traditionally
used in generative analyses of scrambling are often quite complex and
contradictory. For example, meta-theoretical changes and discussions on the
Principles & Parameters approach to language have changed (in some instances
quite drastically) in the last three decades, so has our understanding and
approach to phenomena such as adjunction, A- vs. A'-movement, bounding domains
and the like. The first portion of this third chapter makes use of basic sets of
data that have been ''conventionally used to characterize German scrambling from
a roughly syntactic perspective, with 'roughly syntactic perspective' understood
as focusing on those properties relevant to the 'dumb' or not interactive part
of the computational system with regard to other external systems'' (p. 56).
After rigorously reviewing these traditional basic sets of data involved in
studies on German(ic) scrambling based on the traditional complement/adjunct
distinction, Chocano arrives at the conclusion that perhaps the most valuable
data to inspect are those that connect scrambling with those parts of the
syntactic computation that do interact directly with other external systems,
i.e., the 'interface levels' of Logical Form (LF) and Phonological Form (PF).
From a strictly phonological perspective, Chocano illustrates that scrambled
strings seem to indicate that scrambling results in a marked stress (prosodic)
pattern. Speaking on semantic restrictions, Chocano (both here and earlier in
Section 1.2) points out that certain reordering options seem to be barred based
on semantic rather than categorical basis. For example, elements that receive a
generic semantic interpretation do not scramble (cf. Diesing 1992). Chocano
notes that these observations regarding the phonological and semantic properties
of scrambled strings lack explanatory power and explanation. Chocano further
notes that recent scholarship on scrambling bifurcates itself into two camps in
this regard: either semantic/pragmatic meaning functions as the trigger for
scrambling or these interpretations are merely a by-product of syntactic
operations that drive scrambling. Making inroads into her own proposed solution
to the 'scrambling problem', Chocano takes issue with the principle of
modularity/autonomy of the syntax which disconnects stress assignment and
pragmatic interpretation from taking part in the narrow syntax. To address this
disconnect, Chocano calls upon Neeleman & Reinhart's (1998) account and the
possibility to unite a syntactic approach to stress assignment with prosodic
considerations. Critically, they argue that 'focus' can be associated with a
limited set of possible foci and is determined by the interaction of nuclear
stress assignment and syntactic structure ''in a way that all the constituents
that contain the mostly stressed element, may, in principle, be foci'' (p. 110).
Unlike in English where both destressing and 'Relocate main stress' are
unavoidable in cases in which the direct object is discourse-linked, languages
such as German and Dutch grammars can employ scrambling to avoid the
implementation of at least one of these operations. Although Chocano gives much
praise to Neeleman & Reinhart's approach to scrambling, she is quick to point
out that a purely phonological analysis of scrambling in German(ic) cannot apply
to pre-subject scrambling or explain why the stress pattern of particular
ditransitive constructions are permissible.
In Chapter 4, Chocano reviews the most influential accounts of Germanic
scrambling from a generative perspective. Staying with 'purely syntactic
analyses', Chocano distinguishes movement approaches from base-generation
approaches and discusses the notable 'pros' and 'cons' of both options. Speaking
first on the movement approaches, Chocano illustrates the lack of an isomorphic
A- or A'-movement trigger for Germanic scrambling. Chocano also evaluates the
option of invoking a discourse (i.e., [+ Topic]) feature to license scrambling.
Chocano levels accurate criticism of Meinunger's (1995) attempt to unite
traditional agreement features (e.g., [+ Case]) with discourse features to
explain how scrambling is licensed in West Germanic. Due to Meinunger's lack of
a clear account of the non-minimalist optionality of scrambling with definite
and indefinite generic DPs, Chocano then turns to base-generated approaches for
possible better coverage and explanation of the characteristics of scrambling in
Germanic. The base-generation proposal in Fanselow (2001) restricts scrambling
to arguments, thus explaining why the unmarked word order factors are different
from nuclear stress assignment. To combat the Freezing/Anti-freezing puzzle,
Fanselow postulates that the more referential a phrase is the less transparent
it is for movement (for an in-depth analysis of how West Germanic middle field
scrambling is potentially licensed by referentiality (i.e., [+ Ref]), see Putnam
(2007)). In the end Chocano straddles the fence in siding with neither a purely
movement-based nor base-generation account of scrambling. In her own analysis of
scrambling, Chocano attempts to unite movement and base-generation approaches to
German scrambling through the implementation of Chomsky's (2001) DISL mechanism.
Chapter 5 functions as Chocano's analysis of scrambling in Germanic. In sum, the
main claim is that OS in Scandinavian languages and scrambling in Germanic can
be united as epiphenomena under the same syntactic operation. According to this
argument, both are linked to ''two of the most important findings about the
connection between phonological features and 'Narrow Syntax' in Chomsky (2001):
(i) the existence of special operations that spell out phonological features at
points different from the completion of strong phases (Dislocation); and (ii)
the sensitivity of strictly syntactic operations to the presence (or absence) of
phonological features'' (p. 192). Chocano advances the claim that the
implementation of Chomsky's DISL operation is ''absolutely necessary'' (p. 211) in
that it explains why the shifted object appears in a position higher than that
corresponding to the vP edge, and why the subject may cross it on its way to
Spec,TP without violation the Minimal Link Condition. Essential to Chocano's
thesis are two proposals: First, she advances the claim that scrambling in
Germanic can occupy two structural positions - one within topicalized VPs and
another within lexical positions such as APs. Accompanying this position,
Chocano also supports the notion that certain ditransitive verbs in German
exhibit the less-commonly found ACC > DAT object ordering. Second, Chocano
advocates the interaction of DISL and vP-fronting. To illustrate how her plan
works in more detail, Chocano predominantly focuses on data involving the
Freezing/Anti-Freezing Paradox and Coherent Infinitives. Through the approach
outlined above, Chocano illustrates how her analysis allows for the simultaneous
licensing of syntactic and phonological aspects in a phase-based derivational
syntactic system. Chapter 6 concludes this monograph in discussing problems and
pending issues that should be taken up in future research.
Gema Chocano's unified analysis of German(ic) scrambling and Scandinavian Object
Shift challenges previously held theoretical notions and classifications of
these epiphenomenal movement types. Her approach to unite these two movement
types under one operation, namely, DISL, is both conceptually appealing to the
minimalist program and novel in its effort to unify narrow syntax and
phonological considerations at fixed points in a derivational history. Chocano
deserves much credit for her attempt to incorporate problematic data related to
Germanic scrambling that has to date escaped a clear, unified account within the
framework of advances in minimalist desiderata. This monograph champions an
analysis of Germanic scrambling and Scandinavian OS worthy of serious
investigation. The following points are suggestions on how particular arguments
in the text could potentially be strengthened and, in some instances, some
weaknesses that should be addressed in future research.
First, unifying Germanic scrambling and Scandinavian OS comes at the expense of
brushing aside the fact that OS shows strong affinities to traditional
A-movement characteristics whereas Germanic scrambling (debatably) displays
A'-movement traits. Although the notion of A- vs. A'-movement is quite archaic
and more or less a vestigial structure of the GB-era of P&P theory, an adequate
theory of scrambling and OS needs to somehow account for these differences. In
current minimalist thought, this would most likely be attributed to a contrast
in features involving scrambling and OS. Remaining with the traditional A- vs.
A'-movement tests, Chocano fails to discuss in any detail cross-over effects and
reconstruction effects. A more detailed analysis including these distinctions
may help clarify this shortcoming. With that being said, the data that Chocano
chose to focus on in this manuscript was quite robust and difficult, therefore
the suggestion of investigating the traditional A- vs. A'-movement data should
be interpreted as a suggestion for future research rather than a direct
criticism of the current work.
Second, the notion that certain verbs in Germanic exhibit a base argument
structure of SUBJ > DO > IO vs. the more standard one (e.g., SUBJ > IO > DO) is
debatable. Meinunger (2006) maintains that the dominant base order of SUBJ > IO
> DO is present in all German ditransitives, with those that appear to possess
the 'deviant' argument ordering as having a null PP. It would indeed be
interesting to see how Meinunger's theory - assuming it could be correct - would
have on Chocano's analysis. Third, although I agree with Chocano that a
featureless movement account of scrambling (or any other movement phenomenon for
that matter) is quite odd in standard minimalist thought, it certainly isn't
unheard of (see Boeckx 2007 for a proposal for featureless driven movement).
Again, these two proposals could have a positive impact on the theory advanced
in this monograph while on the other hand it could lead to a fine-tuning of key
elements of the main tenets of the theory.
Fourth, in order for DISL to function properly, phonologically 'invisible' items
are generated by the DISL (cf. p. 258). This also implies that not only
phonologically 'invisible' items are generated, but also that empty landing
sites are present in the higher phase. Such a conjecture falls from the doctrine
of classifying all operations and mechanisms along the lines of virtual
conceptual necessity. This is clearly unwanted and should be circumvented or
avoided in the analysis brought forth in this book. Lastly, any base-generation
account must rely on an LF-lowering operation in order for the scrambled item to
receive thematic interpretation. If theta-roles are potentially features subject
to the checking requirements of other formal features, it is not outlandish to
hypothesize that they have both LF and PF reflexes. If this is the case,
lowering into an already concatenated position in the vP would be impossible.
Again, more data dealing with reconstruction effects would aid in our
understanding of how/if base-generation is a viable option (see Putnam (2007:
Section 5.3) for a minimalist account of reconstruction effects and its
interaction with Japanese and Russian scrambling data).
In conclusion, Gema Chocano takes on the daunting task of attempting to explain
problematic data involving Germanic scrambling such as the
Freezing/Anti-freezing Paradox and Coherent Infinitives and through her efforts
significantly expands our knowledge of the syntactic and phonological
characteristics of this linguistic phenomenon with the aid of current minimalist
theory. The arguments put forward in this book are intriguing and
thought-provoking. To her credit, Chocano adopts a novel approach to Germanic
scrambling and provides her readership with valuable new perspectives. This work
will undoubtedly serve as a catalyst for discussion and research into Germanic
scrambling and the interaction between the narrow syntax and PF.
Boeckx, C. 2007. _Understanding Minimalist Syntax_. Malden MA: Blackwell.
Chomsky, N. 2001. Derivation by phase. In M. Kenstowicz (ed), _Ken Hale: A life
in language_, 1-52. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.
Diesing, M. 1992. _Indefinites_. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Fanselow, G. 2001. Features, theta-roles, and free constituent order.
_Linguistic Inquiry_ 32: 405-437.
Haider, H. and I. Rosengren. 1998. Scrambling. _Sprache und Pragmatik_ 49: 1-104.
Haider, H. and I. Rosengren. 2003. Scrambling. Non-triggered chain formation in
OV languages. _Journal of Germanic Linguistics_ 15.3: 203-267.
Meinunger, A. 1995. Discourse dependent DP (de)placement. PhD dissertation,
Meinunger, A. 2006. Remarks on the projection of dative arguments in German. In
D. Hole, A. Meinunger, W. Abraham (eds), _Datives and other cases: Between
argument structure and event structure_, 79-102. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Neeleman, A. and T. Reinhart. 1998. Scrambling and the PF Interface. In M. Butt
and W. Geuder (eds), _The Projection of Arguments: Lexical and Compositional
Factors_, 309-352. Stanford CA: CSLI Publications.
Putnam, M. 2007. _Scrambling and the Survive Principle_. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Michael Putnam is Assistant Professor of German & Linguistics at Carson-Newman
College in Jefferson City, TN. His research foci are syntactic theory, the
syntax of Germanic languages, event/argument structure (syntax-semantics
interface), and generative approaches to second language acquisition.
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