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LINGUIST List 24.4216

Fri Oct 25 2013

Review: Morphology; Syntax: Los et al. (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <jsalmonslinguistlist.org>

Date: 30-Jun-2013
From: Christina Hoppermann <Christina.Hoppermannuni-tuebingen.de>
Subject: Morphosyntactic Change
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-5076.html

AUTHOR: Bettelou Los
AUTHOR: Corrien Blom
AUTHOR: Geert Booij
AUTHOR: Marion Elenbaas
AUTHOR: Ans van Kemenade
TITLE: Morphosyntactic Change
SERIES TITLE: A Comparative Study of Particles and Prefixes
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Christina Hoppermann, University of Tübingen, Germany

SUMMARY
This monograph by Los et al. provides a comparative synchronic and diachronic
analysis of particle verbs in English and Dutch, alongside other Germanic
languages such as German and Gothic. Its main focus is on three related
aspects: the morphological and syntactic behaviour of particle verbs, their
emergence in the history of the respective language and their relation to
inseparable prefix verbs. The book gives a comprehensive account of these
points using corpus data. It includes both results of the research project
“The diachrony of complex predicates in the West Germanic languages” conducted
by the authors and parts of Corrien Blom’s (2005) and Marion Elenbaas’ (2007)
dissertations.

Particle verbs are referred to here as “Separable Complex Verbs” (SCVs) for
Dutch and German, for which particles are realized in preverbal position,
whereas the expression “Verb Particle Combination” (VPC) is used for
Present-Day English (PDE), where particles are always postverbal. By analogy
to the convention for particle verbs, prefix verbs are termed “Inseparable
Complex Verbs” (ICVs) due to their morphological behaviour as bound morphemes.
With regard to whether SCVs should be treated as words or phrases, the authors
see particles as optionally projecting words with the default option of being
non-projecting. Further, they conclude that SCVs are both conventionalized and
compositional. The concept of non-projection also bridges the gap between SCVs
and ICVs, playing a crucial role in the grammaticalization cline for Dutch and
English postulated by the authors, where the grammaticalization of particles
is one source for the emergence of prefixes: The less projecting a preverb
becomes, the more probable is its development into a prefix.

The book is divided into eight chapters that guide the readers through the
analysis. The first two chapters introduce the topic and provide an overview
of the relevant theoretical linguistic background. The other chapters are
organized around three criteria: the mode of approach (synchronic vs.
diachronic analysis), the language under investigation (i.e. Dutch, English,
or West Germanic languages generally), and the particular (pre-)verb type
(SCV, VPC, ICV).

Chapter 1 (“Separable complex verbs”) introduces the fundamentals of separable
complex verbs and the challenges they pose in terms of analysing their
relation in between syntax and morphology. Los et al. concentrate on West
Germanic languages with a main focus on English and Dutch, as these two
languages share certain characteristics as related languages and thereby
provide a basis for both synchronic and diachronic comparison. Historically,
Dutch and English complex verbs or, to be more precise, the two languages in
general behaved more similar in their older stages than in their present-day
counterparts, For instance, the authors demonstrate that both languages used
to show characteristics of SOV word order and finite verb movement (V2, i.e.
Verb Second) whereas PDE has lost both phenomena, leaving particles entirely
postverbal in a syntactic environment of SVO word orders. Examples are also
given for Present-Day Dutch (PDD) in comparison with Present-Day German (PDG),
as their particles, sharing common origins (i.e. adpositions and adverbs),
behave similarly: In contrast to inseparable prefixed verbs, Los et al.
confirm that PDD and PDG particles are separable from the base verb and can be
positioned in clause-final position in main clauses due to V-movement,
infinitive markers (PDD: ‘te’, PDG: ‘zu’), or participial markers (PDD/PDG:
‘ge-’). However, by analogy with inseparable prefixes, particles may likewise
influence the lexical aspect (Aktionsart) and the valency of verbs. On the
basis of the established fundamentals of SCVs, the authors list the following
main research questions:

(1) As SCVs/VPCs cross the line between syntax and morphology, “how can their
syntactic, semantic and morphological properties be given a satisfactory
account” (p. 5)?

(2) Why do English particle verbs behave differently from those in Dutch and
German (cf. p. 6)?

(3) Focusing on the functional overlap between inseparable and separable
prefix verbs, “what does the nature of this functional overlap […] tell us
about the status of both elements? Are inseparable and separable prefixes
historically related, and if so, do inseparable prefixes represent a particle
that has been further grammaticalized to a bound morpheme? And why were
inseparable prefixes quite comprehensively lost in the history of English?”
(p. 6).

Explaining preverbs, Los et al. further hypothesize that the development of
preverbs and prefixes was a case of the universal mechanism of
grammaticalization. Refining this, they give a cross-linguistic overview of
preverbs in Sanskrit, Latin, Gothic, and other Indo-European languages. The
remainder of this chapter provides an outline of the book.

Chapter 2 (“The paradox of particle verbs”) discusses whether particles are
words or phrases using the example of PDD and PDE and giving pro and contra
arguments for both options. The authors start from the assumption that
particles are both, i.e. words that optionally project a phrase (default
option: non-projection). They come to the interim conclusion that particles
can neither be analysed merely as words nor only as regular syntactic phrases,
since they show hybrid characteristics (i.e. being lexical units while being
constructed syntactically). Further, they illustrate that particles enable two
different word orders: the particle order (adjacency of particle and verb) and
the predicate order (particle and verb are separated from each other). Los et
al. claim that particles are grammaticalized predicates that, in view of the
grammaticalization cline, developed from a phrasal XP to an optionally
projecting head. Independent of whether particles project a phrase or not,
they are supposed to function mostly as secondary predicates. The chapter
completes the picture by taking already existing approaches to the analysis of
particles into account and touches on the concept of Information Structure
(IS) on the choice of particle word order in English. According to IS, the
particle order is chosen if the object is in focus (i.e. the object is in
end-focused position) while the predicate order ensures that the particle is
in focus (i.e. the particle is in end-focused position).

Chapter 3 (“The synchronic analysis of Dutch SCVs”) gets back to the analysis
of particles in SCVs as optionally projecting words using the example of
Dutch. The authors identify those cases in which particles project (i.e. show
phrase-like properties) and those in which they do not project (i.e.
demonstrate word-like properties). They assume that the default option is that
lexical heads do not project unless syntactic factors require them to do so
(Structural Economy Principle). Another main aspect of this chapter concerns
the semantic structure of SCVs. Los et al. found out that Dutch and also
German particles have a wider semantic range than their English counterparts:
They state that English particles are almost exclusively resultative whereas
Dutch/German particles may be resultative, but also function as modifiers,
relators, or Aktionsart particles. This diversity of particle functions is
also used to infer that the mapping between syntax and semantics is more
complex in Dutch/German than in English: Although there is such a semantic
variety of particle functions, the particles still share the same syntactic
patterns (i.e. SOV). The authors conclude that the status of the particle is
responsible for the behaviour of the SCV and emphasize that SCVs are
productive as well as both compositional and conventionalized.

On the basis of that synchronic approach, chapter 4 (“The diachronic analysis
of Dutch SCVs”) offers a diachronic analysis of Dutch SCVs. The
grammaticalization cline is addressed again, indicating that particles
developed unidirectionally from phrases into optionally projecting words and
ultimately into prefixes. In this context, Los et al. state that
grammaticalization is accompanied by semantic change, which is often connected
with univerbation. They suggest adjacency as a necessary condition for
grammaticalization and perform a diachronic analysis of the different particle
functions (i.e. resultative, modifying, relator, and continuative particles),
which confirms the assumption that adjacency is given in all cases.
Reanalysing combinations of phrases and verbs as SCVs, different sources are
found for the aforementioned particles types: resultative phrases, modifier
phrases and postpositions. Another general phenomenon, highlighted in view of
grammaticalization, is the coexistence of old and new structures. The
remainder of the chapter briefly outlines the diachrony of nominal and
adjectival particle types, showing that -- apart from verbs -- elements of all
major syntactic categories have the potential to develop into particles so
that they enable a reanalysis as SCVs.

Chapter 5 (“The lexical decomposition of Present-Day English verb particle
combinations”) shifts the focus from Dutch particles to VPCs in Present-Day
English. According to the authors, English VPCs differ from Dutch SCVs in two
main aspects: First, they take as a starting point that the separation of a
particle from its base verb is not motivated by syntactic mechanisms (such as
V2) but by means of Information Structure. Thereby, it is deduced that English
enables its particles to be both projecting and non-projecting: They are
defined as being non-projecting by default (particle order) and, in accordance
with the Structural Economy Principle, projecting when modified (predicate
order). Only idioms are given as an exception in that they only allow one word
order (freezing). Second, the authors construct the argument that particles
are almost exclusively resultative and thus do not dispose of such a large
semantic variety of functions as in Dutch. As one source of these differences,
Los et al. mention the general development of the two languages in language
history, as they induced distinct basic word orders (English: SVO vs. Dutch:
SOV).

Chapter 6 (“The diachrony of the English verb particle combination”)
completes the treatment of VPCs in English with a diachronic analysis. The
authors start from the Old English (OE) period in which particles behaved
similarly to present-day SCVs in being used in preverbal position (default
case) and occurring in postverbal position only due to V-movement. Further,
the decline of the ICV system is mentioned and given as the result of
functional overlaps between coexisting SCVs and ICVs in OE that were
eventually taken over by particles. Los et al. analyse the status of particles
as phrasal secondary predicates in origin undergoing a process of
grammaticalization. They stress that the loss of SOV word order in the Middle
English (ME) period, accompanied by a loss of V-movement, gave birth to the
SVO word order, which is still used in PDE and which caused particles to
become exclusively postverbal. Los et al. claim that it was possibly this loss
of syntactic independence and increase in the syntactic bond between verb and
particle that led to a change of VPCs into fixed morphosyntactic
constructions.

After focusing exclusively on separable particle verbs, chapter 7 (“The
diachrony of prefixes in West Germanic”) gives a comparative diachronic
analysis of the productive and often cognate prefixes in ICVs in West
Germanic, as well as in Gothic, an East Germanic language. Prefixes, as noted,
constitute the final stage of the grammaticalization cline posited, although
it is stressed that not every ICV needs to be derived from an SCV. ICVs can
also be formed on the basis of derivational templates, accounting for the fact
that prefixes are used in both types of ICVs, the old and the new system. Due
to their common historical origin, it is highlighted that ICVs in the old
system are functionally equivalent to SCVs when referring to complex events
that entail a change of state in resultative structures. In this context, Los
et al. assume that the resulting doublings of particles and prefixes in OE
reinforce the assumption that OE prefixes lost their meanings as their
functions could be taken over by the SCV system. This is given as one factor
that may have led to the final loss of the ICV system. In contrast, the new
system proposed is not resultative but, being adpositional in origin and
multidirectional, similar to relator (path) particles and only licences Ground
participants while unidirectional SCVs licence both Ground and Figure
participants. Los et al. conclude that resultative and non-resultative
preverbs show a divergent diachronic development and that semantic change
precedes morphosyntactic change in terms of grammaticalization.

The final chapter 8 (“Conclusions”) repeats the research questions initially
posed by the authors and answers them by recapitulating the main findings of
the study.

EVALUATION
The book under review is mainly intended for historical or general linguists
interested in the morphosyntactic study of particle and prefix verbs, whether
monolingual or cross-linguistic, synchronic or diachronic, or types of
(pre-)verb (SCV, VPC, ICV). Background knowledge in prefix/particle verbs or
in the general history of West Germanic languages -- in particular of Dutch
and English -- is advantageous for understanding the study’s overall context,
but is not necessary. Thus, the book can be read by both more and less
experienced scholars.

The volume is logically structured around the three criteria introduced at the
beginning of this review: the mode of approach, the language under
investigation, and the particular (pre-)verb type. Although the division into
the respective chapters explicitly reflects this structure, it is not
recommendable to read the chapters independently from each other: The
individual chapters build upon another in terms of content and problems may
arise due to the numerous cross and back references, which sometimes interrupt
the reading flow. Consequently, the book is not suitable as a reference work.

The authors elaborately answer their research questions and thus fulfil their
goals of exploring the morphosyntactic and functional behaviour of particle
verbs, their historical development, and their relation to inseparable prefix
verbs. They perform both synchronic and diachronic cross-linguistic analyses
and present them in a coherent and comprehensible manner.

One of the strengths of the book is the wealth of details. Los et al. reach
out to take various perspectives and dichotomies into account (i.e. synchronic
vs. diachronic, English vs. Dutch, prefix vs. particle verb). For all focal
points, they discuss existing approaches at great length and relate them to
their own results. Still, from the reader’s point of view, such a wealth of
details also risks losing the thread in view of identifying the authors’
assumptions and conclusions.

Another positive factor is that the authors base their findings on examples of
actual language usage. They do not limit themselves to only collecting those
examples, but also interpret them thoroughly so that they are able to draw
relevant conclusions.

The book’s shortcomings mainly concern aspects of scientific practice. The
authors do not explicitly specify the underlying data from which examples are
taken or on which they base their conclusions. Instead, the corpora used in
the study are only listed in the appendix. The only exceptions are example
sentences quoted from other studies for which corresponding references are
given. A separate chapter or an additional section in the introduction
specifying both the method and the data used in the analysis would have been
welcome. That would also have made it possible to extend the potential
readership of the book by addressing corpus linguists or more data-oriented
researchers in general. Furthermore, additional secondary literature should
have been cited in some passages of the book. For instance, in dealing with
locative alternations (e.g. p. 179, p. 190), Levin (1993) should have been
quoted -- especially since Los et al. make explicit reference to alternations
in English.

Apart from these aspects, there are only a few improvements that could have
been made, all involving cross-linguistic comparisons. For instance, more
analogies could have been drawn between Dutch and German (such as Dewell 2011)
in the context of path particles (Figure, Ground). This also applies to the
aspect of compositional semantics of prefix and particle verbs briefly dealt
with in chapter 7. Although the chapter title suggests that this aspect would
be contextualized with other Germanic data, the focus is on Dutch. As one of
the main conclusions is that particles are both compositional and
conventionalized, it would be helpful to elaborate on this aspect of
compositionality, as comparable studies already exist for other languages
(e.g. Mungan 1986, Stiebels 1999 for German). These minor points of criticism
provide a significant potential for future research in terms of performing
cross-linguistic comparisons in more detail on the basis of the authors’
results of the present study.

In conclusion, the book’s insights outweigh its weaknesses and I recommend
this book to all scholars interested in the comparative, synchronic, or
diachronic study of particles and prefixes from a morphosyntactic point of
view.

REFERENCES
Blom, Corrien (2005). Complex Predicates in Dutch: Synchrony and Diachrony.
Utrecht: LOT Dissertation Series 111.

Dewell, Robert B. (2011). The Meaning of Particle/Prefix Constructions in
German. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Elenbaas, Marion (2007). The Synchronic and Diachronic Syntax of the English
Verb-Particle Combination. Utrecht: LOT.

Levin, Beth (1993). English Verb Classes and Alternations: A Preliminary
Investigation. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Mungan, Güler (1986). Die semantische Interaktion zwischen dem präfigierenden
Verbzusatz und dem Simplex bei deutschen Partikel- und Präfixverben. Frankfurt
am Main: Peter Lang.

Stiebels, Barbara (1999). Lexikalische Argumente und Adjunkte: Zum
semantischen Beitrag von verbalen Präfixen und Partikeln. Berlin: Akademie
Verlag.


ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Christina Hoppermann is a PhD student and researcher working at the chair of
General and Computational Linguistics in the Department of Linguistics at the
University of Tübingen. Her main research interests include (compositional)
lexical-semantic phenomena at the syntax-semantics interface based on
text-technological and data-driven methods (such as corpus analyses), German
prefix and particle verbs, lexical-semantic networks and compound-internal
lexical relations.
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