LINGUIST List 7.623

Fri Apr 26 1996

Sum: Germanic versus Romance properties of English words

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. Cassian Braconnier, GB2MP: Germanic versus Romance properties of English words

Message 1: GB2MP: Germanic versus Romance properties of English words

Date: Fri, 26 Apr 1996 14:13:40 +0200
From: Cassian Braconnier <>
Subject: GB2MP: Germanic versus Romance properties of English words
Date: Fri, 26 Apr 1996 14:12:23
To: gb2mp
From: (Cassian Braconnier)
Subject: GB2MP: Germanic versus Romance properties of English words

Some times ago I posted the following query to GB2MP. The message was
then forwarded to LINGUIST, presumably by GB2MP list owner.

>In "The Minimalist Program", chap. 4, p. 230, Chomsky writes:
>"We will make the still stronger assumption that overt operations cannot
>detect phonological features at all - such features cannot, for example,
>distinguish one overt operation from another.13"
>In footnote 13, p. 381, he writes:
>"Prima facie evidence to the contrary is familiar, for example, Germanic
>versus Romance properties of English words..."
>I have no idea of the nature of these Germanic versus Romance properties of
>English word. Can anybody give some input on this?

Thanks to the following subscribers of GB2MP or LINGUIST who answered:

Laurie Bauer
Stefano Bertolo
Rick Mac Callister
John Coleman
Peter Daniels
Makoto Kondo
Ingo Plag
Georges Rebuschi
P.M. Shaw
Allan Wechsler
Deborah Yeager

In the quoted text by Chomsky "overt operations" means, as I
understand it (and as the context suggests), overt *syntactic*
operations. The problem I had in mind (perhaps not quite accurately
expressed in my query) was then: are there overt syntactic operations
which could seem, *prima facie*, to be linked to phonological
properties of Romance and Germanic words and to be in some way
triggered by them? The problem was NOT: "what are the phonological
differences between Romance and Germanic word in English". The one
overt relevant syntactic operation mentioned in the answers I received
is "dative shift", see below the message by Makoto Kondo and examples
by Stefano Bertolo.

I shall forward all the received material about various phonological
and morphological differences between the two word classes to
interested subscribers.

>Dear Cassian
>This is Makoto Kondo at Shizuoka University, Japan. One example that I can
>think of is the property concerning dativizability. Pinker (1989:45-46)
>notes "It has often been pointed out that dativizable verbs tend to have
>native (Germanic), not Latinate stems. . . .It turns out that most often
>native stems are monosyllabic or, if polysyllabic, have stress only on the
>first syllable. . . .Grimshaw (1985) and Grimshaw and Prince (1986) note
>that this definition of the native class corresponds to a phonological
>natural kind."
>Grimshaw, J. (1985) "Remarks on Dative Verbs and Universal Grammar," Paper
> presented at the Tenth Annual Boston University Conference on Language
> Development, Oct. 25-27.
>Grimshaw, J. and A. Prince (1986) "A prosodic account of the to-dative
> alternation," ms. Brandeis University.
>Pinker, S. (1989) Learnability and Cognition, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
>Makoto KONDO
>Department of Information Arts
>Shizuoka University, JAPAN
>Hi Cassian,
>	with regards to your question on the syntactic ramifications
>of a distinction (in English) between germanic and latinate words you
>may want to check out Pinker's "Learnability and Cognition: the Acquisition
>of Argument Structure" (1989). Pinker investigates the learnability
>consequences of the fact that phenomena such as dative alternation
>are possible with germanic but not latinate words:
>1a) John gave a book to Mary
>1b) John gave Mary a book
>2a) John donated a book to the library
>2b) * John donated the library a book
>You'll probably find there lots of pointers to the relevant literature.


Cassian Braconnier
Maitre de Conferences Universite Blaise Pascal de Clermont-Ferrand (France)
Membre de l'URA 1720 du CNRS (syntaxe formelle)

2 bis, rue Etienne Marey
75020 PARIS

Tel. (1) 43 61 14 72
Fax (1) 43 61 14 72

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