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Review of  Current Issues in Romance Languages

Reviewer: Eric Russell Webb
Book Title: Current Issues in Romance Languages
Book Author: Diana Cresti Teresa Satterfield Christina M. Tortora
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Issue Number: 14.755

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Date: Thu, 13 Mar 2003 09:44:45 -0500
From: Eric Russell Webb
Subject: Current Issues in Romance Languages

Satterfield, Teresa, Christina Tortora, and Diana Cresti (2002) Current
Issues in Romance Languages. John Benjamins Publishing Company,
xiii+375pp, hardback ISBN 1-58811-089-3, $95.00, Amsterdam Studies in the
Theory and History of Linguistic Science 220.

Reviewer: Eric RUSSELL WEBB, Assistant Professor, Western Michigan University


This book contains twenty-four edited papers originally presented at the
29th Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages (LSRL), held in Ann Arbor
from 8 to 11 April 1999.  The LSRL is a yearly conference covering all
aspects of Romance, whose principle audience is linguists and students of
linguistics in the Americas and Europe.  The present edition consists of
works on the major Romance languages (Spanish, French, Italian,
Portuguese), as well as less frequently covered languages (e.g. Romanian
and Catalan), Neo-Romance (e.g. Haitian Creole, Afro-Iberian), regional
dialects (e.g. Picard, Emilia-Romagnan) and papers of a comparative
nature.  The edition includes works from nearly all major sub-fields of
linguistics, including morphology, syntax, phonology, semantics and
pragmatics, the notable exception being sociolinguistics, which is not

As the publication is not divided into sections according to either
subject language or languages or linguistic subfield, the present review
describes these in the order in which they appear in the book. 

Nancy Mae Antrim's paper, "On becoming a clitic: the
pronominal possessive in Romance" (pp. 1-15) traces the evolution
of possessive pronouns from Vulgar Latin to Modern French, Spanish and
Italian.  She notes that three factors, determiner development, reduction
in unstressed forms, and the acquisition of definiteness influenced the
outcome of possessives in the three languages, describing the diachronic
patterns of Spanish and Italian as being similar and that of French as
being relatively distinct.

Zsuzsanna Barkanyi's paper, "Primary stress in Spanish"
(pp. 17-31) considers the psychological reality behind rules regarding
primary stress in Spanish, focusing on nominals.  The paper presents the
results of a nonce-word test and underscores the importance of syllable
weight in Spanish stress assignment.  Barkanyi asserts that the stress
pattern results from the interaction of phonology, morphology and the
lexicon, where the first of these has a filtering role.

Claudia Brovetto's paper, "Spanish clauses without complementizer"
(pp. 33-46) consists of an analysis of compliment clauses lacking
"que" (that).  She describes data relative to
the non-realization of the complementizer in certain cases involving
irrealis clausal complements embedded under a given class of verbs and
proposes that Complementizer Phrase (CP) projection is absent when the
overt "que"is unrealized.

Viviane Deprez's paper, "On the nature of bare nouns in
Haitian Creole" (pp. 47-64) examines the syntax and semantics of
bare nouns (e.g. undetermined nouns) in Haitian Neo-Romance, a
French-lexified Creole.  She first provides an overview of the Nominal
Mapping Parameter and then applies this theory to data from Haitian,
specifically looking for evidence of a null determiner.  She then
proposes a semantic parameter linking the null determiner to the
realization of plural morphology.

Ricardo Etxepare and Kleanthes Grohmann's paper, "Towards a
syntax of adult root infinitives" (pp. 65-79) contrasts infinitival
constructions in Germanic and Romance, using as examples English and
Spanish, respectively. They demonstrate that Root Infinitives (RI) lack
an overt complementizer phrase layer and a specifier for tense, focusing
specifically on the raising or lack of raising of RI in each language. 

Timothy Face"s paper, "Re-examining Spanish: Resyllabification (pp. 81-94)
analyses this phenomenon from an Optimality Theoretic (OT) perspective, in
contrast to previous, serial or rule-based approaches.  Face's examination
counters the traditional notion of resyllabification, asserting that
prefixes in Spanish must be treated differently than other affixes,
specifically that these are separate phonological domains. 

Grant Goodall's paper, "On preverbal subjects in Spanish" (pp. 95-109) considers
the appearance of a subject to be limited within the Spanish clause structure. 
Goodall presents evidence that preverbal subjects in Spanish are not in a topic position,
nor are they in a focus ("wh" or question) position.  He demonstrates
that the external, complementizer phrase-level appearance of a subject
will obtain only if there is a special interpretation requiring this. 

Javier Guttierrez-Rexach's paper, "The semantics of Spanish
free relative" (pp. 111-127) looks at the semantic structure of
these constructions and at the ambiguity of their interpretation.  In the
first sections, he describes the morphological encoding of quantification
force and indefinite free relatives (FR), as well as the differences
between definite and indefinite FR.  A final section discusses the
semantic interpretations of these constructions, noting that the
definiteness of FR depends in large part on the morphology of elements
incorporated into the modal verb.

David Heap's paper, "Split subject pronoun paradigms: feature
geometry and underspecification" (pp. 129-144) considers the
description and explanation of asymmetrical subject pronoun distribution,
focusing on non-standard Gallo- and Italo-Romance dialects.  He adopts a
hierarchical feature geometry in which the second and third person
singular, along with the third person plural, are distinguished from
others.  This is incorporated into an under-specified feature geometry,
specifically referring to participants and to the morphological
information conveyed thereabout. 

Paula Kempchinsky's paper, "Locative inversion, PP Topicalization and the
EPP" (pp. 145-158) considers the preposing of locatives and prepositional
phrases (PP) in Spanish, contrasted to data in English.  She proposes that
Spanish PP fronting is the result of topicalization, rather than a movement
to subject position, and shows that this phenomenon corresponds to different
syntactic structures. 

Anthony Lewis' paper, "Contrast maintenance and intervocalic
stop lenition in Spanish and Portuguese: When is it alright to
lenite?" (pp. 159-171) presents an analysis of voicing in VCV
sequences, looking specifically at lenition or contrast neutralization. 
The work consists of a brief overview of data and the presentation of an
articulation experiment involving speakers of Brazilian Portuguese. 
Lewis concludes that Spanish relies more upon closure duration as the cue
to convey consonant identity is such sequences, whereas Portuguese relies
more upon phonetic voicing. 

John M. Lipski's paper, "Epenthesis vs. elision in Afro-Iberian Language: a
constraint-based approach to creole phonology" (pp. 173-188) analyses
the phonological processes of epenthesis and elision from an OT perspective,
focusing on Portuguese- and Spanish-lexified Creoles.  Looking at how African
languages treated Ibero-Romance phonology, he proposes a series of markedness
constraints to account for observable, cross-linguistic patterns, such as coda
elision and onset reduction. 

Monica Malamud's paper, "Contrastive discourse markers in
Spanish: beyond contrast" (pp. 189-205) presents an analysis of the
contrastive relationship of discourse markers, looking specifically at
the functional or use-based differences among these.  In a first stage,
she distinguishes between different types of contrast, next considering
the contexts in which each may occur.

Richard Morris' paper, "Coda obstruents and local constraint
conjuction in North-Central Peninsular Spanish" (pp. 207-223)
presents an analysis of coda spirantization in one dialect of Iberian
Spanish, using the principle of local constraint conjunction in an OT
analysis.  After presenting relevant data and describing this using
feature geometric representations, Morris introduces a series of
conjoined markedness constraints concerning manner (continuance) and
voice to account for the particularities of the dialect in question.

Alan Munn and Cristina Schmitt's paper, "Bare nouns and the
morphosyntax of number" (pp. 225-239) provides a contrastive
examination of bare nouns in Romance and English, looking specifically to
Brazilian Portuguese, French and Spanish in the case of the former.  They
attribute the distributional differences between English and Romance with
regard to bare Noun Phrases to the Free Agreement parameter.  In
Brazilian Portuguese, which permits bare singular arguments, distinction
is accounted for by the combination of Free Agreement and empty

Josep Quer's paper, "Non-logical 'IF' " (pp. 241-254) examines non-logical
if-clauses and questions how two distinct syntactic structures may project
onto parallel logical representations.  Data in his paper is drawn from Spanish
and Catalan.  He shows how the output of adjunct vs. argument status is
determined by the interaction grammatical components.  Quer reaches five
partial conclusions relative to the status and structure of these clauses,
specifically looking to their semantic and lexical natures.

Joan Rafel's paper, "Selecting atomic cells from temporal
domains: fixing parameters in Romance" (pp. 255-269) examines at
three types of constructions expressing events in progress, Prepositional
Infinitivals, Pseudo-relatives and Gerundives, using examples from
European and Brazilian Portuguese, Italian, Catalan and Spanish.  With
regard to the first two constructions, she asserts that these are
analytic options, whereas the Gerundive Construction should be analyzed
as a synthetic version of a nominal construction. 

Lori Repetti' s paper, "Non-homorganic nasal clusters in
Northern Italian dialects" (pp. 271-285) presents an innovative
analysis of non-homorganic nasal cluster data from dialects of
Emilia-Romagna from an OT perspective.  Her analysis depends on
correspondence markedness and faithfulness constraints, specifically
Dependence and Identity; differential ranking of these constraints
accounts for variant nasal cluster grammars in the dialects in question. 

Edward Rubin' s paper, "Romanian nominal structure, proforms
and genitive case checking" (pp. 287-300) examines the alternative
realizations of genitive case-marked nominals in this language.  In a
first section, he presents data relevant to the question at hand, as well
as a description of the structure of Romanian genitive articles and
determiner phrases.  He subsequently argues that the genitive article is
a definite phrase including a pronominal noun and an enclitic definite

Petra Sleeman' s article, "Adjectival agreement within DP
without feature movement" (pp. 301-316) analyses adjective
agreement within determiner phrases (DP), specifically focusing on
French. She proposes that case agreement is the overt manifestation of
theta-identification relation between noun and adjective.  She further
implies that interpretable features can be eliminated by either
pied-piping or coindexation.

Jeffrey Steele and Julie Auger' s paper, "A constraint-based
analysis of intraspeaker variation: vocalic epenthesis in Vimeu
Picard" (pp. 317-335) employs an optimality theoretic model in the
description and explanation of epenthesis as a consequence of two
competing forces, edge-licensing or markedness by position and
epenthesis. They assert that variation is a function of constraint
competition, specifically looking to faithfulness (violated by
epenthesis) and markedness (motivated by indirect licensing by position).

Esther Torrego' s paper, "Aspect in the prepositional system
of Romance" (pp. 337-357) argues that the locus of cross-linguistic
variation with regard to "have" and "be" domains
derives from the head combining with the copula "be" using
data from Catalan, Portuguese, Spanish (modern and old) and French.  She
argues that the absence of a possessive "have" and the lack
of "be" verses "have" alternations, accusative
clitic doubling and accusative objects preceded by dative prepositions
are different manifestations of a singular aspectual parameter.

Dieter Vermandere' s paper, "A unified analysis of French and
Italian 'en/ne' " (pp. 359-373) re-examines the status
of these pronouns, termed "en-clitics." Vermandere proposes
that the en-clitic is underspecified for categorical features and may be
interpretable at the level of logical form by virtue of a clitic doubling
"Pro." He asserts that the latter element is the locus of
cross linguistic variation, rather than the clitic itself, as has been
postulated by previous analyses.

Caroline Wiltshire' s paper, "Variation in Spanish aspiration
and prosodic boundary constraints" (pp. 375-389) proposes an
analysis of different patterns of aspiration in Spanish dialects based on
surface prosodic structure.  She describes how alignment and classical
markedness constraints can provide for particular structures at the edge
of syllables, looking specifically at [s].  She further provides for
differential constraint ranking as a means to express variation in
Iberian and American dialects. 


The nature of this publication, a collection of works on different
languages and treated within distinct linguistic sub-disciplines, renders
any systematic evaluation difficult, if not superfluous.  The reviewer
has therefore restrained himself to general comments, applicable to the
publication as a whole, and to commentary regarding the interest, merits
and defects of the edition.

The papers contained in the edition are of high quality and, without
exception, well-written and edited.  Many of the works present innovative
theories or application thereof to Romance data; the publication,
considered in its entirety, clearly contributes to the body of literature
pertinent to the description, explanation and evaluation of linguistic
data in these languages.  Papers focusing on less-widely-studied Romance
languages, such as those of Deprez, Lipski and Rubin (to cite only a
few), are especially welcome; those treating other languages represent
analytical work that is new and applicable to the fields of Romance and
general linguistics.

Slight criticism may be made with regard to the lack of thematic
grouping "papers appear alphabetically, according to the name of
author(s)" without regard to linguistic sub-discipline or focus
language.  Also, in many of the articles, the use of acronyms is made
without explicit reference; for readers unfamiliar with semantic theory,
for instance, Josep Quer' s excellent paper on atomic cells and
temporal domains may read with a good deal of difficulty.  A final
comment might be made with regard to the delay with which these papers
have appeared, a period of nearly four years between the date of the
conference (spring of 1999) and that of publication (2002).  This should
not, however, be taken as a criticism of either the editors or respective
authors, as many factors beyond the control of these individuals
contribute to publication delays.

It is impossible and perhaps undesirable to fully critique the works
contained within this volume in such a brief review.  Even such a cursory
review demonstrates that the variety of subjects, data and analyses
comprising this edition are clearly invaluable to the linguistic
community as a whole, and most certainly to those linguists interested in
the Romance languages.

Eric Russell Webb is Assistant Professor of Language and Linguistics at Western Michigan University, a level one research institution in Kalamazoo, Michigan.   Dr. Russell Webb received his Ph.D. in Comparative Linguistics with concentration in phonology and phonetics from the University of Texas at Austin in 2002.   His research interests include theoretical phonology, specifically cross-dialectal phonological processes, the role of phonetics in phonology and the naturalness of sympathy and opacity in phonetically grounded phonological grammars.   He works primarily in Germanic (German, Dutch, Dutch-lexified Creoles) and Romance (French, Italian, French-lexified Creoles).\\