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Review of  Deriving Coordinate Symmetries

Reviewer: Michael T. Putnam
Book Title: Deriving Coordinate Symmetries
Book Author: John R te Velde
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Subject Language(s): Dutch
Issue Number: 18.2941

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AUTHOR: te Velde, John
TITLE: Deriving Coordinate Symmetries
SUBTITLE: A Phase-Based Approach Integrating Select, Merge, Copy and Match
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2005

Michael T. Putnam, Carson-Newman College

In this monograph, John te Velde proposes a minimalist, phase-based (Chomsky
1998, 1999) approach to the derivation of coordinate structures by utilizing the
operations Copy and Match to account for both the symmetries and asymmetries of
coordination. As a unique contribution to the literature on coordinate
structures, te Velde offers a phase-based, derivational account of coordinate
structures in Dutch, English and German. Accordingly, the derivation proceeds
phase-by-phase rather than sentence-by-sentence. In such a system, the first
conjunct of (some type of) coordinate structure is constructed before the
construction of the second conjunct can begin. The sort of parallelisms that
maintain (at least to some degree) is established by the interaction of Copy and
Match with active memory (AM), an interface external to the narrow syntax. Once
the first conjunct is derived and processed, the syntactic and semantic features
of this intitial conjunct are copied into AM and subsequently transferred to the
second conjunct upon its successful derivation. As a result, the relevant
features of the initial conjunct are always copied and pasted onto the following
(second) conjunct. Through this process, some sort of symmetry - whether it be
syntactic or semantic - is established between the conjuncts of derived
coordinate structures. This derivation-by-phase approach advocated by te Velde
allows the derivations of the two conjuncts to be distinct; the core aspects of
whatever degree of parallelism that does obtain is established and maintained
between certain syntactic and/or semantic features. Given these core desiderata
of te Velde's approach, this approach contrasts with Across-the-Board (ATB)
accounts of coordination, which assume that the parallelism that occurs between
conjuncts is derived simulatenously rather than by phase as outlined above.

This book is organized into 5 chapters. Chapter 1 is brief; it provides a
summary and overview of the theory as well as an outline for the remaining
chapters. In Chapter 2, te Velde introduces and examines non-elliptical
instances of asymmetric coordination, such as those below.

(1) a. DP + AP
George is [DP a geek] and [AP glad to be one].
(p. 19)

b. VF Clause + V2 Clause (German)
Wenn das Wetter schön ist,
(when the weather nice is)

und wir gehen zusammen in die Berge, dann ...
(and we go together in the mountains then)
(p. 22)

Although categorically asymmetric, these structures are grammatical. Te Velde
assumes that asymmetric conjuncts are licensed by virtue of the matching of
abstract features; he uses the term COORDINATE FEATURE MATCHING (CFM) (p. 13) to
refer to this phenomenon. For example, although the categories DP and AP are not
structurally identical in (1a) above, they are both parallel to one another with
regard to their position in the VP; namely, as the complement of V. Therefore
they both bear the identical abstract feature [+ COMPL]. As for (1b), although
the two clauses differ with respect to the placement of the finite verb,
parallelism does exist between them with the abstract feature [+ CLAUSE].

Chapter 3 presents the particular details of phrase structure that te Velde
assumes for coordinated structure as well as the details of a
derivation-by-phase approach of coordinate structures. Differing with previous
analyses of coordinate structures that maintain that [&] projects as a head and
therefore heads the phrase &P (cf. Munn 1987, Kayne 1994, Johannessen 1996, 1998
among others), te Velde's analysis has the second conjunct (DP2) merging (not
adjoining) to the tail end of the first conjunct (DP1) in such a manner that
that the coordinator does not receive the status of a head. The coordinate
structure in (2) below represents te Velde's version of coordinate structures
(pp. 26-30).

(2) DP1 --> DP N'
N' --> N DP2
DP2 --> and DP

Te Velde produces numerous arguments in support of the structure (2) over
previous accounts that argue that [&] exists as a functional head and projects a
natural phrase. Data of coordinate structures exhibiting subject-verb agreement,
feature checking and multiple conjuncts (among others) present a convincing case
in favor of te Velde's coordinate structure in (2). In discussing the
derivational procedures involved in generating coordinate structures, te Velde
adheres to orthodox minimalist desiderata in trying to avoid the unwanted
incorporation of new machinery, structures and operation when previously
existing mechanisms will suffice. Only the derivational processes Select, Merge,
Copy and Match are deemed to be necessary in deriving coordinate structures in a
phase-based model. The first three operations are maintained to be active in the
''narrow syntax'', whereas Match occurs both in the narrow syntax and once again
at LF. The final section of this chapter looks at asymmetric coordinate
structures anew in light of the suggested conceptual improvements in structure
(cf. (2)) and derivational operations discussed previously in the chapter.

Chapter 4 investigates the existence of gaps in the Minimalist Program. Here te
Velde assumes that gaps possess ''all the features of a lexical item except its
phonetic features'' (p. 181). In other words, gaps are similar to any other
lexical items with deleted phonetic features. Following Chomsky (1995), te Velde
assumes that this ''deletion'' takes place at PF (p. 180). The gaps produced by
left-edge ellipsis (LEE) is licensed by the coordinator, since it naturally
c-commands the lower/second conjunct. On the other hand, right-edge ellipsis
structures (RNR) are licensed by a prosodic feature [PROS], which is situated in
a structural position that immediately licenses, or ''strictly c-commands'' the
gap. The [PROS] feature resides in the Spec position of the gapped structure
(eP) and importantly does not not project a phrase. The structure in (3)
demonstrates te Velde's positioning of the [PROS] feature in a standard
derivation (adapted from p. 210).

(3) VP --> Spec V'
V' --> V eP
eP --> Spec [PROS] e'
e' --> e TP
TP --> & TP (...)

Gaps produced by the result of gapping are also licensed by the [PROS] feature.
The only difference between the licensing of RNR and Gapping structures is in
the positioning of the [PROS] feature; in the latter the [PROS] feature appears
in a position that immediately c-commands C or T (p. 224).

Chapter 5 concludes this monograph with a brief discussion of the correct
analysis of preverbal projections in West Germanic. Regarding the infamous CP
vs. TP debate for German (and West Germanic SOV-languages in general), te Velde
argues against the generalized V-->C analysis for all V2 clauses in favor of the
TP analysis first championed by Zwart (1997). His analysis opens the door for
more work on the exact nature of the CP-layer in West Germanic languages
intervening between TP and CP.

There are three points that are argued for quite convincingly in this
manuscript: First, te Velde does an excellent job of explaining and defending
his hypothesized syntactic structure for coordinate constructions (cf. (2)).
Second, te Velde makes a solid case for the symmetry of structurally asymmetric
coordinates based on the matching of abstract features. Third, te Velde's
discussion of the CP-layer of German in the final chapter is clear and opens the
door to fruitful future research on this topic.

There are also conceptual arguments that are problematic that weaken the impact
of the overall presentation of coordinate symmetries. In this review, I address
three main shortcoming of te Velde's analysis and presentation that can be
improved upon, namely, the length and redundancy of the text itself (as
originally pointed out by Osborne (2006)), the necessity (or lack thereof) of
Chomsky's notion of a phase in deriving coordinating symmetries and the notion
of Active Memory (AM) in the model of the grammar developed by te Velde in this

First, as originally noted by Osborne (2006) the length and redundancy of the
text is problematic. The book consists of over 300 pages in the main body of the
text as well as over 40 pages of notes (ca. 370 notes). Key points are repeated
more than necessary, which leads to unwanted and unneeded redundancy. Osborne
(2006:330) shows that the argument in favor of te Velde's structural account of
coordinated structures (cf. (2)) is first introduced on pages 25-27 and then
thereafter in parts on pages 108, 112, 115-117, 122-123 and 132. Coupled with
some empirical data whose grammaticality judgments are debatable (see Osborne
2006:330-331), the overall argument could have been more nicely packaged and

Second, it remains unclear if te Velde's reliance on Chomsky's notion of a
strong phase (i.e., CP and vP) is essential for his analysis. Throughout the
text, te Velde refers to phases as being CP and TP. TP is generally regarded not
to be a phase (at least not in the strongest sense of its definition);
therefore, many of the derivations remain questionable. Derivation-by-phase
implies that the narrow syntax only has access to a sub-array of lexical items
during the generation of a strong phase. Although te Velde indeed makes a strong
case for a derivational approach to syntactic theory and in understanding the
nature of coordinate (a)symmetries, it is unclear if phases are necessary. Most
of the examples used in this book reside within one strong phase; therefore, a
level-free derivational approach as adopted by Epstein & Seely (2006 and early
subsequent work) would suffice in making a derivational framework available
while eliminating te Velde's reliance on phases. A thorough investigation of
whether a level-free derivational approach void of phases or any other larger
ontological commitments extends beyond the scope of a book review, but would be
an excellent topic for future research. Based on current criticisms of phases
(see Boeckx 2007: Chapter 3 for an excellent summary of these arguments) the
elimination of the reliance upon phases may be a welcome result.

Lastly, te Velde's concept of Active Memory (AM) requires more clarification
with regards to its mission, scope and limitations. The model of the grammar in
minimalist inquiry represents an attempt to understand the knowledge of
language; AM represents an element related to linguistic performance/behavior.
It is diffuclt to envision a performance-based level of representation
constraining language knowledge. Furthermore, it is difficult to determine what
limitations AM has as an interface with the narrow syntax. Te Velde also refers
to AM as a ''work space'' and spends the latter portion of chapter 3 discussing
the pros and cons of deriving coordinate structures in AM prior to introducing
them into the narrow syntax. Therefore AM in its current instantiation can
potentially store features that have been copied and must be pasted on the first
conjunct (yet to enter the narrow syntax) as well as sub-structures and arrays.
In order to restrict the coverage of the AM, te Velde introduces
derivation-by-phase including a reliance upon multiple Spell-Out; however,
adopting a level-free derivational system may be all that is ultimately needed
to effectively reduce AM to only contain the relevant abstract features of a
given syntactic object (generated by only one application of Merge or Remerge)
only until the first DP is merged into the narrow syntax. Te Velde says little
on the nature and role of the Numeration in deriving coordinate structures,
which could also further reduce the workload of AM. In the end, the novelty of
introducing AM as an interactive interface with the narrow syntax is indeed
interesting and worthy of further consideration, however, many controversal
issues remain unaddressed.

Overall te Velde is effective in deepening our understanding of coordinate
symmetries and how they can be derived in a derivational syntactic theory such
as the Minimalist Program. Te Velde convincingly argues for an underlying
structure of coordinates that does not call for the projection of a [&]-head.
Furthermore te Velde's introduction and discussion of the use of abstract
features and how they can explain the symmetry of asymmetry stands to improve
our understanding of the nature of these structures. Although te Velde also
makes strong claims on the superiority of derivational approaches in
understanding the nature of these constructions, the notion of phases and a
derivation proceding along those lines represents a probable unwanted
overarching constraint placed on the derivation that is not based on bare output
conditions. In the end, I commend te Velde for his derivational treatment of
this difficult subject matter. The empircal coverage of data in the book from
Dutch, English and German, as well as the aforementioned theoretical treament of
coordinate structures, makes this book a relevant read for anyone interested in
Germanic languages and the syntax of coordinate structures.

Boeckx, C. 2007. _Understanding Minimalist Syntax: Lessons from locality and
long-distance dependencies_. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Chomsky, N. 1995. _The Minimalist Program_. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Chomsky, N. 1998. Minimalist Inquiries: The framework. _MIT Occasional papers in
Linguistics_ 15. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. (= Step by step, ed. by Roger Martin,
David Michaels, and Juan Uriagereka, 200, pp. 89-155. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.)

Chomsky, N. 1999. Derivation by phase. _MIT Occasional papers in Linguistics_
18. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. (= Ken Hale. A life in language, ed. by Michael
Kenstowicz, 2001, 1-52. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.)

Epstein, S. and T. D. Seely. 2006. _Derivations in Minimalism_. Cambridge: CUP.

Johannessen, J. 1996. Partial agreement and coordination. _Linguistic Inquiry_
27. 661-676.

Johannessen, J. 1998. _Coordination_. Oxford: OUP.

Kayne, R. 1994. _The antisymmetry of syntax_. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Munn, A. 1987. Coordinate structure and X-bar theory. _McGill working papers in
Linguistics_ 4. 121-140.

Osborne, T. 2006. Review of te Velde's ''Deriving Coordinate Symmetries: A
phase-based approach integrating Select, Merge, Copy and Match. _Journal of
Germanic Linguistics_ 18.4, 321-337.

Zwart, C.J.W. 1997. _The Morphosyntax of Verb Movement: A Minimalist Approach to
Dutch Syntax_. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Michael Putnam is assistant professor of German and Linguistics at Carson-Newman
College. His primary research foci include syntactic theory, language change and
psycholinguistics with a particular focus on Germanic languages past and present.