It was about one and a half years ago that I finally I arrived where I had always wanted to be and do what I had always wanted-- teach students, support small language communities and conduct research on African languages on my doorstep. The University of Cape Town and my new colleagues welcomed my efforts to establish the Centre for African Language Diversity-- CALDi as well as The African Language Archive-- TALA and I was recently appointed the Mellon Research Chair: African Language Diversity this initiative. The main aim of CALDi is to train young African scholars in descriptive linguistics and open up space for research into African languages at UCT with the hopes of countering the dominance of African linguistics outside the continent. It has been a great challenge for which my whole career has been a form of preparation...Read more
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AUTHOR: Bazenga, Aline Maria Pinguinha França TITLE: Aspects de la syntaxe, de la sémantique et de la morphologie des verbes à /complexité/ SERIES: Linguistics Edition 61 PUBLISHER: Lincom GmbH YEAR: 2007
Milena Slavcheva, Linguistic Modeling Department, Institute for Parallel Processing, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia
SUMMARY The book is a monograph (dissertation), written in French, which suggests an analysis of the morphosyntactic and semantic properties of French verbs bearing the feature of complexity (trait de complexité). The class of complexity verbs (verbes à /complexité/) includes lexical items known as ''symmetric'', ''reciprocal'' or ''collective'' verbs, but it is elaborated and enriched according to the theoretical assumptions and empirical investigations described in the book. The feature of complexity presupposes a ''plurality'' reading of the entity formed by the verb lexeme and its arguments. On the morphosyntactic level this particular meaning is articulated by structures having the following two properties: 1) selection of an argument (subject or object) which is obligatorily in the plural (or a collective nominal, or a coordinated phrase) 2) in the absence of an argument in the plural (or having a plural reading) as defined in property 1), selection of a complement, which is a prepositional phrase correlated with another argument (subject or object), and the correlated elements are interpreted as ''plural''. The two properties serve as the basis, as the point of reference relevant to the entire analysis of the verb structures on the levels of morphology, syntax and semantics, and the interdependence among them.
The monograph consists of seven chapters, an appendix (containing a list of the French verbs analyzed throughout the study) and an extensive bibliography related to the topic. A short summary in French and in Portuguese, as well as lists of tables, graphics and abbreviations/notations, are provided at the beginning of the book.
Chapter 1 is an introduction where Bazenga points out the objectives of the study and the general issues related to the multi-level analysis of complexity verbs and the language constructs associated with them. The aim of the author is to explain the behavior of complexity verbs, keeping in mind the two properties given above and formulating and testing hypotheses about the mechanisms of meaning construction. Bazenga formulates eight hypotheses whose plausibility is explored in the subsequent chapters.
Chapter 2 represents the methodology of composing the data base of verb structures: the selection of parameters of the analysis, the selection of lexical entries, and the technical aspects concerning the different configurations of the database. The selection of analysis criteria, as well as the data structuring, are based on the linguistic representation of verb constructs within the framework of the Pronominal Approach (Blanche-Benveniste et al. 1984) and the verb valency dictionary Proton. On the basis of the initial classification of complexity verbs provided by the Pronominal Approach, 278 verbs have been selected from literature dedicated to verb syntax, as well as from dictionaries. Bazenga points out that reformulations of the lexical data base have taken place concerning the analysis parameters and the notation system.
In Chapter 3, the general properties of complexity verbs are surveyed and a proposal for linguistic analysis is provided as a result of handling the selected data. The verbs are grouped according to several parameters. First of all the verbs are subdivided into five groups according to the number of syntactic patterns in which each one of them can participate. The observation of these classes allowed the author to define an abstract syntactic level consisting of two zones, SUBJECT and OBJECT, where the elements contributing to the complexity feature are positioned around the verb nucleus. In this way, the points of anchoring the complexity feature in the neighborhood of the verb are determined for the different types of expressions. In this chapter, the quality of a complexity operator is attributed to all formal linguistic elements which contribute to the complexity interpretation, that is, to the meaning of 'more than one' or 'in one'. The complexity operators described are: derivational affixes and verb stems marked by the complexity feature (e.g., entre-, com-, group-, coupl-, etc.); prepositional phrases (e.g., il compare Nadine à Sophie 'he compares Nadine to Sophie'); constructions with SE, that is, containing the reflexive clitic se; nominal phrases, positioned in the SUBJECT or OBJECT zone, which are interpreted as 'plural': nominals in the plural, collective nouns, coordinated ET phrases.
Chapter 4 is dedicated to the morphological aspects of the complexity verbs. The internal morphological structure of the verb lexemes is analyzed in detail and the verbs are grouped according to the morpheme that serves as the anchor of the [+discrete] feature, related to the concepts of 'plural', 'more than one', 'in one', 'collective', 'all', that is, concepts related to the complexity feature.
In Chapter 5, ''The syntax of complexity verbs'', three types of syntactic structures are described in detail depending on the focused element in the structure. The first type of syntactic structure is distinguished by the presence of prepositional phrases. The verb constructs are classified according to the type and variety of prepositions that can be collocated to the verb lexeme so as to complete the complexity expression. The second type of syntactic structure is where the clitic SE is involved. Structures interpreted as 'reciprocal' or 'pseudo-reciprocal' are related to the complexity feature. The third type of syntactic structure is defined according to the internal structure of the nominal phrases contributing to the complexity meaning. The analysis is related to the category of NUMBER and its realizations via Noun Phrase categories: NPplural, NPcollective and NPcomplex coordinated. It should be noted that each issue related to the analysis of the syntactic structures in Chapter 5 is supported by very rich theoretical argumentation, as well as a practical application in the form of data descriptors.
Chapter 6 extends the analysis of the complexity verbs to the semantic domain by relating the morphosyntactic verb structures to conceptual structures. The chapter deals with the semantic category of 'collective' in view of the part/whole relation in the nominal, as well as the verbal domain. A multidimensional approach is applied to the semantic description of events and conceptual structures are built by integrating an 'attributive', 'participative', 'quantitative' and 'descriptive' dimension.
The final remarks of Chapter 7 consist of a short summary of the research work presented in the book and some ideas for future work.
EVALUATION Bazenga's monograph is an example of a good description of a linguistic phenomenon. The chosen linguistic entities, complexity verbs in French, are analyzed on several linguistic levels: morphological, syntactic and semantic. On each level there are vast general issues to consider, as well as specific problems to solve. Bazenga manages to accommodate the local argumentation in the global view of the problems. She surveys a number of approaches to each subtopic relevant to the study and then states her own position as part of the overall treatment of complexity verbs. She also manages to keep track of the interdependence between the different levels of linguistic analysis providing a logically structured representation of the linguistic phenomenon.
A merit of this piece of research work is the constant study of language data and the application of the theoretical model in building a corpus (as Bazenga calls it) of analyzed verbs. The exhaustive data representation, conforming to given theoretical assumptions, is very important in justifying the whole enterprise.
The book contains a very rich bibliography related to the topics and subtopics of the study.
There are some typographic errors that should be mentioned. The book contains 52 tables and after Table 21 the numbering of the tables and the reference to table numbers are incompatible. Fortunately, the tables always immediately follow the text where they are referenced, so there is no confusion. What causes some confusion, though, is the fact that in many of the sections representing data, coloured print is supposed to be used for differentiating classes of data (as stated in the text), but the print is just plain. There are also some spelling errors, notation errors, a missing note (note 58 on p. 146).
REFERENCES Blanche-Benveniste, C., Deulofeu, J., Stéfanini, J. and Van den Eynde, K. (1984). _Pronom et syntaxe. L'approche pronominale et son application en français_ Paris: Selaf.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Milena Slavcheva is a specialist in building formal models of language for software applications and in producing large-scale language resources (lexicons and corpora). She is interested in the study and formal representation of verb-centered structures at different levels of linguistic analysis, as well as in the development of cross-linguistic components utilizable in the automatic processing of language.