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Review of  Aspects de la syntaxe, de la sémantique et de la morphologie des verbes a /complexité/


Reviewer: Milena Slavcheva
Book Title: Aspects de la syntaxe, de la sémantique et de la morphologie des verbes a /complexité/
Book Author: Aline Maria Pinguinha França Bazenga
Publisher: Lincom GmbH
Linguistic Field(s): Semantics
Syntax
Book Announcement: 19.1004

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Review:
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.
 

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