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Review of  Parentheticals

Reviewer: Lewis Chadwick Howe
Book Title: Parentheticals
Book Author: Nicole Dehé Yordanka Kavalova
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Subject Language(s): Dutch
Language Family(ies): Romance
Issue Number: 19.1761

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EDITORS: Dehé, Nicole; Kavalova, Yordanka
TITLE: Parentheticals
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins Publishing Company
YEAR: 2007

Chad Howe, University of Georgia

Parentheticals, as a (more or less) unified class of language structures, have
received relatively sparse attention in the linguistic literature, often being
treated as peripheral phenomena or as instances of speech disfluency.
Nevertheless, the fact that these elements occupy space in the surface syntax
coupled with their variable contributions to the overall interpretation of the
particular host utterance are issues that warrant further linguistic
investigation. The contributions in this volume, edited by Nicole Dehé and
Yordanka Kavalova, were first presented at the 28th Annual Conference of the
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sprachwissenshaft (DGfS) in a workshop on
Parenthetical Constructions. This collection of analyses serves as an initial
response to the need for further research concerning the class of
parentheticals. The cumulative effect of these papers is a comprehensive
overview of the type and scope of the issues pertaining to the proper treatment
of parenthetical constructions.

Though a rather large portion of the contributions in this volume focuses on
issues of syntactic and semantic interest, a number of other linguistic
disciplines are addressed as well. In general, the various authors offer
perspectives that should appeal to a wide audience of scholars. Moreover, the
blend of functionalist and formalist approaches allows the volume to move
between different theoretical platforms achieving the overall objective of
offering a general vision of the questions raised by this class of structures.
While the formalisms in both the syntactic and prosodic analyses are minimal, a
functional knowledge of current systems of formal linguistic representation is

To initiate the volume, Dehé and Kavalova provide a concise introduction to the
class of parenthetical constructions. Their description of parentheticals as a
''motley crew'' foreshadows the vein of discussion concerning membership in this
set of elements that is continued to some degree throughout each of the chapters
(''Parentheticals: An Introduction'', 1). Indeed, the question of what constitutes
a parenthetical construction is critical, given the multitude of candidate
constructions (e.g. anacolutha, discourse markers, and tag questions) that
display different degrees of functional overlap with this class of elements.
This introduction functions as a primer for the reader by raising questions that
will be answered in subsequent chapters and by introducing some of the
literature relevant to the study of parenthetical constructions. Most
importantly, the inventory of evaluative criteria referenced throughout the
volume is examined. With this set of constructions, the consensus seems to be
that independence from the host utterance can be observed in both the syntactic
detachment and the prosodic non-integration, though both are called into
question at various points in the subsequent analyses.

The paper by Gunther Kaltenböck is the first in the section titled ''Syntax and
It's Interfaces''. After introducing the somewhat paradoxical behavior of
parenthetical clauses, i.e. that they are both a part of and not a part of the
syntax of the host utterance, Kaltenböck develops a classification schema
intended to delimit group membership in this diverse set of elements. The
criteria proposed are all related to the syntactic behavior of parentheticals,
though Kaltenböck admits that there are other features (e.g.
functional-pragmatic) that may also be employed in describing this class of
structures. Inclusion of a particular structure in the list of parenthetical
clauses requires (i) that it be clausal, excluding adverbial phrases as in
''Frankly, I don't know what to say about this'' (example 1L:30); (ii) that it be
syntactically independent from the host clause; and finally (iii) that the
position of the candidate structure in the linear string be flexible enough to
allow for initial, medial, and final positions. Kaltenböck concludes his
analysis by discussing a few borderline cases (e.g. discourse markers), settling
in the end on a set of ''core'' members of this class which include reduced
parenthetical clauses (''Britons-he said-could compete and win'', example 25b:41),
self-contained parentheticals (''Mary-I hate to tell you this-is coming over to
visit'', example 20a:40), and some adverbial parentheticals (''As you probably
know, I won't be here next week'', example 1G:30).

The following three chapters are all dedicated to parenthetical constructions in
German. Markus Steinback describes the group of German verb-first integrated
parentheticals (VIPs) (e.g. ''Martin möchte-glaubt Hans-das Theorem beweisen''
'Hans thinks Martin wants to prove the theorem', example 1a:54), noting several
features that distinguish this class of structures from other parenthicals.
First, VIPs display an increased level of integration with their host clauses.
Second, VIPs share a number of properties with matrix clauses that select
V2-complements. Steinback provides an overview of questions related to these
constructions, focusing specifically on accounting for the licensing of the
propositional argument of VIP predicates and the semantic and pragmatic
relation(s) between VIPs and their hosts. Three different VIPs are proposed
based on the selectional restrictions of the VIP predicate and how the host
clause satisfies these restrictions. These VIPs are described as follows:
interrogative glauben-VIPs, declarative glauben-VIPs, and interrogative
fragen-VIPs. Moreover, Steinback argues for a type of mutual dependency between
the VIP and the host clause that is sensitive to the nature of the semantic
relationship of the former to the latter (i.e. either as an argument of the
VIP-predicate or a restrictor).

The behavior of propositional arguments with verbs in reduced parenthetical
constructions (RPCs) is the focus of Christian Fortmann's contribution. Thus, in
an example like ''Theo kam-sagt Paul-mit seinem Hund'' 'Theo brought-Paul says-his
dog' (example 1a:90), Fortmann notes that, despite having predicates which are
subcategorized for clausal complements (e.g. sagt 'say'), there is no overt
constituent in RPCs that saturates this propositional argument. Fortmann
considers three possible analyses for explaining how these complements can
remain unexpressed but dismisses two of these proposals (i.e. unexpressed
arguments as either implicit arguments or traces of a moved constituent) because
of a various empirical problems. Instead, he develops a solution in which the
unexpressed argument of an RPC is represented by an empty pronominal category
linked to the host utterance. Fortmann finds evidence for his claim in the
observation that non-reduced versions of RPCs can be derived via insertion of an
overt pronoun-e.g. ''Theo kam-Paul sagt es-mit seinem Hund'' 'Theo brought-Paul
says-his dog' (example 15a:99), where es 'it' refers to the propositional
content of the host. The remainder of Fortmann's analysis is devoted to
discussing some of the implications of his claims and to extending the analysis
to so 'so' and wie 'as' parentheticals as well.

The paper by Tanja Kiziak discusses constructions of the type shown in the
following example: ''Wen denskst du hat Wolfgang angerufen?'' 'When do you think
Wolfgang has called?' (example 1:121). In light of the fact that German allows
for null complementizers, these examples can be analyzed either as long
wh-movement from a V2-clause or as parenthetical insertion. Kiziak opts for the
parenthetical analysis noting further (following Reis 1995) that certain types
of predicates are not accepted in parenthetical constructions though they do
occur in long extraction (e.g. preference, strong factive, and negated
predicates). To test these claims, Kiziak conducted a series of web-based
experiments designed to elicit numerical grammaticality judgments, which were
then normalized using the magnitude estimation technique (Bard, Robertson, and
Sorace 1996). The results suggest that the complementizer-less constructions
(i.e. the ''controversial'' constructions according to Kiziak) are judged to be
better with predicates of thought and speech while examples with the overt
complementizer ''dass'' are preferred with adjectival and negative predicates.
This set of experimental data provides compelling evidence that the
controversial constructions are best treated as cases of parenthetical insertion
rather than extraction.

Yordanka Kavalova begins her discussion of and-parentheticals by noting that the
location of these elements in the syntactic string is not motivated by any
particular syntactic process. She then proposes a typology of
and-parentheticals, distinguishing between anchored and floating parentheticals
following the criterion of proximity to a particular element in the host
utterance. After differentiating between and-parentheticals and canonical
coordination, Kavalova evaluates two of the prevailing syntactic analyses of the
connection between parenthetical constructions and host utterances (i.e. the
''integrated'' vs. the ''unintegrated'' approaches) and opts instead to adopt an
insertion theory (see Ackema and Neeleman 2004), which argues that while the
material in a parenthetical inserted at a nonterminal node is associated with
the host clause, this relation does not hold in the opposite direction (i.e. the
host material is not associated with the parenthetical) . She concludes the
analysis with a discussion of certain pragmatic issues, arguing that speakers
make use of and-parentheticals to facilitate processing and to achieve optimal
relevance (Sperber and Wilson 1995).

Rounding out the syntax portion of the volume are two papers focusing on formal
syntactic and semantic aspects of the treatment of parentheticals. Francesca Del
Gobbo addresses some distinctions between appositive relative clauses (e.g. ''The
new professor, who was late, came to the party with Mary'', example 2:174) and
restrictive relative clauses (e.g. ''The professor that we invited came to the
party'', example 6:174) observing that while either can modify a definite
description (or a ''specific nominal''), the two constructions display divergent
patterns of acceptability when modifying proper names and quantified NPs. An
appositive relative, being more akin to the class of parentheticals than
restrictive relatives, can modify proper names but not quantified NPs; the
inverse is true for restrictive relatives. To explain these data, Del Gobbo
proposes an E-type account of the pronouns in appositive relatives (see also
Sells 1985 and Demirdache 1991) with obligatory co-indexation with the head of
the relative clause, which is argued not to be the case with restrictive
relatives. She further distinguishes appositive relatives from restrictive
relatives by arguing that the former should be treated semantically as denoting
propositions and the latter as denoting properties.

Mark de Vries picks up the issue of explaining how a parenthetical construction
can be part of the linear structure of a host sentence without being
syntactically integrated. De Vries prefaces his analysis with a distinction
between types of paratactic structures arguing that parentheticals, as opposed
to other cases of parataxis such as coordination and apposition, demonstrate
relatively independent intonation and the absence of a separate licensing agent
(i.e. an ''anchor''). Next, the notion of Invisibility is introduced as a means of
describing structural independence in the absence of c-command. De Vries walks
through the description a number of predictions that follow from his notion of
Invisibility, including the inability to move elements from the paratactic
phrase to the host and the impossibility of licensing a negative polarity item
in the paratactic phrase via some element in the host (in addition to several
other predications related to the binding phenomena). Following his analysis of
these data, de Vries argues for an extension of the notion of structural
inclusion in Minimalist syntax, further describing the implications of such an
addition for the types Merge available in this paradigm. Under these new
assumptions, Invisibility is described simply as an application of a type of
Merge (specifically, b-Merge) that applies only in cases of parataxis.

Over the next three papers, the volume switches gears from the early discussion
of syntactic issues related to parentheticals. First, Stefan Schneider offers a
broad overview of reduced parenthetical constructions (RPCs) in French, Italian,
and Spanish (e.g. French: ''Ca faisait partie de ces-disons donnés'' 'That was
part of these, let's say, cultural data' example 1:238) focused specifically on
developing a pragmatic typology of these constructions. After an initial
characterization of RPCs, Schneider presents the results of a corpus survey and
proposes several classificatory conditions that include the presence of a finite
verb in the parenthetical construction, the lack of overt syntactic link between
the RPC and the host, and occurrence of the RPC in both medial and final
positions. Next, Scheider summarizes the corpus tokens by describing their
pragmatic function. For instance, many RPCs are used as mitigating devices while
others are employed as a means of expressing reported speech or emphasis.
Proceeding from these observations, Schneider analyzes the types of attested
mitigating RPCs while also offering a description of their syntactic position
with respect to the host utterance.

The final two papers are devoted specifically to questions of prosodic interest
related to the study of parenthetical constructions. Drawing from a corpus of
spoken British English, Nicole Dehé initiates the dialogue concerning
intonational independence as a defining criterion for inclusion in the set of
parentheticals. She situates the discussion initially within the ongoing
distinction made between syntactic and prosodic parenthesis, noting that the
treatment of parentheticals as adjuncts is often taken to entail certain
prosodic properties, namely the mapping of these structures onto intonational
units distinct from those of the host utterance. Parentheticals meeting both the
syntactic criterion of adjunction and the prosodic requirement of an independent
intonational frame are labeled as ''prototypical parentheticals'' in Dehé's
analysis. She explains, however, that parentheticals display a variety of
prosodic behaviors, one of which involves some degree of prosodic integration
into the host utterance despite having a distinct intonation contour (i.e.
''integrated parentheticals''). Finally, there are still other constructions that
do not display any of the typical prosodic patterns found with prototypical or
integrated parentheticals, although, syntactically, they are ''clearly
parenthetical in nature'' (279). Dehé concludes her analysis with a discussion of
the implications for general prosodic phonology, noting that it may not always
be the case that syntactic boundaries correspond to prosodic ones.

Sandra Döring provides the final paper in the volume, following the prosodic
thread of the discussion concerning parentheticals. Her analysis looks at the
prosodic features of parenthetical constructions taken from a corpus of
political debates held in the German House of Parliament. Among the features
that are observed are intensity, articulation rate, pauses, and prosodic
contours. Using these features as a point of comparison, Döring discusses how
parentheticals are prosodically distinct from their host utterances and offers a
variety of evidence to indicate that points of transition between a
parenthetical and its anchor clause are often accompanied by changes in one or
more specific prosodic features. For instance, according to Döring's results,
the fundamental frequency of a parenthetical construction tends to be lower than
that of its surrounding host utterance. Careful analysis of a battery of other
features demonstrates that parentheticals do indeed display their own intonation
contours and that this behavior is best displayed in observing the transitions
between the host clause and the parenthetical.

Overall, this volume presents a significant contribution to the study of a set
of constructions that are in general treated as only marginal to our
understanding of ''core'' linguistic issues. The predominant topic of discussion
throughout the book is how to situate the primary and somewhat contradictory
observation about parenthetical constructions - i.e. that they display syntactic
and prosodic independence but are still required to be ''integrated'' into the
linear string of elements. This observation is clearly and consistently echoed
throughout the span of analyses as each author situates his or her individual
proposal with respect to what is popularly assumed about this class of elements.
The greater contribution of the volume, however, is the range and quality of
discussion concerning those cases in which the assumptions of syntactic and
prosodic independence are called into question. That is, the papers in this
volume have instigated a dialogue concerning the means by which
(semi-)independent elements are associated structurally with other elements and
how the nature and type of this association bears on the process of
interpretation. Each individual article provides a distinct and compelling
argument for how and, perhaps more importantly, why parenthetical constructions
must be treated in line with other topics of syntactic and prosodic interest,
arguing that the simple claim of parentheticals as adjuncts does not account for
the wealth of, for example, licensing phenomena that occur between
parentheticals and host utterances. Clearly, there is something more to this
class of elements that goes beyond the mere and misleading claim that they are
speech disfluencies not associated in any discernable way with the strings of
elements in which they appear.

Among all of the positive advances presented in this research, this volume poses
two possible shortcomings related to its breadth of coverage. As is clear in the
preceding description of articles, the largest portion of the book is dedicated
to exploring syntactic aspects of parenthetical expressions. Topics of pragmatic
and prosodic interest, not to mention other possible areas, are provided only
minimal airtime creating a somewhat lop-sided view of the range of issues that
remain to be addressed with these elements. There are several reasonable
responses to this first critique, the first being that the scope of the volume
was dictated largely by the range of papers presented at the original workshop
on parenthetical constructions. A second reply may include the recognition that
the process of initiating further discussion of this set of elements is best
served by addressing the most pressing theoretical concerns, specifically those
related to structure and interpretation. In light of this view, restriction to
the topic of syntax provides only a rallying point for what has become and will
continue to be a fruitful area of research.

One other possible shortcoming concerns the range of languages addressed. Again,
while this can, to some degree, be attributed to the languages of interest
represented by the papers in the original workshop, there are a number of issues
raised by the various syntactic and prosodic claims that would benefit from the
type of coverage that a cross-linguistic approach can offer. One such issue
might be whether or not parenthetical constructions, as a class, are in fact
common and attested cross-linguistically. If so, is it possible to identify a
set of core features (e.g. syntactic and prosodic independence) that allows for
cross-linguistic, classificatory consistency? A more thorough treatment of
parentheticals in a wider selection of languages offers an ideal opportunity to
extend and refine the proposals presented in this volume.

As a coherent collection of analyses, this book accomplishes the goal of
providing the reader with a state-of-art look at topics germane to the
discussion of parentheticals. The one-word title of the book, which
appropriately eschews a restrictive subtitle, is an apt description of the
explanatory mission of the volume.

Ackema, Peter and Ad Neeleman. 2004. _Beyond Morphology: Interface Conditions on
Word Formation_. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bard, Ellen Gurman, Dan Robertson, and Antonella Sorace. 1996. Magnitude
Estimation of Linguistic Acceptability. _Language_ 72.32-68.

Demirdache, Hamida. 1991. _Resumptive Chains in Restrictive Relatives,
Appositives and Dislocation structures_. PhD dissertation, MIT.

Reis, Marga.1995. Wer glaubst du hat recht? On so-called extractions from
verb-second clauses and verb-first parenthetical constructions in German.
_Sprache und Pragmatik_ 36.27-83.

Sperber, Dan and Deirdre Wilson. 1986/1995. _Relevance: Communication and
Cognition_. Oxford: Blackwell.

Sells, Peter. 1985. Restrictive and non-restrictive modification. _CSLI Report_
No. 85-28. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.

Dr. Howe is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Romance Languages and
the Linguistics Program at the University of Georgia. His interests include
morphosyntactic variation in the Romance languages and theories of semantic change.