Review of Romance Languages and Linguistic Theory 2001
| Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 17:29:30 +0200
From: Kleanthes Grohmann <email@example.com>
Subject: Romance Languages and Linguistic Theory 2001
Quer, Josep, Jan Schroten, Mauro Scorretti, Petra Sleeman, and Els
Verheugd, ed. (2003) Romance Languages and Linguistic Theory 2001:
Selected Papers from 'Going Romance', Amsterdam, 6-8 December 2001,
Kleanthes K. Grohmann, University of Cyprus
This volume offers what the title promises: a selection of papers from
the international workshop on Romance linguistics, 'Going Romance'
(henceforth, GR), held at the University of Amsterdam from December
6-8, 2001. The selection includes nineteen contributions (two by invited
speakers), of which two are co-authored (one by invited speakers).
From the introduction to this volume one can infer further that four
invited speakers did not contribute.
In the first sentence of their "Introduction" (pp. v-vi), which is
really a short preface preceding the tables of contents, the editors
(Josep Quer, Jan Schroten, Mauro Scorretti, Petra Sleeman, and Els
Verheugd) note that GR is "a major European annual discussion forum for
theoretically relevant research on Romance languages" -- quite true,
and usually of very high quality. As is common at GR, the conference
itself is followed by a workshop on a more specific topic. In the case
of GR XV (not an exceptionally-valved car, but the fifteenth
installment), this was on determiners. Although not specifically
mentioned, my guess is that some of the papers in this volume were
presented at that workshop.
Apart from 19 alphabetically ordered articles on issues in Romance
linguistics (and the realm of determiners), the volume also contains an
excellent index of languages *and dialects* (347-348) as well as the
more conventional subject index (349-353). References appear at the end
of each contribution.
The following section "CONTENT" presents a short description of each
paper in order of arrangement and summarizes its main contributions to
Romance linguistics and/or current (primarily, syntactic) theory. The
section "EVALUATION" below puts the value of the volume in a wider
perspective with the help of some minor criticisms, where I only
consider the actual contents of this book.
Independent of the quality of the contributions to this volume, namely,
it is this reviewer's belief that no proceedings volume with such a
general title and similarly general contents could ever be justified
the steep price tag -- it is obvious that only libraries and
independently wealthy bibliophiles will purchase this book. Why don't
John Benjamins simply publish such volumes as cheaper paperbacks for
the general public? (The same goes for any other publisher, especially
the upper tier of generally high-quality and accessible publishers, a
group to which I count JB, that do have entire series devoted to such
For the reader who can't be bothered to read the rest: if you're
interested in current issues in Romance linguistics, especially
pertaining to syntactic and semantic theories, read this volume (and
buy it if you're rich).
Luis Alonso-Ovalle argues that "Spanish 'de'-Clauses Are Not Always in
the Right Mood" (1-16). The author compares 'de'-conditionals (which
follow an infinitival antecedent and which he simply calls 'de'-
clauses) with 'si'-conditionals (which follow an inflected antecedent)
with the background assumption that conditionals are modal statements.
He is concerned with finding an answer to the question whether
tense/mood marking of both the antecedent and the consequent are
interpreted, where a positive answer would challenge the traditional
view that the semantic import of tense and mood inflections in the
antecedent of the conditional is neglected. Simply put, Alonso-Ovalle
shows conclusively that the two types of conditionals are not
interpreted the same way and offers a positive reply to the question
asked at least for 'de'-clauses, where moodless antecedents can feed
both indicative and subjunctive modals.
Staying roughly with the topic, specific considerations of "Mood and
Focus" (17-30) keep Claudia Borgonovo busy. She analyses modal choice
in Spanish in terms of negation and its focus (hence the title).
Borgonovo presents and defends her thesis that mood in Spanish signals
how negation is to be interpreted: indicative mood signals that the
matrix predicate is the focus of negation, subjunctive does this for
the embedded clause. Her approach differs from previous attempts to
capture this intuition mainly in (i) focusing on the correlation
between mood and interpretation of negation and (ii) assuming that mood
marks two possible foci. This novel approach ties in very well with
existing approaches to the issue.
João Costa explores "Null vs. Overt Spec,TP in European Portuguese"
(31-47) with the main goal to find an answer to the question of what
type of conditions make it possible for an A-position to be used as a
landing site for the subject. Posing this question first requires a
negative answer on recent work that wonders whether the specifier of VP
(or vP) is the only possible subject position in null subject languages
(Alexiadou & Anagnostopoulou 1996 ) and second involves a
discussion of the SpecTP-parameter, where a positive value makes
available two subject positions above v/VP, often identified as Spec,TP
and Spec,AgrSP (Bobaljik & Jonas 1996). For European Portuguese, Costa
argues that (i) there are indeed preverbal A-positions for the subject,
(ii) the availability of Spec,TP is dependent on the existence of I-to-
C movement, and (iii) this dependency may be understood as a
consequence of the syntax-morphology interface.
In her contribution to the investigation of the syntax of nominal
projections from a micro-parametric perspective, Vivianne Déprez
discusses "Determiner Architecture and Phrasal Movement in French
Lexifier Creoles" (49-74) in the antisymmetric framework (Kayne 1994).
With morphological evidence from French Lexifier Creoles, the author
identifies a finer architecture of DP, namely:
Def(inite)/D(eterminer)P > Dem(onstrative)/Agr(eement)P > Num(ber)P > N(oun)P.
Aside from arguing for this particular structure, Déprez proposes,
motivates, and justifies the principle that specifiers of French Lexifier
Creole nominal functional heads (i.e. all but the lowest NP in the
hierarchy just mentioned) must always be filled. Assuming a traditional
checking theory (Chomsky 1995), this requirement is implemented through
strong features which must be checked in specifier-head configurations.
Edward Göbbel reflects "On the Relation between Focus, Prosody and Word
Order in Romanian" (75-92). This contribution to the study of
information structure argues that Romanian offers evidence that prosody
acts with word order -- in other words, that the focus-prosody relation
does affect syntactic operations like movement (rather than banning
these into the PF-component, for example). The framework Göbbel phrases
his analysis of Romanian in is the Argument Structure approach to focus
structure (see e.g. Selkirk 1995 for a recent exposition), despite
recent rejections for Romance (such as Zubizarreta 1998 for Romance in
general). Having mentioned these references, it is interesting to note
that Göbbel turns around the argumentation and in fact implements
Zubizarreta's Nuclear Stress Rule account to a modified version of
Selkirk's Argument Structure.
Cecilia Goria's topic is "Economy of Structure: The Case of Subject
Clitics in Piedmontese" (93-112). Zooming in on this Northern Italian
dialect, Goria's study casts doubts on recent attempts that argue for
an articulate "Agreement Field" (Poletto 2000), a cascade of agreement
projections within both "split Infl" and "split Comp" (see also Rizzi
1997), which host among other things multiple positions for subject
clitics. Adopting the more recent Agr-less structure of the clause
(Chomsky 1995: sec. 4.10, 2000), Goria ties in apparent structural
variation without resorting to structural complexity. Crucial
ingredient of her analysis is the assumption of a component relevant
for the computation beyond "narrow syntax" (Chomsky 2000) which deals
with the morphological realization of agreement features, essentially
aiming at a quasi-marriage between optimality and minimalism.
"Identificational Focus vs. Contrastive Focus: A Syntactic Distinction"
(113-130) is the title of Daniela Isac's contribution. Implementing a
suggestion by Rizzi (1997) that clitics are focus operators of an
anaphoric nature, she accounts for the properties of clitic doubled
direct object constructions in Romanian. Specifically, Isac proposes
that the clitic anaphorically connects the doubled object to a set of
alternatives and explores two major consequences of this approach.
First, it explains why bare quantifiers cannot be clitic-doubled (where
the empty object position would have to be interpreted simultaneously
as a null constant and as a variable at LF); second, it accounts for
the constraints on the interpretation of a clitic-doubled object (such
as the absence of variable and kind-level readings for the clitic-
Mary Aizawa Kato is concerned with "Null Objects and VP Ellipsis in
European and Brazilian Portuguese" (131-153). The basic proposal is
that all types of null objects can be analyzed as a unitary variable
category in European Portuguese, while they involve two distinct
categories in Brazilian Portuguese: a weak demonstrative and an empty
category that results from remnant movement of a higher VP. So, first
this paper contrasts the at first sight identical-looking properties of
VP-ellipsis in European vs. Brazilian Portuguese (where the latter
fails to show island effects in topicalized structures), suggesting
that in the latter, more is at stake than a simple variable bound by a
null operator. Second, Kato offers an analysis for the differences, one
that understands vP (the highest projection of a "split VP") to move
out of islands rather freely as either vP-topicalization or as a
Brenda Laca and Liliane Tasmowski's paper is titled "From Non-Identity
to Plurality: French 'différent' as an Adjective and as a Determiner"
(155-176). As a contribution to the study of the syntax and semantics
of expressions that introduce indefinite or existential noun phrases,
this paper explores the thesis that French 'différents' (the plural
form of 'différent') may act as an adjective (in a symmetrical
relational function) or as a determiner (for indefinite plural NPs). In
essence, the authors propose that (i) what they call the "NP-internal
reading" of adjectival 'différent' provides a link between adjectival
and determiner-like uses of différents ' and (ii) some semantic
properties of the determiner ' différents ' stem directly from the
semantics of the adjective 'différent', whereas others stem from the
fact that the determiner ' différents ' cannot be an adjective.
"On the Non-Unitariness of NP Subject Inversion: A Comparison of French
NP Subject Inversion in Interrogatives and Temporal Subordinates" (177-
192) is the title and topic of Karen Lahousse's contribution. Temporal
subordinates offer a rarely studied environment for inversion
structures. The main goal of the study is to show that NP subject
inversion is not a unitary phenomenon, but comes in different forms and
shapes, where can distinguish, for example, inversion in temporal
clauses from inversion in interrogative contexts. The main differences
between these two types are (i) flexibility, complexity, and pragmatic
function of inversion; (ii) position of the verb with respect to
aspectual adverbs; and (iii) extraction out of quantitative 'en' out of
the post-verbal subject.
Paul Law explores "Past Participle Agreement with Pronominal Clitics
and the Auxiliary Verbs in Italian and French" (193-212). (Standard)
Italian and French compound tenses differ from those in their Romance
cousins (Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian) in two interesting properties,
past participle agreement with pronominal clitics and auxiliary
alternation. Law argues that past participle agreement is part of a
larger phenomenon, a more general pattern of agreement (including
adnominal adjective agreement), and subject to a condition on the
positioning of the argument with respect to the syntactic projection of
the agreeing predicate (namely, that it be outside). This paper is an
impressive study of some interesting properties which also offers the
beginnings of an account (as Law himself admits) with possibly larger
implications for the complex patterns of agreement and auxiliary
selection (cf. Kayne 1993).
Ana Maria Martins investigates "Deficient Pronouns and Linguistic
Change in Portuguese and Spanish" (213-230). Comparing the syntax of
accusative, dative, and 'se' pronouns with that of oblique pronouns,
Martins challenges widespread assumptions that Old Portuguese and Old
Spanish clitic pronouns were phrasal (developing from a phrase into a
head) and as such would allow a verb-second classification of these
(older stages in the two) languages. Rather, she argues, the
accusative, dative, and 'se' pronouns have been heads throughout the
history of Portuguese and Spanish, and are as such "true clitics" (in
contrast to the oblique pronouns 'i' and 'en(de)', which display
properties of weak, and thus phrasal, pronouns).
"Nominalizations of French Psychological Verbs: Syntactic Complements
and Semantic Participants" (231-246) by Judith Meinschaefer
investigates how derived nominalizations realize their arguments,
whether it is subject to the same rules governing argument realization
of verbs or differently. Meinschaefer opts for the former, accounting
for apparent differences by addressing in detail the semantics of the
underlying verb giving rise to nominalization (concentrating on three
realization rules for semantic participants). This study is restricted
to derived nominalizations of psych(ological)-verbs, a semantic class
in which verbs showing the same surface syntax and similar meaning give
rise to nouns which contrast in their realization of semantic
Andrea Moro offers "Notes on Vocative Case: A Case Study in Clause
Structure" (247-261). Vocative, an unusually understudied case, is
addressed seriously in two respects: the internal structure of a phrase
assigned vocative case (for which Moro offers a number of diagnostics)
and the structural environment requiring vocative case assignment (for
which Moro focuses on the left periphery of the clause) -- two trivial-
looking aspects of Case against the background that these are
instrumental properties that have been studied ad nauseam for virtually
all other cases, but one that is imminently important given that
vocative is indeed rarely looked at in the (generative) literature on
Case (Case-marking and properties). Moro's language of investigation is
Sandra Paoli is concerned with "Mapping out the Left Periphery of the
Clause: Evidence from North Western Italian Varieties" (263-277). The
two dialects she looks at are Turinese (spoken in and around Turin, one
would assume) and Ligurian (presumably spoken in parts of Liguria).
While Paoli doesn't really provide identification of the positions
involved (taking a more "relative" approach in terms of ordering), she
certainly assumes a potential multitude of projections, thus differing
from Goria's approach. In the end, she finds arguments supporting a
lower C-head with modal content (cf. Rizzi 1997) and contributing to
the articulation of a "split Comp" with data from left dislocation
structures (bearing at least on topic and focus positions).
Dorian Roehrs and Marie Labelle consider "The Left Periphery in Child
French: Evidence for a Simply-Split CP" (279-294), the third paper in a
row (and one of probably six in total) looking at the infamous "left
periphery" of the clause. The authors claim their data to further
support Rizzi-inspired approaches to split Comp into finer articulated
projections, even in child language, which is here taken as a
grammatical system on the same level as adult grammar. In particular,
Roehrs and Labelle investigate the use of the French complementizer
"QUE" (as the form for 'that' which either surfaces as 'que' or 'qui',
I assume) by children in non-adult uses, namely those where it is
expected, but not produced ("Misplaced QUE") and those where it is
unnecessarily repeated after a left-dislocated DP ("Intrusive QUE").
Such performance errors are linked the hypothesis that children may not
have fully matured control over basic operations (such as Merge or
Delete/Copy Reduction) and more generally to the claim that children
have difficulties in acquiring the structure of the CP-system.
Trying to account for the interpretation of French DPs introduced by
the "particle article" 'des' (in particular issues around wide vs.
narrow scope), Benjamin Spector identifies "Plural Indefinite DPs as
Plural-Polarity Items" (295-313). In particular, he argues that 'des'-
DPs are forced to be interpreted as dependent plurals whenever they can
(if there is a licenser on which they can depend, where licensers are
plural DPs, intensional verbs, and some abstract aspectual operators).
In the absence of such a licenser, 'des'-DPs receive a genuine plural
reading and are free to take wide scope. The discussion also addresses
bare plurals in Spanish.
"On the Status of the Partitive Determiner in Italian" (315-330) by
Gianluca Storto deals with the question whether the apparent
morphological similarity between "bare partitives" and "full
partitives" shed light on the nature of the partitive determiner. Bare
partitives are those in which a partitive nominal structure involves
the partitive preposition 'de'/'di' (French/Italian), definite article,
and noun, such as Italian 'degli studenti' "of two students"); full
partitives are those which involve a quantified expression beforehand,
like 'due degli studenti' "two of two students" -- the partitive
determiner is the structure partitive preposition + definite article
(e.g. 'de+gli' in Italian). The upshot of his presentation of data
(including interpretation of bare partitives in Italian) and
argumentation against the assumption that bare partitives are
unambiguously true partitives (Chierchia 1998a) is that the partitive
determiner is a lexical indefinite determiner.
Tying in with the previous paper in addressing aspects of Chierchia's
work on the semantics of noun phrases and the like (this time,
Chierchia 1998b), Lucia Tovena discusses "Determiners and Weakly
Discretised Domains" (331-346). Building on previous work of hers, she
reiterates her position that the claim that plural count nouns and mass
are essentially the same and that no language has determiners for the
mass and singular count combination, made by Chierchia and others, is
not correct. Tovena argues that Italian does have a singular determiner
that may also apply to mass noun, such as 'nessuno' "no/not any" --
which may combine with count singular ('nessun libro' "not any book")
and mass ('nessuna pazienza' "no patience"), but not plural nouns
(*'nessun(i) libri' "not any books"). Against this background, she
develops her hypothesis of different possible levels of discretization
in the domain of denotation of a noun, namely the relation between
singular determiners and weakly discretized domains, i.e. weakly
discrete units, and the consequence of the latter to define visibility
conditions on the former.
To quote from a recent review (by Isabelle Lemée in LINGUIST 15.298):
"This volume is not for those without background knowledge in the
fields addressed." As the discussion above has shown, these papers are
all specialized contributions to ongoing theoretical research in
syntax, semantics, and acquisition of a number of issues (such as mood,
left periphery, determiners) in a number of Romance languages
(virtually all of them addressed in one way or another). The quality of
the discussions is generally extremely good, on a high level with
insightful analyses and/or problems sketched out, and quite a few of
the authors suggest enough leeway for further research in their area of
interest. As such, this volume appeals to many linguists, be it
(advanced) students who want to know more about a particular topic
addressed or researchers who want to get an idea of what's out there,
and what's new.
Regarding the structure of the volume, an alphabetical ordering
requires little work on the editors' side and is straightforward
enough. However, it is also conservative. A more dynamic approach could
have ordered the papers according to field, topic, or language,
perhaps. Note that I followed the boring, conservative approach above
(so take this comment with a grain of salt): as nice as my objection
might sound, it becomes difficult as soon as one deals with a
collection of such divergent topics, where sometimes a similar issue is
investigated with different languages (say, the left periphery and
Italian, French, or Spanish) and other times different fields are
combined (such as syntax and semantics). How would one order these?
Well, let this be food for thought addressed to future editors -- it
certainly would make a change from alphabetical ordering.
And once again I have to close with a call to editors to take their
work more seriously -- or, as Phoevos Panagiotidis recently turned it
around with an interesting twist (LINGUIST 15.298), to the publishers:
"I would like to raise issues pertaining to the editing of the volume.
Researchers and scholars are not editors and should not be expected to
substitute for them: it is not only a matter of time or workload but
also, simply, of training. Nevertheless, even international publishers
such as [John Benjamins], who publish this volume, assume that, at
least in our field, we can also act as unassisted editors -- and save
them money." The editing quality of this volume (in terms of
consistency in style and format, for example) is poor for the trained
eye, acceptable for all others. I just mention my personal favourite:
only two and a half pages into Borgonovo's article do we learn which
Romance language she investigates, and like many others, her (Spanish)
data don't even contain glosses (and sometimes mistakes or obvious
typos, such as a second occurrence of 'ido', the past participle of
'ir' meaning 'gone', in example (1b) on p. 17). Other authors that
don't provide glosses, and this concerns the "consistency issue" again,
are Laca and Tasmowski, Meinschaefer (or "Meinschaeffer" as the running
header lists her), Spector, and Toveno. (Incidentally, these authors
might form a homogenous group, but I refrain from classifying it.) As
can be expected at this point, the references section each author
provides are often a mess and neither consistent with one another nor
within itself (see below for some minor examples).
Alexiadou, A. & E. Anagnostopoulou. 1996. 'SVO and EPP in Null Subject
Languages and Germanic'. FAS Papers in Linguistics 4: 1-21.
[NB: As opposed to Costa's entry, this is dated as 1995 by one of the
co-authors, which can be viewed at
http://www.philology.uoc.gr/staff/anagnostopoulou -- also, Costa does
not provide any details regarding volume or page numbers.]
Bobaljik, J. D. & D. Jonas. 1996. 'Subject Positions and the Role of
TP'. Linguistic Inquiry 27, 195-236.
Chierchia, G. 1998a. 'Partitives, Reference to Kinds and Semantic
Variation'. In A. Lawson, ed. Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic
Theory VII. Ithaca, NY: CLC Publications, Cornell University, 73-98.
Chierchia, G. 1998b. 'Plurality of Mass Nouns and the Notion of
"Semantic Parameter"'. In S. Rothstein, ed. Events and Grammar.
Dordrecht: Kluwer, 53-103.
Chomsky, N. 1995. The Minimalist Program. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Chomsky, N. 2000. 'Minimalist Inquiries: The Framework'. In R. Martin,
D. Michaels & J. Uriagereka, eds. Step by Step: Essays on Minimalist
Syntax in Honor of Howard Lasnik. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 89-155.
Kayne, R. 1993. 'Toward a Modular Theory of Auxiliary Selection'.
Studia Linguistica 47, 3-31.
Kayne, R. 1994. The Antisymmetry of Syntax. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT
Poletto, C. 2000. The Higher Functional Fields: Evidence from the
Northern Italian Dialects. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rizzi, L. 1997. 'The Fine Structure of the Left Periphery'. In L.
Haegeman, ed. Elements of Grammar: Handbook of Generative Syntax.
Dordrecht: Kluwer, 281-337. [NB: NOT 112-158, as listed by Goria, but
with a subtitle barely cited by any author.]
Selkirk, L. 1995. 'Sentence Prosody: Intonation, Stress, and Phrasing'.
In J. A. Goldsmith, ed. The Handbook of Phonological Theory. Oxford:
Zubizarreta, M.-L. 1998. Prosody, Focus, and Word Order. Cambridge,
Mass.: MIT Press.
| ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Teaching and researching in the Department of English Studies at the
University of Cyprus in Nicosia, I'm generally interested in syntactic
theory (esp. within Principles-and-Parameters approaches) and
comparative syntax (esp. Germanic, Romance, Slavic, Greek) and have
worked on a range of different topics (see my homepage at
http://www.punksinscience.org/Kleanthes for more). If you're interested
in PUNKS IN SCIENCE, a project in which I'm involved with Jeffrey
Parrott from Georgetown University, please go to
http://www.punksinscience.org. I'm also a member of the expert panel of
the Ask-A-Linguist service offered by LINGUIST List.