EDITORS: Corbett, Greville G.; Noonan, Michael
TITLE: Case and Grammatical Relations
SUBTITLE: Studies in honor of Bernard Comrie
SERIES TITLE: Typological Studies in Language 81
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
Peter M. Arkadiev, Institute of Slavic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow
The book under review is a collection of twelve papers in honor of Bernard
Comrie. Though the genre of a Festschrift does not impose rigid thematic
restrictions, especially when the festschriftee is a linguist who has
contributed to so many diverse areas of our science as Bernard Comrie has, the
title ''Case and Grammatical Relations'' is indeed justified. All the papers
included in the volume deal with various issues having to do either with
morphological case, or with various properties of grammatical relations, or with
The contributions to the volume include studies dealing with individual
languages (Russian, Hungarian, Ingush, Swedish dialects, Central Pomo) or groups
of genetically or geographically related languages (North-West Caucasian and
Kartvelian, Bodic, Kiranti, Germanic and Romance), as well as wide-scope
typological studies. Most papers, besides being empirically grounded, are also
theory-oriented, aiming at elucidating some analytical, methodological or
terminological issues against the particular material, or bringing forth new
approaches to the data. Broadly understood, the functional-typological approach
is the framework the contributors adhere to, though not all of them state this
explicitly; surely, this does not mean that the volume shows absolute
The volume opens with a brief Preface (pp. vii - ix) by the editors, stating the
goals of the book and giving useful, though short, summaries of the individual
The first two papers deal specifically with morphological case, and contain both
discussions of interesting (though not previously unknown) data and important
theoretical and methodological conclusions. Greville Corbett in ''Determining
morphosyntactic feature values: The case for case'' (pp. 1 - 34) extends his
'canonical' approach in typology (see e.g. Corbett 2005, 2007) to the category
of case, and illustrates it with data from Russian, whose case system includes
both more 'canonical' and less 'canonical' case values. Since the 'canonical'
approach is relatively well-known, I do not think it is necessary to give an
outline of it here. With respect to case it allows one to formulate a whole
array of morphological, syntactic and semantic criteria defining the range along
which cases (and, indeed almost any reasonable morphosyntactic features and
their values) can vary. The second part of the paper, discussing the problematic
case values in Russian (the vocative, the so called 'second genitive' and
'second locative', the adnumerative and the 'inclusive', the latter not usually
analyzed as a separate case value), is particularly interesting, especially for
those linguists who are not well acquainted with Russian data. The 'canonical'
approach allows one to give a principled and explicit account of the important
differences between the 'central' and the 'peripheral' cases in Russian, and
moreover, can be useful for typological comparison. Finally, it must be
acknowledged that Corbett gives full justice to the literature on case published
in Russian, even to the less well-known papers.
Andrew Spencer in ''Does Hungarian have a case system?'' (pp. 35 - 56) analyzes
the morphosyntax of what has been traditionally considered 'case' in Hungarian
and ultimately argues that in this language it is not necessary to posit a
morphosyntactic feature 'case' at all. Spencer bases his argument on the
assumption that in order to justify a genuine case system in a given language,
the following two questions must be answered: (i) ''is there a need for a [Case]
attribute in morphology to capture generalizations purely about forms?'' and (ii)
''is there a need for a [Case] attribute in the syntax to capture generalizations
about the parallel distributions of sets of distinct forms?'' (p. 37). Thus, in
languages like Russian, where case values are not expressed by dedicated
morphemes, being fused with number and (for adjectives) gender, which is further
complicated by the existence of several inflectional classes and by various
instances of syncretism, and where case concord is exhibited by adjectives,
numerals and pronouns, a [Case] attribute is undoubtedly needed. However, from
the point of view of the author, which he shares with some predecessors (e.g.,
Robert Beard (1995)), in languages where each alleged case value can be
identified by a unique morpheme identical across all possible targets and where
case concord is not attested, positing a [Case] feature is superfluous. For
Hungarian, Spencer specifically argues that the traditional cases are 'fused
postpositions', and this analysis is supported by the fact that it is indeed not
easy to draw a strict borderline between traditional 'cases' and postpositions
in this language.
Though I am quite sympathetic with Spencer in the empirical part of his article,
where he carefully shows that the system of markers of grammatical functions of
noun phrases (including both traditional cases and postpositions) in Hungarian
is indeed quite dissimilar from case systems in inflectional languages, I cannot
support Spencer in his most radical conclusion that Hungarian and similar
languages do not have case at all. First of all, I think that the aforementioned
questions (i) and (ii), which Spencer considers to be of primary importance for
deciding whether a language has a case system, if taken to their logical
endpoint, will leave linguists with a handful of languages, mostly
Indo-European, having a case category complicated by various morphological
quirks. These questions can be thought of as additional criteria for a
'canonical' typology of case in the vein of Corbett, but as the only defining
properties, in my opinion, they make little sense, especially from a
cross-linguistic point of view. Second, Spencer does not seem to give full
justice to the fact that grammatical systems, including case, are organized in
such a way that more grammaticalized values co-exist with less grammaticalized
ones (cf. Hopper's (1991) principle of 'layering'), and Hungarian is not an
exception. Drawing upon such criteria as phonological weight of the marker,
kinds of allomorphy it shows and/or triggers, behavior with personal pronouns,
the degree of abstractness of its functions etc., it is possible to establish
the following tentative 'cline' of Hungarian cases:
Accusative > Dative, Instrumental > Locative cases > other semantic cases >
Terminative, Essive-Formal, Causal-Final > true postpositions
The values to the left of the scale show larger degree of grammaticalization and
morphologization than those to the right. Spencer is correct that any strict
line separating 'cases' from 'postpositions' in Hungarian will be more or less
arbitrary. However, from a typological point of view, it seems that languages
more often behave like Hungarian rather than like Russian or Latin. Being a
typologist and a specialist on case, I consider it crucial that linguists have a
terminology which captures important similarities between the two kinds of
languages and at the same time does not blur the differences between them (which
are gradual rather than abrupt). The valuable contribution of Spencer's paper is
that it highlights these differences and points towards possible methodological
problems posited by case systems like that of Hungarian, but the conclusion that
Hungarian-type languages should be analyzed without recourse to case feature at
all does not indeed allow one to solve these problems.
The papers by Corbett and Spencer both raise the question about the nature and
definition of case as a morphosyntactic phenomenon, and provide valuable
discussions of nontrivial empirical data. Both papers surely deserve attention
from all doing research on case, regardless of whether one sympathizes more with
Corbett's or with Spencer's conclusions.
The next two articles deal with grammatical phenomena of the languages of the
Caucasus. Johanna Nichols in ''Case in Ingush syntax'' (pp. 57 - 74) focuses on
morphological and syntactic ramifications of alignment in Ingush
(Nakh-Dagestanian). Morphological case marking in Ingush is consistently
ergative both in nouns and pronouns, and so is verbal agreement. However, other
morphosyntactic phenomena are less uniform in their alignment. Reflexivization
(both local and long-distance) and infinitive complementation are predominantly
subject-oriented regardless of case (subjects in Ingush may bear Absolutive,
Ergative, Dative, and Genitive cases), whereas converb constructions again
pattern ergatively; finally, relativization is virtually unconstrained (however,
no examples which could show this are provided). Nichols also discusses certain
lexical phenomena, such as ambitransitive verbs, derived inceptives,
causativization, and complex verbs, showing no single alignment. Nichols
concludes that in Ingush those syntactic phenomena which are sensitive to case
marking pattern ergatively, while those which show accusative alignment are
independent of case. From the diachronic and comparative point of view Nichols
hypothesizes that accusative traits in Ingush must be innovative.
The data presented in Nichols' article is interesting and her general
conclusions seem to be well-justified. However, I must point out that the use of
terminology in this paper is rather messy. Putting aside obvious misprints (e.g.
Ergative instead of Absolutive on top of p. 58), I cannot judge as
scientifically correct and precise such formulations as ''the issue is a purely
syntactic one of weak crossover or command or the like'' (p. 63). Both notions
('weak crossover' and 'command') are well-defined and do not admit of such fuzzy
uses, and require certain empirical justification for their application to the
particular data, which Nichols does not provide. A more substantial objection is
raised by section 3.2 where Nichols discusses the phenomenon she calls 'case
climbing', ''in which the subject of a modal or similar auxiliary takes the case
of the subject of its infinitive complement clause'' (p. 60). As far as I may
judge from the few examples provided, as well as from the terminological
discussion in footnote 5 (p. 61), the alleged 'case climbing' could be better
analyzed as involving either clause-union/restructuring (Butt 1995, Alsina et
al. (eds.) 1997, Wurmbrand 2001) or backward control (Polinsky & Potsdam 2002;
Nichols does not refer to this important contribution, nor to Polinsky and
Potsdam's 2001 article on long-distance agreement in Tsez, which also might be
relevant). Nichols' statement that ''the Ingush infinitive always has a shared
subject'' (p. 61, fn. 5) is compatible with both kinds of analysis, whereas
claims that the relevant noun phrase syntactically belongs to the matrix clause
must be supported by constituency tests, which Nichols does not provide.
George Hewitt in ''Cases, arguments, verbs in Abkhaz, Georgian and Mingrelian''
(pp. 75 - 104) presents an extensive discussion of patterns of argument marking
in various verb classes in three geographically close languages of the Western
Caucasus, belonging to two different language families, viz. North-West
Caucasian (Abkhaz) and Kartvelian (Georgian and Mingrelian). The article
discusses the very complex systems of verbal agreement in these three languages,
coupled with no less complex patterns of case marking of core arguments in the
Kartvelian languages, and further complicated by various morphosyntactic
derivations such as causativization, potential, and expressions of unintentional
actions. A large body of the paper is devoted to the long-lasting debate on the
active vs. ergative characterization of Georgian. Basing on various interesting
evidence, Hewitt again claims that active traces postulated for Georgian and
other Kartvelian languages by some scholars, e.g. by Alice Harris (1981, 1985),
have been misanalyzed and concludes that ''the traditional categories of
ergativity and transitivity still provide the best framework for understanding
the aspects of Georgian, Mingrelian and Abkhaz verbal morphology, argument
structure and associated case-marking'' (p. 103).
The size of this review does not allow me to fully discuss Hewitt's claims, but
I must confess that I consider them largely unjustified and grounded in limited
knowledge of the literature on the topic (the article does not contain
references to such major publications on 'active/stative' languages as Mithun
1991 and Donohue & Wichman (eds.) 2008, let alone to the vast 'formalist'
literature on unaccusativity, and even to important contributions discussing
Georgian, such as Van Valin 1990 and especially Holisky 1981). Had Hewitt
consulted these works, he would perhaps have been more cautious when claiming
that ''there are no grounds in Georgian to justify classifying it as manifesting
in any part of its morpho-syntax the Active-Inactive opposition'' (p. 95).
Another point to be made about Hewitt's paper is that it is rather hard to get
through the author's argument since the article is not explicitly structured.
Also, while presenting extremely complex material, Hewitt is not always explicit
enough to make the examples clear and the conclusions he draws from them
uncontroversial. For instance, on p. 78 he tells the reader that the two types
of bivalent verbs in Abkhaz are distinguished by stress pattern, but he does not
indicate explicitly how precisely this disambiguation is instantiated, while the
stress marking in the examples is less then evident (I must confess that I am
still not sure whether stress is marked in his Abkhaz examples at all). On the
same page, the stative verb translated as 'wear' in example (10) seems not to
contain a lexical root; for the sake of clarity the structure of this verb
should have been commented upon. It is at least very unconventional to call the
Temirgoi Circassian potential preverb _fe_- a 'benefactive postposition' (p.
85); by the way, in discussions of West Circassian (a.k.a. Adyghe) data
references to authoritative sources such as Smeets 1984 and 1992 or Paris 1989
are in order. On p. 86 the Mingrelian examples (31) and (31') and the Georgian
example in footnote 21 all contain different prefixes, and this variation
deserves explication and discussion, too. Glossing the Georgian thematic suffix
-_eb_ as 'intransitive' in example (46) on p. 95 is also quite controversial. To
conclude, I think that the editors should have suggested that Hewitt thoroughly
rewrite his article so that the text is more readable and the argumentation is
better justified and grounded in contemporary typological work.
Östen Dahl in ''The degenerate dative in Southern Norrbothnian'' (pp. 105 - 126)
presents very interesting material virtually unknown to the general linguistic
audience (see also the recent paper Dahl & Koptjevskaja-Tamm 2006). He explores
the relationships between number and definiteness marking in several vernaculars
of Northern Sweden, where certain constructions require that the noun appear in
the form going back to the older dative plural. There are two types of such
construction, the one involves quantifiers such as 'many', 'little', 'most',
'some', 'dozen' etc., and the other involves adjectives. From a typological
perspective, Dahl argues, such former datives can be compared to the
better-known Persian ezafe. From the diachronic point of view, the development
of these constructions pose a whole variety of problems; as Dahl shows,
initially there might have been a preposition governing the dative after the
quantifiers (as in English _many of the fences_), which later was dropped; but
the precise path of an analogical extension from the quantifier construction to
the construction involving premodifying adjectives is less clear.
Whichever way the Norrbothnian noun phrases actually evolved, this material is
indeed fascinating, and Dahl can only be praised for bringing forth the data
contained in the Swedish sources and interpreting it from a typological point of
The late Michael Noonan in ''Case compounding in the Bodic languages'' (pp. 127 -
147) starts by setting a comprehensive typology of the phenomenon of case
compounding, which, though quite pervasive in the languages of the world, has
not yet received due attention from linguists (the only major contributions
being the classic paper by Dench and Evans (1988) on Australian languages and
the Suffixaufnahme volume Plank (ed.) 1995). Extending Austin's (1995) typology,
Noonan proposes to distinguish between case stacking, when ''two independently
occurring case affixes are used together to describe a complex trajectory'' (p.
128), derivational case compounding, where ''one case serves as the 'basis' for
another, which is not found independently without the first'' (p. 129),
referential case compounding, when constituents ''are marked with one case
indicating location or direction and another referencing the NP it modifies or
refers to'' (p. 129), and several types of adnominal case compounding. The latter
vary according to such parameters as presence vs. absence of an overt nominal
head and the presence vs. absence of case-marking on this head. A special kind
of adnominal case compounding is the complex attributive nominal, where ''a
case-marked noun is further marked with a nominalizer-attributive suffix, and
the resulting noun may be further case-marked''.
Noonan's classification of case compounding (limited to adnominal and relational
uses of case and excluding case on verbals and the so called 'modal' case) is,
to my knowledge, the most comprehensive typology of this phenomenon extant. The
main body of the paper is devoted to the presentation of case and especially
case compounding in Bodic, a branch of the Tibeto-Burman family, analyzed both
from a synchronic and a diachronic perspective and containing valuable and
Martin Haspelmath and Susanne Michaelis, in ''_Leipzig fourmille de typologies_
- Genitive objects in comparison'', discuss verbal complements expressed by
genitive case or genitive apposition in several European languages (French,
Italian, Latin, German, English). Genitive objects in these languages are found
with several types of verbs, including location (German _wimmeln (von)_
'swarm'), change of location ('positive': French _tapisser (de)_ 'paper';
'negative': English _deprive (of)_; in some languages, e.g. in English, genitive
objects are found only with 'negative' verbs of change of location), possession
('positive': French _disposer (de)_ 'have'; 'negative': Italian _mancare (de)_
'lack'), cognitive (Latin _memini_ 'remember', German old-fashioned
_vergessen_+Gen 'forget'), emotional (Portuguese _gostar de_ 'like'). Special
subclasses of verbs allowing genitive objects are constituted by reflexive and
subject less predicates, cf. German _sich bemächtigen_ 'acquire', French _se
souvenir (de)_ 'remember', Latin _pudet_ 'be ashamed' etc. The authors propose
that genitive objects all have a common function, i.e. are background themes,
and speculate on possible diachronic sources of this form-function mapping.
In this connection, I think, taking into account broader data (e.g. the
relatively well described Slavic and Baltic material) might be interesting.
The next two papers present large-scale typological studies. John A. Hawkins in
''An asymmetry between VO and OV languages: The ordering of obliques'' (pp. 167 -
190) uses the database of the World Atlas of Language Structures (Haspelmath et
al. (eds.) 2005) for investigating the cross-linguistic distribution of possible
orders of direct objects and obliques with respect to each other and to the
verb. Hawkins shows that while VO languages are very consistent in ordering
obliques after the object, OV languages allow for all logically possible orders
and also show larger proportion of intralinguistic order flexibility.
Explanation to this asymmetry is based on the Performance-Grammar Correspondence
Hypothesis (Hawkins 2004), which claims that ''Grammars have conventionalized
syntactic structures in proportion to their degree of preference in performance,
as evidenced by patterns of selection in corpora and by ease of processing'' (p.
171). The most interesting part of the paper, in my opinion, are the sections
discussing the corpus data on the variable ordering of long and short objects
and obliques in English (a VO language) and Japanese (an OV language), which
support Hawkins' performance model. He also observes that the lack of strong
positional preference for obliques in OV languages may be due to a lower degree
of structural differentiation between the two types of phrases in head-final
languages (which tend to mark both objects and obliques with bound case
morphemes) than in head-initial languages (which more often have prepositions
marking obliques), and also to larger variation in head positioning in OV
languages. Interestingly, Hawkins shows that while XOV and OXV languages almost
exclusively have postpositions, a whole one third of the OVX languages have
prepositions, and a similar tendency is observed in the NP domain.
Summarizing, Hawkins proposes that different logically possible orders of verb,
object and oblique to different degree conform to the two general principles
(see Hawkins 1994, 2004 for details): Minimize Domains (favoring V and O
adjacency, and putting O and X on the same side of the verb) and Argument
Precedence (favoring O before X). The three tendencies (V & O adjacency, O & X
on the same side, and O before X) converge and reinforce each other in VO
languages, yielding consistent VOX ordering, but are in partial conflicts in the
OV languages, which results in greater variability. The degree of preference of
different orders correlates with the number of tendencies they conform to: VOX
(3) > XOV/OXV/OVX (2) > XVO/VXO (1) (p. 187).
Balthasar Bickel in ''On the scope of the referential hierarchy in the typology
of grammatical relations'' (pp. 191 - 210) challenges the commonly assumed
typological prediction that the nominals ranking higher in the referential
hierarchy (RH: 1 > 2 > 3 > animates > inanimates) are more likely to be
accusatively aligned while those ranking lower are more likely to be ergatively
aligned (cf. proposals by Silverstein (1976) and Comrie (1978a, 1981)). Bickel
tests the predictions of the RH-based hypothesis against large typological
databases on verb agreement and nominal case marking and concludes that the
number of relevant languages (i.e. those exhibiting accusative vs. ergative
splits) is too low to be indicative of a strong linguistic universal. Moreover,
Bickel presents data from the languages of the Kiranti branch of Sino-Tibetan,
which demonstrate diachronically stable patterns contradicting the RH-based
predictions: in verb agreement, the first person aligns ergatively, while the
third person aligns accusatively. Though in the domain of case marking the
results are slightly better for the RH-based hypothesis, this support is not
very strong, also because of the low number of relevant languages and due to the
existence of some quite robust counterexamples. Similarly, in domains other that
case marking and agreement, the evidence for the RH-based distributions is
inconclusive; ''with regard to relative constructions, for example, there are
both languages where the relativizable G[rammatical] R[elation] favors
higher-ranking arguments and languages where the same GR favors lower-ranking
arguments'' (p. 205). Bickel concludes that ''where statistical testing is
possible, we find no support for a general trend linking accusative alignment
with high RH positions and ergative alignment with low RH positions'' (207).
These results are very instructive, showing that a proper analysis of large
scale samples and of the data from a family of related languages (in this case,
Kiranti) may lead to dissolving some well-established linguistic myths.
Marianne Mithun in ''Does passivization require a subject category?'' (pp. 211 -
240) argues on the basis of data from Central Pomo against a conception of
passive which hinges upon the notion of subject. Mithun shows quite convincingly
that there is almost no language-internal evidence for a subject category in
Central Pomo; overt case marking is semantically driven (exhibiting an
agent/patient system described for this language at least as early as in Mithun
1991), while various morphosyntactic operations like imperative formation,
plurality indicators, conjunction reduction, relativization, and switch
reference are either agent-oriented or show no direct sensitivity to grammatical
relations or semantic roles at all. After having established this, Mithun turns
to the construction she terms 'passive'. In Central Pomo, 'passive' does not
involve any change in the grammatical relations (since there are none) or
morphosyntactic properties of arguments, its primary function being to eliminate
the agent in such discourse circumstances when it is generic, unimportant or
unknown. In this respect, the 'passive' in Central Pomo is similar to the
-_ta_-passive in Ute, as described by Givón (1988), and belongs to the class of
agent-backgrounding morphosyntactic operations.
With respect to this article two comments are in order. First, it is not always
clear in which sense the term 'subject' is used, especially when it is opposed
to the agent, as in the following passage (p. 227): ''The antecedent of 'his' is
the subject but not the agent of the immediately preceding sentence.'' If subject
is not a universal category easily identifiable in all languages, and if Central
Pomo does not have a robust language-specific subject, how can one distinguish
between agent and 'subject' in this language? If, on the other hand, 'subject'
of the particular Central Pomo sentence the passage above refers to is simply
the noun phrase corresponding to the subject of its English translation, then
why not extend this simple, straightforward, and indeed universal 'definition'
of subject to all other Central Pomo sentences? Second, I must confess that
though I like the empirical part of Mithun's paper and consider the data
(especially those which I have not seen in previous publications) very
interesting and the analysis to be mostly convincing, I don't think that the
main point of this article, i.e. that passives can exist without subjects, is
worth making. If passive by definition is a morphosyntactic operation crucially
referring to grammatical relations, and involving a promotion of the former
object into the subject position, then the Central Pomo construction is, again
by definition, not a passive regardless of any functional similarities it has
with genuine passives and especially of the fact that it is ''typically
translated as a passive'' (p. 239). If, on the other hand, we assume a prototype
approach to the notion of passive, following Shibatani (1985), then the Central
Pomo construction will be a non-prototypical instance of passive falling in a
well-defined subclass of passive-related constructions, but the problem of the
existence of a subject category in Central Pomo will turn out to be irrelevant
in this connection, since the non-prototypical instances of passives,
undoubtedly, are not required to refer to grammatical relations. To conclude,
the question put into the title of Mithun's article, viz. ''Does passivization
require a subject category?'', in my opinion, is purely a terminological one, and
thus only of marginal interest, cf. Shibatani's (1985: 822) formulation that
''the familiar controversy ... over whether a given construction should be
considered a passive is pointless.''
Edward L. Keenan in ''The definiteness of subjects and objects in Malagasy'' (pp.
241 - 261) discusses the so-called definiteness duality, whereby direct objects
may freely be indefinite without special marking, while definite direct objects
often require special marking (Comrie 1978b), whereas subjects show an opposite
distribution, and some languages may even prohibit indefinite subjects. Since
Western Austronesian languages have often been considered to instantiate
definiteness duality, Keenan investigates the effects of these tendencies with
respect to objects and subjects in Malagasy. In the section devoted to
object-related definiteness duality, Keenan recounts (without many references to
the vast literature on the topic, however) the well-known fact that
cross-linguistically differential object marking is not limited to definiteness
but may involve special conditions such as word order (Turkish) or more
intricate semantics (Mandarin Chinese). Turning to Malagasy, Keenan observes
that the locative preposition _an_- obligatorily appears with proper names, and
is optional with the previous mention article, but does not occur with the
definite article, and thus cannot be considered a marker of definite objects per
se. However, indefinite and definite objects in Malagasy differ in that the
former, but not the latter must be adjacent to the verb.
Turning to subjects, Keenan shows that though in Malagasy articleless indefinite
NPs are not allowed in the clause-final subject position, there are several
types of NPs which are built with the aid of the definite article _ny_ and
freely appear as subjects, but semantically are indefinite. These are various
quantified expressions, involving numerals, cardinal ('many', 'some' etc.),
universal ('all', 'each'), and proportionality ('ninety percent', 'half')
quantifiers. A separate section is devoted to the discussion of an interesting
property of these subject NPs, which they share with the ordinary definites,
namely their ability to outscope negation. Though it might be tempting to think
that the quantified NPs have some ''definite flavour'', Keenan rejects this
hypothesis in favor of a structural account, showing that negation in Malagasy
takes in its scope only the predicate phrase, while the subject attaches higher
in the syntactic structure. Keenan concludes that ''we simply don't know how this
usage [semantically indefinite quantified NPs in the subject position] compares
with other languages in which subjects have been claimed to be definite, as
commonly the claims are just illustrated with the simple cases of definites ...
So more empirical typological work is needed'' (pp. 259 - 260).
Maria Polinsky in ''Without aspect'' (pp. 263 - 282) analyzes the encoding of
aspect in the incompletely acquired (Heritage) Russian. The first section of the
paper presents the characteristic features of Heritage Russian and outlines
three approaches to its investigation. For her study Polinsky has selected the
low-proficiency speakers, in whom the differences from the grammar of standard
Russian are more pronounced. After having briefly recounted the most important
properties of aspect in standard Russian (predominantly derivational in nature,
and combining more lexicalized and more grammaticalized means of expression),
Polinsky turns to the state of affairs in Heritage Russian. She shows that the
deterioration of verbal morphology in Heritage Russian has led to some important
changes in the expression of aspect, such as regularization of aspectual
paradigms and the impoverishment of the set of affixal exponents of aspect.
Second, the very use of aspectual forms in Heritage Russian is often deprived of
aspectual semantics, imperfective forms being used in perfective contexts and
vice versa. Polinsky presents the results of an experiment showing that the
speakers of Heritage Russian choose one of the aspectual forms arbitrarily even
in those contexts where in the standard language the choice is unequivocal.
Addressing the question about possible reasons for retaining the perfective or
imperfective member of former aspectual pairs in Heritage Russian, Polinsky
shows that frequency alone is not always a sufficient factor. Finally, Polinsky
discusses how the universal aspectual distinctions are expressed in Heritage
Russian in the absence of the former aspectual system, and shows that light
verbs are used instead.
The volume also includes indices of authors, languages, and terms.
The overall impression left by the book is surely very positive. All the
contributions contain interesting and sometimes quite novel material, and the
analyses presented are worth considering even if not always convincing (see the
critical discussion of some of the individual chapters above). As a Festschrift
to Bernard Comrie, this volume is almost ideal, focusing on the central field of
his typological research, i.e. the study of case and grammatical relations, and
sometimes even challenging his own proposals (see especially Bickel's paper).
The inclusion of Polinsky's paper on aspect in Heritage Russian, which, strictly
speaking, does not very well fit into the general topic of the book, is
certainly justified by Comrie's seminal contribution to the field (Comrie 1976),
as well as by the long-standing collaboration between the two scholars. The
range of languages covered in the volume is also very impressive, from the
well-known European languages to Sino-Tibetan (Bodic in Noonan's paper and
Kiranti in Bickel's), Central Pomo (Mithun) and Malagasy (Keenan) via
lesser-known European varieties (Swedish vernaculars in Dahl's paper and
Heritage Russian in Polinsky's) and the languages of the Caucasus (Nichols and
Several articles of this collection, in my opinion, deserve special attention
from theoretical linguists and typologists, since they either make important
contributions to our understanding of case (Corbett), raise serious
methodological questions (Spencer), shed new light on lesser-known phenomena
(Noonan, Haspelmath and Michaelis), or present valuable large-scale typological
research (Hawkins and Bickel), sometimes challenging the common assumptions of
the community. Two of the more empirically-oriented papers, viz. Dahl's and
Keenan's, are also of great value in that Dahl introduces the wide linguistic
audience to the quite exotic material of Southern Norrbothnian nominal
morphology, and Keenan urges typologists to pay more attention to quantified
noun phrases and scope relations.
The main critical points concerning the individual chapters have been already
presented in the summary section of this review, so here I would like to make
some more general remarks. Though this book is far more coherent than an
ordinary Festschrift, I believe it could be even more so. For instance, both
Corbett and Spencer could discuss some of each other's conceptions in their
respective chapters, which would be of great value (of particular interest could
be an assessment of the Hungarian data Spencer discusses against Corbett's
'canonical' approach to case). Hewitt when quoting Ingush data could have
referred to Nichols' article where some of the data directly relevant to his
analysis is presented. Again, in Corbett's 'canonical' typology case compounding
discussed by Noonan should also find its place.
More editorial work, I think, could have been done. I have already mentioned
above that Hewitt's paper is rather reader-unfriendly, and this perhaps could
have been amended. In several places data is cited in such a way that it is not
always easy to guess from which language it comes (cf. Avar case paradigm on p.
136 and Rumanian examples on pp. 242 - 243); sources of data are not always
provided, cf. Tocharian A paradigm on p. 129. Some terms are not clarified (e.g.
Nichols should have probably explained what is meant by 'Type 5 clitic' on p.
66), as well as some local specialties (what is 'sädesskylar' in the translation
of a Norrbothnian example on p. 113 of Dahl's paper?). Misprints and mistakes
are also found; e.g. Russian _v zabyt'i_ in Corbett's paper (p. 20 fn. 30) means
'out of consciousness', not 'in oblivion'. In Hewitt's article, in the Georgian
example (39) (p. 91) the agreement suffix -_s_ is not separated, and in ex. (55)
on p. 100 the name of the Svan language should have been capitalized. Words and
glosses are misaligned in exx. (28) - (31) on pp. 118 and 120 of Dahl's paper;
an ERG(ative) gloss is missing from ex. (8d) on p. 131 in Noonan's paper.
To recapitulate, this collection of papers in honor of Bernard Comrie, despite
certain weaker points (both conceptual and technical), is a very valuable
contribution to the typological and empirical study of case and grammatical
relations across languages, and, last but not least, it is indeed worthy as a
Festschrift to so eminent a scholar as Bernard Comrie.
Alsina, Alex, Joan Bresnan, and Peter Sells (eds.) (1997). _Complex Predicates_.
Stanford, CA: CSLI Pulbications.
Austin, Peter (1995). Double case marking in Kanyara and Manthara languages,
Western Australia. In: Plank (ed.) 1995, 363 - 379.
Beard, Robert (1995). _Lexeme-Morpheme Base Morphology. A General Theory of
Inflection and Word Formation_. Albany (NY): SUNY Press.
Butt, Miriam (1995). _The Structure of Complex Predicates in Urdu_. Stanford,
CA: CSLI Publications.
Comrie, Bernard (1976). _Aspect_. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Comrie, Bernard (1978a). Ergativity. In: _Syntactic Typology. Studies in the
Phenomenology of Language_, ed. by W.P. Lehmann, 329 - 394. Austin, London: The
University of Texas Press.
Comrie, Bernard (1978b). Definite and animate direct objects: A natural class.
_Linguistica Silesiana_ 3, 13 - 21.
Comrie, Bernard (1981). _Language Universals and Linguistic Typology_. Chicago:
The University of Chicago Press.
Corbett, Greville G. (2005). The canonical approach to typology. In: _Linguistic
Diversity and Language Theories_, ed/ by Z. Frajzyngier, A. Hodges, D.S. Rood,
25 - 49. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Corbett, Greville G. (2007). Canonical typology, suppletion and possible words.
_Language_, 83/1, 8 - 42.
Dahl, Östen, and Maria Koptjevskaja-Tamm (2006). The resilient dative and other
remarkable cases in Scandinavian vernaculars. _Sprachtypologie und
Universalienforschung_ 59, 56 - 75.
Dench, Alan, and Nicholas Evans (1988). Multiple case-marking in Australian
languages. _Australian Journal of Linguistics_ 8/1, 1 - 47.
Donohue, Mark, and Søren Wichman (eds.) (2008). _The Typology of Semantic
Alignment_. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Givón, Talmy (1988). Tale of two passives in Ute. In: _Passive and Voice_, ed.
by M. Shibatani, 417 - 440. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Harris, Alice C. (1981). _Georgian Syntax. A Study in Relational Grammar_.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Harris, Alice C. (1985). _Diachronic Syntax: The Kartvelian Case_. New York:
Haspelmath, Martin, Bernard Comrie, Matthew Dryer, and David Gil (eds.) (2005).
_World Atlas of Language Structures_. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hawkins, John A. (1994). _A Performance Theory of Order and Constituency_.
Cambridge etc.: Cambridge University Press.
Hawkins, John A. (2004). _Efficiency and Complexity in Grammars_. Oxford: Oxford
Holisky, Dee Ann (1981). _Aspect and Georgian Medial Verbs_. New York: Garland.
Hopper, Paul J. (1991). On some principles of grammaticization. In: _Approaches
to Grammaticalization_, ed. by B. Heine, E.C. Traugott, Vol. I, 17 - 36.
Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Mithun, Marianne (1991). Active/agentive case marking and its motivations.
_Language_, 67/3, 510 - 546.
Paris, Catherine (1989). West Circassian (Adyghe: Abzakh dialect). In: _The
Indigenous Languages of the Caucasus. Vol. 2. The North West Caucasian
Languages_, ed. by B.G. Hewitt, 154 - 260. Delmar, NY: Caravan.
Plank, Frans (ed.) (1995). _Double Case. Agreement by Suffixaufnahme_. New York,
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Polinsky, Maria and Eric Potsdam (2001). Long-distance agreement and topic in
Tsez. _Natural Language and Linguistic Theory_ 19, 583 - 646.
Polinsky, Maria and Eric Potsdam (2002). Backward control. _Linguistic Inquiry_
33, 224 - 282.
Shibatani, Masayoshi (1985). Passives and related constructions: A prototype
analysis. _Language_ 61/4, 821 - 848.
Silverstein, Michael (1976). Hierarchy of features and ergativity. In:
_Grammatical Categories in Australian Languages_, ed. by R.M.W. Dixon, 112 -
171. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.
Smeets, Rieks (1984). _Studies in West Circassian Phonology and Morphology_.
Leiden: The Hakuchi Press.
Smeets, Rieks (1992). On valencies, actants and actant coding in Circassian. In:
_Caucasian Perspectives_, ed. by G. Hewitt (ed.), 98 - 144. München, Newcastle:
Van Valin, Robert D. Jr. (1990). Semantic parameters of split intransitivity.
_Language_ 66/2, 221 - 260.
Wurmbrand, Susi (2001). _Infinitives: Restructuring and Clause Structure_.
Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Peter M. Arkadiev, PhD in linguistics (2006), is a research fellow at the
Department of typology and comparative linguistics of the Institute of Slavic
studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow. His main interests are
linguistic typology with focus on event and argument structure and its formal
realization, tense-aspect-modality and case marking. He works mainly on
Lithuanian and Adyghe.