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Review of  Non-Projecting Words

Reviewer: Nicole Dehé
Book Title: Non-Projecting Words
Book Author: Ida Toivonen
Publisher: Kluwer
Linguistic Field(s): Syntax
Language Family(ies): Germanic
Issue Number: 15.1857

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Date: Tue, 15 Jun 2004 13:00:39 +0100
From: Nicole Dehé
Subject: Non-Projecting Words: A Case Study of Swedish Particles

Toivonen, Ida (2003) Non-Projecting Words: A Case Study of Swedish
Particles, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Studies in Natural Language and
Linguistic Theory 58.

Nicole Dehé, University College London


Ida Toivonen's book contributes to the discussion of the verb particle
combination (VPC, also referred to e.g. as phrasal verbs, particle
verbs or separable complex verbs). It focuses primarily on Swedish,
which sets it apart from most previous literature in the field. The
book is divided into seven chapters plus an appendix. The chapters are
well organised with an introduction/overview at the beginning and a
summary or conclusion at the end of each chapter. In Swedish, as
opposed to other Germanic languages, the particle must immediately
follow the verb it occurs with, preceding the nominal object (e.g. Pia
sparkade UPP bollen, 'Pia kicked up the ball'; *Pia sparkade bollen
UPP). In her monograph, Toivonen argues that this is due to the phrase
structural realisation of the Swedish VPC which differs from other
languages such as English or Danish. Her analysis is motivated on
empirical grounds and formulated within the theoretical framework of
Lexical-Functional Grammar (LFG).


Chapter 1 serves as an introduction to the phenomenon at hand: it
provides examples of the Swedish VPC, establishes (traditional)
criteria to distinguish between particles and related categories, and
offers a short, useful introduction to LFG as the framework employed in
the study. The Swedish verbal particle is defined as ''a non-projecting
word which is adjoined to V°'' (p. 4). The particle is base-generated in
its adjoined position. It is crucial to understand that the particle is
not part of a morphologically complex V; rather, head adjunction occurs
in syntax.

Chapter 2 is intended to further motivate and explain the proposed
analysis which is based on two ''distributional facts'' (p. 16). Firstly,
particles and full phrases cannot occur in identical positions, and
secondly, particles cannot be modified. Toivonen also argues that there
is no syntactic category 'particle', but rather that elements of all
lexical categories can function as particles. The special status of
particles is thus merely due to their phrase structure realization (p.
19). Note that other authors have argued in favour of a category
'particle', among them Olsen (1998) for English and German.
Interestingly, Toivonen and Olsen arrive at opposite conclusions on the
basis of similar arguments related to some distributional properties of
particles. Toivonen's work on Swedish thus seems to confirm the special
distributional status that has previously been attributed to particles
in other languages. As opposed to previous literature, however, this
status does not translate into a separate category, but is taken care
of by the idea that particles are non-projecting words. The author then
discusses alternative analyses previously suggested in the literature:

(1) She argues that the particle cannot be a (PP-) projecting head e.g.
in terms of particle positions (particles, but not full PPs precede the
object) and in terms of phrase structure (if particles were
prepositions, there wouldn't be a structural difference between
particles and true intransitive prepositions).

(2) A morphological approach to VPCs is rejected on the basis of two
main arguments:
(i) verbs and particles can be separated in c-structure and
(ii) whereas morphological constructs are head-final in Swedish, VPCs
are head initial (i.e. the verb precedes the particle).

More precisely, Toivonen argues that since compounds in Swedish are
head- final, and particle verbs are head-initial, VPCs cannot form a
morphological unit. However, the direction of headedness clearly does
not provide conclusive evidence since the same difference between
compounds and VPCs holds in English, a language for which Toivonen
assumes the morphological analysis. Toivonen gives examples where
Swedish VPCs enter into morphological processes such as passive
formation, A-formation and N-formation, in which the particle ends up
to the left of the verbal base and the derivative is non-separable in
syntax, showing that the derivative, but not the underlying VPC forms a
real morphological unit. Here the comparison with English becomes even
more interesting. In English both the VPC and the derivative are left-
headed (the looking up of the information/*the up-looking ...), while
compounds are right- headed. However, English VPCs are analysed by
Toivonen as complex heads. If VPCs are compared to compounds, and if
exceptional left-headedness is allowed in English, then the direction
of headedness in general cannot provide conclusive evidence regarding
the complex head status of VPCs in Swedish. The author returns to this
issue in Chapter 6. (3) The idea that particles might be clitics is
rejected mainly on stress-related grounds: whereas clitics are
phonologically weak, Swedish particles are accented. This observation
has also been made in previous work on German (e.g. Wurmbrand 1998) and
English (Fraser 1976, Nespor & Vogel 1986, Dehé 2001, 2002 among

Chapter 3 modifies and reviews the theory of c-structure in LFG and
addresses phrase structure (X' theory) in order to accommodate non-
projecting words such as Swedish particles. I'll be concerned mainly
with one point related to phrase structure. In the framework employed
here, each projecting category is realized in three levels: X-X'-XP,
i.e. if an X is present it projects an X' which in turn projects an XP.
On the other hand, the presence of an XP does not entail the presence
of a head-X (i.e. we do get both structures like Y'-XP-X'-X and Y'-XP-
X', but not Y'-X'-X). Structures that directly violate X-bar-theory are
not allowed, which is why a structure such as VP[V'[V P]] is impossible
(here the P fails to project a P'). It also follows from these
constraints on phrase structure that the particle cannot accompany the
V to I in V2 contexts. This would lead to a structure such as IP[I'[V[V
Prt]]] where V wouldn't project V'. As regards adjunction, it follows
that only non-projecting heads are allowed to head-adjoin. A structure
like I[I V] is thus out, whereas V[V Prt] is allowed because a particle
doesn't project. These assumptions about phrase structure are crucial
for Toivonen's analysis. They account e.g. for the ungrammaticality of
particle pied-piping in V2 contexts and for the ungrammaticality of the
order where the particle follows the object. The latter is accounted
for in terms of economy, such that the order V Obj Prt is less
economical than the order V Prt Obj because it involves more structure.
This idea is also further discussed in Chapter 4 (pp. 101-103) and in
the Appendix.

At this stage, one point about phrase structure that deserves attention
remains unaddressed. If projecting words must be ''immediately
dominated'' by an X'(p. 66) and V° is a projecting head, then why is it
possible for V° to occur in the adjunction structure V°[V° Prt], since
clearly the lower V° is not immediately dominated by V', but only the
higher V° is. I suppose this problem could be addressed and taken care
of e.g. along the lines of the category-segment distinction of Chomsky
(1986, 1995). As it stands, however, it seems to me that the lower V°
violates the principles of X-bar-structure as employed here. In Chapter
4 Toivonen mentions that it ''is important that our theory of phrase
structure permits recursive head-adjunction'' (p. 99), but unfortunately
an explanation as to how this can be accounted for is not offered.

Chapter 4 further discusses and empirically supports the analysis. It
also addresses apparent problems related to word order and provides
suggestions as to how they can be accounted for in the present
framework. Crucially, there is a Swedish-specific constraint that holds
that verbal particles adjoin as non-projecting heads to V°, and V°
only. Toivonen provides evidence for the adjunction structure from
topicalization (only verb and particle together can be topicalized) and
coordination (a VPC can be coordinated with another V°), (pp. 94-99).
It seems to me that these facts do indeed support the assumption that
the VPC forms a syntactic constituent of some kind at some point, but
not necessarily the head-adjunction analysis.

In this chapter, Toivonen also draws the reader's attention to the fact
that Swedish particles immediately followed by a PP can sometimes
follow the nominal object (pp. 103-107). She suggests that in these
cases the particle is in fact a projecting preposition which modifies
the following PP, rather than a non-projecting particle. This is
reminiscent of what has been argued for English elsewhere (Olsen 1998,
2000, Dehé 2002), namely that particles and prepositions are
homophonous and that there often is a structural ambiguity between VPCs
and adverbial structures which can be disambiguated along the lines of
the scope of an additional modifier ('right' or 'straight').

Chapter 5 addresses the semantics of the Swedish VPC. In particular,
three groups are identified: resultative constructions, aspectual
constructions, and idiomatic verb- particle combinations. No structural
difference is assumed between the different classes: differences are
only related to meaning. There is also a section on argument structure
which basically argues that if a verb is used in a VPC, the number and
type of arguments it takes can be different from those it takes when it
occurs on its own. As regards the semantic groups, a threefold
classification of this kind has long been suggested in the literature
for other languages (Emonds 1985 among others). Similarly, the
influence of the particle on the argument structure of the verb has
frequently been discussed at least for Dutch, English and German (Booij
1990, McIntyre 2001, 2003, Olsen 1998, Zeller 2001). As far as I can
see, the results that Toivonen arrives at for Swedish fit into the
overall pattern.

Chapter 6 offers a comparison between the VPC in Swedish and three
other languages: Danish, German and English.

1) For Danish (pp. 160-162): Although the elements under question
correspond closely to particles in Swedish in both meaning and form,
Toivonen argues that Danish has no particles in the structural sense at
all (i.e. under the definition where particles are non-projecting words
that adjoin to the verb). Evidence comes from the observation that in
Danish all particles must follow the object. They also appear to be
modifiable and thus display the same behaviour as PPs.

2) For German (pp. 162-166), the same analysis as for Swedish is
proposed except for word order. One piece of evidence comes from the
fact that particles always attach outside a prefix-V combination, i.e.
prefix and V do, but particle and V do not form a morphological unit.

3) The discussion of the English VPC (pp. 166-176) leads Toivonen to
the conclusion that there is a crucial structural difference between
the two languages: While a VPC in English is seen as a morphological
unit, verb and particle are syntactically combined in Swedish (via
head- adjunction). She explains that in English, but not Swedish,
particles can optionally follow the direct object, and particles that
appear verb adjacent in English seem to have a ''tighter connection'' (p.
169) to the verb than their Swedish counterparts (illustrated along the
lines of coordination/gapping examples). Some possible counter-
arguments, such as the frequently mentioned separability of verb and
particle in the syntax and the fact that the particle can be modified
when following the object, are taken care of by the assumption that the
particle projects a PP of its own when following the object, but forms
a morphological unit with the V when verb-adjacent. This seems to me to
be the 'default analysis' which has been around for many years.

It is also worth mentioning that in English economy does not seem to
have the same effect as in Swedish since in English it is possible for
the particle to follow the object, thus violating economy under the
present assumptions. This seems odd, in particular because in the
Appendix Toivonen claims as a merit of her analysis that Swedish
particles provide empirical evidence for the Economy principle (e.g.
Bresnan 2001). Economy is argued to be powerful enough to rule out the
V Obj Prt order in Swedish (''Without Economy, the ungrammaticality of
[V Obj Prt] would be unexplained. ... Swedish particles show that ...
an Economy principle is warranted in the grammar''; p. 103). If taken as
evidence for economy in language in general, this seems neutralized by
the fact that in English economy does not seem powerful enough to rule
out an otherwise parallel construction. Under the assumptions about
economy pursued here, it remains unclear to me why the V Obj Prt order
is possible with unmodified particles in English. To put it
differently: If ''[w]ithout Economy, the ungrammaticality of [V Obj Prt]
would be unexplained'' in Swedish, then with economy, the grammaticality
of [V Obj Prt] in English remains unexplained. It should at least be
mentioned that in English (and presumably other languages such as
Norwegian and Icelandic) there seem to be other factors at work which
interact in such a way that they win over economy. This then is
reminiscent of Grimshaw's (2001) hypothesis that economy is enforced by
collective effects of general constraints on phrase structure, rather
than by an economy principle.

Chapter 7 summarises the results of the previous chapters and serves as
a conclusion. It is followed by the Appendix on Economy referred to


Although this work was intended as a language specific study, it would
have immensely benefited from more comparative remarks and more
frequent references to related work. This holds in particular for the
classification in Chapter 5 and for the empirical discussions in
Chapters 2 and 4. In Chapter 6, Swedish is compared to other languages,
but justice is not done to the huge amount of previous work on the VPC
in these languages. Furthermore, it remains to be investigated if it is
necessary to assume a language specific phrase structural realisation
for particles or whether word order variation between languages follows
from more general constraints on phrase structure. Unfortunately, there
are also quite a few typing mistakes, errors in references, and
misleading index entries.

Despite these drawbacks, Toivonen's book is a very welcome contribution
to the ongoing discussion of the verb particle construction, in
particular because it provides (at least to my knowledge) the first
extensive study of the VPC in Swedish. Not least because of the wealth
of data it provides, Toivonen's book will be an invaluable reference
work for anyone doing specific or comparative work on the (Swedish)


Booij, G. 1990. ''The boundary between morphology and syntax: Separable
complex verbs in Dutch.'' In Yearbook of Morphology 1990: 45-63.

Bresnan, J. 2001. Lexical-Functional Syntax. Oxford: Blackwell.

Chomsky, N. 1986. Barriers. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Chomsky, N. 1995. The Minimalist Program. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Dehé, N. 2001. ''Intonation patterns of particle verb constructions in
English.'' In NELS 31: 183-197.

Dehé, N. 2002. Particle Verbs in English: Syntax, Information Structure
and Intonation (= Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 59).
Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Emonds, J. E. 1985. A Unified Theory of Syntactic Categories. Dordrecht

Fraser, B. 1976. The Verb-Particle Combination in English. New York/
San Francisco/ London: Academic Press.

Grimshaw, J. 2001. ''Economy of structure in OT''. Ms., Rutgers
University. Available as ROA 434-0601 at Rutgers Optimality Archive.

McIntyre, A. 2001. ''Argument blockages induced by verb particles in
English and German: Event modification and secondary predication''. In
N. Dehé & A. Wanner (eds.), Structural Aspects of Semantically Complex
Verbs, pp. 131-164. Berlin/ Frankfurt/ New York: Peter Lang.

McIntyre, A. 2003. ''Preverbs, argument linking and verb semantics.'' In
Yearbook of Morphology 2003: 119-144.

Nespor, M. & I. Vogel. 1986. Prosodic Phonology (= Studies in
Generative Grammar 28). Dordrecht: Foris.

Olsen, S. 1998. ''Prädikative Argumente syntaktischer und lexikalischer
Köpfe - Zum Status von Partikelverben im Englischen und Deutschen.'' In
Folia Linguistica 16: 301-329.

Olsen, S. 2000. ''Against incorporation''. In J. Dölling & T. Pechmann
(eds.), Linguistische Arbeitsberichte 74, pp. 149-172. University of
Leipzig: Linguistics Department.

Wurmbrand, S. 1998. ''Heads or phrases? Particles in particular.'' In W.
Kehrein & R. Wiese (eds.), Phonology and Morphology of the Germanic
Languages. (= Linguistische Arbeiten 386), pp. 267-295. Tübingen:

Zeller, J. 2001. ''How syntax restricts the lexicon: Particle verbs and
internal arguments.'' In Linguistische Berichte 188: 461-494.

Nicole Dehé is an Honorary Research Fellow at UCL, Dept of Phonetics
and Linguistics. She received her PhD in 2001 from the University of
Leipzig. She is the author of Particle Verbs in English: Syntax,
Information Structure and Intonation, 2002, Amsterdam: Benjamins, and
co-editor of a volume on particle verbs (Verb-Particle Explorations,
2002, Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter; with Ray Jackendoff, Andrew
McIntyre and Silke Urban).

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