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Review of  Studies in Contemporary Phrase Structure Grammar

Reviewer: Tania Avgustinova
Book Title: Studies in Contemporary Phrase Structure Grammar
Book Author: Georgia M Green Robert D. Levine
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Semantics
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 12.492

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Levine, Robert D., and Georgia M. Green, Eds. (1999)
Studies in Contemporary Phrase Structure Grammar,
Cambridge University Press, 335 pages.

Tania Avgustinova, Saarland University

This book contains a collection of articles on recent
developments in the framework of head-driven phrase
structure grammar (HPSG), all resulting from a closer
investigation of a variety of non-trivial phenomena found
in languages like German, Japanese, and English. HPSG -
[Pollard and Sag 1987; Pollard and Sag 1994; Sag and Wasow
1999] - is a constraint-based lexicalist theory that
invokes only a single level of syntactic representation. A
crucial property of HPSG is the explicit assignment of
linguistic objects to membership in a hierarchically
organised network of types, where constraints associated
with any given type are inherited by all of its subtypes.
On the basis of detailed empirical analyses, the
contributors suggest ways of extending and revising the
current framework. Nowadays HPSG is a major theory of
syntactic representation which is becoming increasingly
dominant, particularly in the domain of natural language
computation, cf. [Flickinger et al. 2000]. This collection
of articles can be regarded as a representative reflection
of the process of continuous rethinking that the theory has
undergone since the appearance of [Pollard and Sag 1994].

The book is organised as follows.

The introductory chapter (pp.1-38) written by the editors
offers, on the one hand, a basic introduction to some of
the leading concepts of the classical HPSG theory and, on
the other hand, outlines the enrichments, extensions, and
revisions to this theory made by each of the contributions
in the volume.

Chapter 1 (pp. 39-79) by Manning, Sag and Iida considers
the lexical integrity of Japanese causatives.

Chapter 2 (pp. 80-118) by Johnston proposes a syntax and
semantics for (English) purposive adjuncts.

Chapter 3 (pp. 119-160) by Gungi is on lexicalist treatment
of Japanese causatives.

Chapter 4 (pp. 161-198) by Baker looks at "modal flip" and
partial verb phrase fronting in German.

Chapter 5 (pp. 199-222) by Fukushima presents Japanese
syntactic topicalisation from a lexicalist perspective.

Chapter 6 (pp. 223-274) by Kathol considers the problems of
agreement in languages with richer morphology than English.

Chapter 7 (pp. 275-332) by Hinrichs and Nakazawa presents
an analysis of partial VP and split NP topicalisation in

Finally, there is an index (pp. 333-335). The references
are listed immediately after each contribution.

The research presented in this volume focuses on four
major topics.

I. The morphology / syntax interface with respect to
agreement phenomena (Chapter 6). As Kathol argues, the
development of syntax-morphology interface should be driven
by the analysis of more complex morphological systems than
English. In particular, they could provide the foundations
for a more comprehensive theory of agreement than the one
developed in [Pollard and Sag 1994]. The discussion
involves data from French, German, Latin, Swahili, Spanish,
Italian, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Korean, and, of course,
English. Genuine agreement phenomena are analysed not in
terms of selection, but rather as a co-variation or
matching between relevant pieces of information available
at the agreeing elements. In effect, this proposal treats
agreement explicitly as a phenomenon that involves merging
of information contributed by various sources in the

II. The syntax / semantics interface with respect to
purposive adjuncts in English (Chapter 2). The analysis is
a nice illustration of how the parallel representation of
linguistic information in HPSG linguistic expressions
supports and facilitates modelling the syntax - semantics
interaction. A crucial theoretical role is played by the
type hierarchy which assigns them to appropriate
ontological statuses bearing on their grammatical
behaviour. Johnston identifies three separate
interpretations of English "for" PP adjuncts, namely,
"recipient", "benefactive", and "acquire". All of them
introduce the purpose of the parameterised state-of-affairs
described by the clause they modify. A number of striking
parallels between these "for" PPs and infinitival
purposives are systematically considered, enriching thus
the overall picture.

III. Alternative accounts of basic constructions in
Japanese, with special attention to causatives (Chapters 1
and 3) and topicalisation (Chapter 5). Agreeing on a
substantial number of points, these contributions explore
different theoretical technologies to capture the range of
facts adduced.

There exists a consensus that the treatment of Japanese
causative constructions entails some kind of dual
structure. The two approaches presented in the volume start
from different premises with respect to where the crucial
mismatch among the linguistic representational components
is located.

Manning et al. sketch a strictly lexical theory of Japanese
causatives that makes the phonology, morphology, and syntax
parallel, while a mismatch occurs with the semantics.
Japanese causatives are treated as single verbal forms with
complex morphological structure. Crucially, they are
associated with hierarchical ("nested") lexical argument
structures, which are acquired derivationally (i.e. by
means of derivational types), and the resulting constituent
structure is clearly mono-clausal. In contrast, Gunji
proposes a different kind of lexical approach in which a
kind of bi-clausal (VP-embedding) constituent structure is
mapped onto a string in which elements belonging to
different syntactic constituents form units with respect to
morphological / phonological rules. In other words, the
duality-relevant mismatch is located between
morpho/phonology and constituent (syntactic and semantic)
structure, i.e. between a "phenogrammatical" and a
"tectogrammatical" levels of representation.

Fukushima's approach to topicalisation employs topic-
substitution and topic-addition lexical rules to the effect
that the topic is interpreted as an element of the argument
structure. The author thoroughly examines empirical and
theoretical consequences of such a lexical account of what
is traditionally regarded as a syntactic phenomenon.

IV. Argument structure and constituency in German
(Chapters 4 and 7). The two contributions on this topic
share a number of common perspectives on the analysis of
German clausal structure as well as the nature of the
lexical entries for auxiliaries. They focus on a complex of
interrelated phenomena involving the topicalisation of
incomplete verb phrases and the multiple ordering
possibilities of sequences of verbs with respect to certain
governing auxiliaries. Both analyses take advantage of the
expressive power of lexical rules.

Aiming at integrating several analyses of German verbal
phenomena - verb second (V2), modal flip (MF), and partial
verb phrase (PVP) fronting - Baker assumes a common phrase
structure for PVPs and MF contexts. The PVPs are
interpreted as unsaturated constituents whose valence is
related - in a complex and non-trivial way - to the valence
of the head and its complements. In contrast, Hinrics and
Nakazawa, who build on their previous work in argument
composition, treat the fronted PVP as a completely
saturated constituent, with the missing material being
extracted (hence, recorded in the SLASH specification of
the V head). They also show how the same type of lexical
approach can account for the so-called split NP
topicalisation. What PVP and split NP topicalisation have
in common, on their approach, is that the material missing
from the topic appears as a complement in the non-
topicalised position.

Summing up: most of the issues explored in this book are
central to the HPSG theory and tackle very specific
problems in considerable depth. The style of the
contributions is primarily intended for specialists, but
the collection reflects a high quality linguistic research
which should (for the most part) be accessible to advanced
students trained in HPSG. The concise and well-organised
overview provided by the editors is very helpful in
navigating through the volume.


Flickinger, D., S. Oepen, J. Tsujii and H. Uszkoreit, Eds.
(2000). Journal of Natural Language Engineering. Special
Issue on Efficient Processing with HPSG. Cambridge,
Cambridge University Press.

Pollard, C. and I. Sag (1987). Information-Based Syntax and
Semantics. Stanford, California, Center for the Study of
Language and Information, Stanford University.

Pollard, C. and I. Sag (1994). Head-Driven Phrase Structure
Grammar. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Sag, I. and T. Wasow (1999). Syntactic theory: a formal
introduction. Stanford, CSLI.

Dr. Tania Avgustinova
Computational Linguistics, University of Saarland
Postfach 151150, 66041 Saarbruecken, Germany