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Sociolinguistics from the Periphery "presents a fascinating book about change: shifting political, economic and cultural conditions; ephemeral, sometimes even seasonal, multilingualism; and altered imaginaries for minority and indigenous languages and their users"
Date: 09 Nov 2004 23:06:11 +0000 From: Alexandra Galani Subject: The Unaccusativity Puzzle: Explorations of the Syntax-Lexicon Interface
EDITORS: Alexiadou, Artemis; Anagnostopoulou, Elena; Everaert, Martin TITLE: The Unaccusativity Puzzle SUBTITLE: Explorations of the Syntax-Lexicon Interface SERIES: Oxford Studies in Theoretical Linguistics PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press YEAR: 2003
Alexandra Galani, Department of Language and Linguistic Science, University of York
DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK
This volume is a collection of twelve papers on unaccusativity, along with an introductory chapter. The book has its origin in a workshop on unaccusativity held in Berlin (1998) but it includes contributions which were not presented at that event. The discussions vary from semantic versus syntactic approaches to the phenomenon, unaccusativity diagnostics, what determines verb classification, thematic roles and the importance of special morphology in relation to unaccusative predicates, to the properties of unaccusatives in (second) language acquisition.
In what follows, I give a brief summary of what is discussed in each paper and make only some general remarks. I only aim to give an overall view of the volume as a whole and not discuss any insufficiencies individual papers may present.
Introduction (pp. 1-21) Artemis Alexiadou, Elena Anagnostopoulou and Martin Everaert
This chapter introduces the volume. It sets off with the theoretical background of the Unaccusative Hypothesis (cf. Perlmutter 1978), the diagnostics for determining the unaccusative/unergative pattern and unaccusativity mismatches. The authors then discuss the lexicon-syntax interface in relation to unaccusativity by making a short reference to the levels of representation, the Universal Alignment Hypothesis (Perlmutter and Postal 1984), the syntax of unaccusativity (cf. Larson 1988) as well as the study of unaccusativity in language acquisition (cf. van Hout et al 1993). The last part of the chapter discusses briefly the contributions in the volume and highlights links between them.
Chapter 1: A semantics for unaccusatives and its syntactic consequences (pp. 22-59) by Gennaro Chierchia
In Chierchia's semantic algebra theory, properties are considered primitives and predication serves as the link between them and their arguments. Truth conditions are recursively specified. He assumes the Predication Principle to interpret the mapping of LF to lf. According to the principle, features of unaccusatives are also captured; verbs should have specific characteristics, such as that their arguments should be within the VP and associated with an expletive subject. Moreover, he claims that unaccusatives instantiate a type of reflexivisation. In this way, he accounts for a number of patterns; the unstable pattern of valence, the association of unaccusatives with reflexive morphology and the aspectual properties of unaccusatives. The theory finally leads to a reformulation of the auxiliary selection rule in Italian. The paper is generally well-presented and argued. The parts of the discussion which might require a fair amount of brain twist benefit from the rich exemplification and the set out of the paper in small sections.
Chapter 2: Unaccusativity as telicity checking (pp. 60-83) by Angeliek van Hout
According to van Hout, telicity is a property of unaccusativity. Based on evidence from two-argument verbs in Dutch, she further claims that the single argument of verbs moves (the movement is only triggered with telic predicates) to the specifier of AgrS through the specifier of AgrO (AgrOP being the locus of telicity checking) and unaccusativity reflects this mapping. The way transitivity and telicity interact is explained via a semantic feature checking mechanism in the lexicon-syntax interface. She predicts that telic single-argument predicates are unaccusative. Moreover, the unergative-unaccusative pattern is seen in a parallel fashion to the telic-atelic one on the basis of two unaccusative diagnostics in Dutch; auxiliary selection and prenominal perfect participles. The discussion is rounded off with a comparison between her theory and other theories of unaccusativity. The data is clearly set out and the analysis follows straightforwardly from it. There are a couple of points which have not been explored (as for instance, the reasons for which auxiliary selection and participles serve as unaccusativity diagnostics as well as whether this theory holds cross-linguistically) but van Hout refers to them briefly in the conclusion of the paper.
Chapter 3: Unergative adjectives and psych verbs (pp. 84-113) by Hans Bennis
Bennis offers a purely syntactic analysis of unaccusativity. His starting point is the representation of arguments; light v introduces the external argument, following Chomsky (1995), which he then uses to implement Burzio's generalisation. He suggests that v assigns accusative case and introduces the external argument. He identifies two constructions; one where the v-P is absent and there is no external argument and the second where there is a v-P but there is not an external argument (cases of ergativity), along with constructions where there is a v-P as well as an external argument (transitive cases). Moreover, he claims that there are three types of unaccusative adjectives (adjectives with an external argument, complex and simplex adjectives) and these configurations can be further extended to Belletti and Rizzi's (1988) class of verbs. Bennis offers an interesting approach to the phenomenon which is worth reading.
Chapter 4: Voice morphology in the causative-inchoative alternation: Evidence for a non-unified structural analysis of unaccusatives (pp. 114- 136) by Artemis Alexiadou and Elena Anagnostopoulou
Alexiadou and Anagnostopoulou discuss the distribution of voice morphology in relation to detransitivisation in the causative-inchoative alternation. They investigate consistency and gaps in detransitivising morphology as well as the syntactic and semantic properties of the detransitivising morphemes in Greek. They argue that there are three types of anticausatives depending on the XP embedded under BECOME/RESULT; an AdjectiveP, a VoiceP and a possessive construction. Consequently, they claim that anticausatives do not have a unified structure. The paper is elegant, well-argued and reads easily, whereas the data is also well- presented and discussed.
Chapter 5: Unaccusative syntax and verbal alternations (pp. 137-158) by David Embick
Embick discusses unaccusatives, passives and reflexives from a morphosyntactic point of view by looking at u-syncretism (morphological syncretism) within Distributed Morphology (Halle and Marantz 1993). He proposes that the common pattern they share is a syntactic property which is seen as the absence of an external argument. He further claims that u- syncretism also shows in cases where morphology is underspecified with respect to syntax. Embick draws data mainly from Greek, Fula and Tolkapaya. The discussion is generally straightforward and accessible. Some of the questions which remain open (such as the possibility of the existence of a uniform syntactic structure for constructions with reflexive interpretations) are discussed in the final section of the paper.
Chapter 6: Against an unaccusative analysis of reflexives (pp. 159-180) by Tanya Reinhart and Tal Siloni
In this paper, Reinhart and Siloni argue against the unaccusative analyses of reflexives. They claim that reflexive verbs and unaccusatives are derived from their transitive ones via a reduction operation. The differences identified between French-type and Hebrew-type reflexives are attributed to the lexicon or the syntax, the components in which the reduction operation is applied, respectively. The authors argue fairly convincingly for the stand they take.
Chapter 7: Unaccusatives and anticausatives in German (pp. 181-206) by Markus Steinbach
The derivation of anticausatives in German is discussed in Steinbach's paper. He claims that transitive reflexive sentences have a reflexive, middle and inherent-reflexive interpretation. Crucially the difference between these types is not syntactic but lies on the semantic/thematic interpretation. The theory (a modified version of binding theory) is based on the distinction between nominative and accusative versus dative case in German.
Chapter 8: Syntactic unaccusativity in Russian (pp. 207-242) by Maaike Schoorlemmer
Schoorlemmer argues for a syntactic approach to unaccusativity and provides two diagnostics for the phenomenon in Russian. She further argues against the direct mapping approach to the unaccusative-unergative pattern by showing that the semantic feature related is also relevant in other syntactic constructions and not only in determining the argument projection in non-transitive verbs. A linking rule deriving unaccusative verbs in Russian has also been looked at. Overall, the paper is relatively elegant and nicely presented, although certain points -- in some cases in relation to the data as well as the section on the linking rules -- could have been justified in greater detail.
Chapter 9: Gradience at the lexicon-syntax interface: Evidence from auxiliary selection and implications for unaccusativity (pp. 243-268) by Antonella Sorace
Sorace looks in to the Auxiliary Selection Hierarchy (ASH) and proposes that it captures the variation intransitive verbs exhibit in relation to auxiliary selection based on evidence drawn from Italian. She proposes that telicity and agentivity are the main features of ASH and define a structure hierarchy of verb types on the basis of aspectual relations. She further examines the predictions which are made for first and second- language acquisition theories. It is an interesting and solid piece of work.
Chapter 10: Unaccusativity in Saramaccan: The syntax of resultatives (pp. 269-287) by Tonjes Veenstra
The author investigates the syntax of the resultative constructions and argues for a unified analysis of their syntax in languages with or without serialisation. He mainly analyses resultatives expressed in serial-verb constructions in Saramaccan and concludes that transitive verbs are not the only types which appear in resultative serial-verb constructions. Veenstra presents a large amount of data which he discusses satisfactorily. The paper, though, concludes with an analysis which could have been justified in greater detail. The addition of a concluding section could have also given a smoother touch to (the end of) the paper.
Chapter 11: The grammar machine (pp. 288-331) by Hagit Borer
Borer discusses the acquisition of unaccusativity based on an argument- structure approach. She argues that argument and event structures are independent of the vocabulary, the items of which -dominated by verb functions -- are seen as modifiers. She further claims that children have a syntactic knowledge of argument and event structure projections which is not related to the knowledge of vocabulary. Finally, she proposes that two development stages exist; the morphophonological and the morphosyntactic stages. Data is drawn from Hebrew. The discussion unfolds nicely and flows throughout. In this paper, the question which remains open ("the recovery from the morphosyntactic stage leading to adult performance", pp.330) is acknowledged in the concluding section.
Chapter 12: Acquiring unaccusatives: A cross-linguistic look (pp. 332-353) by Janet Randall, Angeliek van Hout, Jürgen Weissenborn and Harald Baayen
The authors discuss the acquisition of unaccusatives in Dutch and German and conclude that semantic factors -- telicity and actor -- determine unaccusativity. They further formulate two linking rules; the telicity linking rules classify verbs as unaccusatives, whereas the actor linking rule as unergatives. Nevertheless, in cases where both telicity and actor are present, the telicity linking rule takes precedence over the actor linking rule. They account for this pattern in terms of the geometry of the rules' conceptual structure representation. It is a well-presented piece of work, although the second section of the paper could have been enriched for the readers' better understanding.
The editors bring together many different threads to the analysis of the phenomenon of unaccusativity. A wide range of data is covered and cross- references are well-managed.
A couple of references are missing from the references section (for example, Zombolou in progress) but this should not undermine the value and the high quality of the work put by the authors and the editors.
Despite the very high standard of the papers, the volume reads easily, is well-organised, coherent, user-friendly and consistent. It is convincingly challenging, high in the quality and interest of each chapter and complete in the sense it addresses all the questions it was designed for.
Belleti, A. and Rizzi, L. (1988). "Psych verbs and theta theory". Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 6:3;291-352.
Chomsky, N. (1995). The minimalist program. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
Halle and Marantz. (1993). "Distributed Morphology and the pieces of inflection". In K. Hale and J.S. Kayser (Eds.) The view from building 20: Essays in honour of Sylvain Bromberger. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 111- 178.
Larson, R. (1988). "On the double object construction". Linguistic Inquiry 19:3:335-391.
Perlmutter, D. (1978). "Impersonal passives and the unaccusative hypothesis". Papers from the annual meeting of the Berkeley Linguistic Society, 4:157-819.
Perlmutter, D. and Postal, P. (1984). "The I-advancement exclusiveness law". In Perlmutter and Rosen (Eds.) Studies in relational grammar. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Van Hout, A., Randall, J. and Weissenborn, J. (1993). "Acquiring the unergative-unaccusative distinction". In M. Verrips and F. Wijnem (Eds.) The acquisition of Dutch. Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam, 79-120.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Alexandra Galani is a member of the Department of Language and Linguistic Science at the University of York (England). She is working on the morphosyntax of tense and aspect in Modern Greek within Distributed Morphology. Her main research interests are: syntax/morphology interface, morphology/phonology interface, allomorphy, suppletion and the lexicon.