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Review of  Structures and Beyond


Reviewer: Sandra Paoli
Book Title: Structures and Beyond
Book Author: Adriana Belletti
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Syntax
Book Announcement: 15.3497

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Date: Tue, 14 Dec 2004 17:24:49 +0000 (GMT)
From: Sandra Paoli <sandrathefreespirit@yahoo.co.uk>
Subject: Structures and Beyond: The Cartography of Syntactic Structures,
Vol 3

EDITOR: Adriana Belletti
TITLE: Structures and Beyond
SUBTITLE: The Cartography of Syntactic Structures, Volume 3
SERIES: Oxford Studies in Comparative Syntax
PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press
YEAR: 2004

Sandra Paoli, Department of Italian, University of Cambridge, UK

OVERVIEW

This collection of papers results from a workshop held at the University
of Siena in the Autumn of 1999, which addressed the links and relations
between the so-called cartographic approach (the minute investigation of
the make-up of functional categories, aimed at providing the linguist with
an extremely fine-grained tool to capture the great language variation
witnessed) and the most recent innovations within the Minimalist Program,
the Antisymmetric approach as well as the facts brought to light by both
acquisition and neuro-psycholinguistic research.

The papers deal with a range of topics and issues that are at first sight
unrelated: language acquisition, language pathology, language internal
mechanisms and operations as well as interpretability conditions.
Underlying them all, an investigation into fundamental aspects of the
theory of language: a research into the computational system per se and
its interaction with both linguistic (semantic interface) and extra-
linguistic (cognitive) domains.

Belletti identifies three main groups of contributions: those addressing
the mechanics of the computational system in both Minimalist and
Antisymmetric terms (Chomsky, Kayne, Starke), those operating within the
Cartographic approach (Cinque, Rizzi, Chierchia), and finally those
investigating the interaction of brain and language (Caramazza & Shapiro,
Mehler & Nespor).

Chomsky's contribution proposes some innovative changes to the Minimalist
Program. He addresses both the internal structure of projections and the
operations allowed by the system. The main points of his contribution are
i) the elimination of the traditional distinction between Specifier and
Head: in line with the 'bare phrase' structure, elements are heads and
features are checked via a Head-to-Head (a probe and a goal, the latter
contained in the head's complement) relation; ii) movement is re-evaluated
as the 'internal' version of Merge, thus not an 'imperfection' of language
as previously assumed; iii) the introduction of the distinction between
weak and strong phases applying to the categories of vP and CP but not TP.

Much in line with this approach is Starke's article, which focuses on the
[Spec, Head] relation: this is seen as unnecessary, and should be replaced
by the [Head, Complement] relation. The notion of Specifier is, in itself,
redundant, and causes gratuitous complexity in the computational system:
by ridding the system of it, a 'more homogenous state of affairs' (Starke,
266) is gained. Other properties naturally derive from the elimination of
Specifiers, in particular the system is left with the operation Merge, and
the presence of an identificational tool for the new time just created, a
sequence of functional projections.

The chapter by Kayne is an interesting combination of the Minimalist
notions of probe and internal Merge and the derivations typical of the
Antisymmetry approach, such as remnant movement. Focusing on the French
preposition 'à' that appears in causative and double object constructions,
Kayne concludes that it is indeed a preposition, but that it does not form
a constituent with the following DP. The analysis is then extended to the
case of prepositional complementisers and the following IP: the structure
is derived by having the whole IP raising into the Specifier position of
the complementiser projection.

Cinque's chapter exploits and further investigates the adverb hierarchy
identified in his (1999) book and applies it to the so-called
Restructuring constructions in Italian. Claiming that restructuring verbs
are 'functional verbs', in other words the overt realisation of those
functional heads whose Specifiers are filled by adverbs, Cinque argues
that the clause in which they occur is a single clause, and not two as
previously assumed. The investigation, in turn, provides further support
for his (1999) structure, as well as an effective example of its
application.

Locality is the focus or Rizzi's contribution, understood as the
restriction that core linguistic relations must be satisfied in the
smallest domain possible. Elaborating on his (1990) formulation of
Relativised Minimality, Rizzi proposes a typology of positions within the
left periphery, refining its (1997) split-CP proposal, which
differentiates between argumental, modificational and quantificational
elements. A binary +/- value for these features is adopted, which
specifies wh-elements, quantifiers, focalised phrases as well as
topicalised phrases. These score a value negative for all the above
features, a specification which captures their different behaviour.

Chierchia turns to the interaction between syntax and pragmatics,
considering Scalar Implicatures and polarity phenomena. Because of their
similarity, the two phenomena seem to governed by uniform principles; at
the same time they are also very different with respect to the influence
locality has on them, suggesting that they are, in essence, two very
different things. By invoking a phrase-by-phrase computing of implicatures
along side with truth conditions, and not a sequential process that sees
the latter being computed before the former, Chierchia is able to
reconcile the two opposing characteristics.

Evidence from aphasic patients is the starting point of Caramazza and
Shapiro's article. The series of experiment that they report show how, at
the phonological level, the difference between verbs and nouns seems to be
a primitive one, encoded in the cognitive module specific to language.
This could be reflected both in the way information is stored in the brain
but also in the way it is computed at the morphosyntactic level, where
verbs and nouns are clearly treated differently.

Mehler and Nespor address the important issue of the setting of parameters
in language acquisition, more specifically, how children can make sense of
the inconsistent input they are exposed to since birth. The evidence put
forward suggests that on the basis of the specific rhythm class their
first language belongs to, children seem to be able to derive the
phonological structure they will eventually use as well as information on
mean word length. Furthermore, rhythm seems to play an essential role in
the acquisition of both grammar and lexicon.

CRITICAL EVALUATION

This varied collection of papers is an invaluable contribution to
linguistic knowledge, drawing on very different and current issues in
linguistic theory. Furthermore, it also addresses a very important issue
that has not been tackled before: the contrast between the cartographic
approach and Minimalism. There is a clear conceptual distance in attitude
towards syntactic structure between the so-called cartographic approach
and the aims of the Minimalist Program. The validity and extent of this
distance can be evaluated by the reader in this collection of papers.

The minute analysis of functional projections and their subsequent
decomposition into a myriad of semantically and syntactically distinct
positions clashes prima facie with the Minimalist tendency to reduce
syntactic structure to the bare minimum. Both are, nevertheless, concerned
with expressing syntactic information in a way that allows it to be
interpretable at the interface and give raise to appropriate semantic
interpretations. This is the fundamental aim behind identifying numerous
positions within the structure that accommodate elements distinct from one
another both syntactically and semantically, and behind the various
checking mechanisms that ensure that only features carrying a
[+interpretable] specification make it to the interface. Thus there is a
one-to-one connection between interpretable features in Minimalism and
functional projections in the cartographic approach.

A difference which does not seem so easily reconcilable is the proposal by
Chomsky and Starke to eliminate the traditional distinction between
Specifiers and Heads and the relation between them, on which Principles
and Parameters has heavily relied. Within the cartographic approach the
[Spec, Head] relation is at the basis of agreement processes, and the
categorial distinction between Specifiers and Heads is exploited in
deriving different types of movement. Starke provides a practical
application of the new system, showing how ridding it of the notion of
Specifier can considerably simplify the structure. Agreement relations are
captured through binding occurring between head and complement. Given the
novelty of this idea, its further application to the phenomena that have
been explained exploiting the notion of Specifier is necessary in order to
be able to evaluate its strength as well its impact on the cartographic
approach.

The very interesting result obtained in Caramazza and Shapiro's article,
i.e. that the distinction between verbs and nouns seems to be a primitive
one, encoded in the cognitive module, pose a challenge for current
morphology theories such as Halle and Marantz's Distributed Morphology
(DM). DM treats the distinction between verbs and nouns as the result of
the action of the computational system, not as an intrinsic property that
the elements carry with them when they are introduced in the syntactic
structure. At this level, they are all undistinguished neutral roots. The
evidence brought forward by psycholinguistic research is the linguist's
window on the way the brain functions, and its contribution must be
reflected in the theory of language being developed. Further research is
clearly needed to see the extent to which DM needs to change to
accommodate such insights.

In conclusion, the papers in this collection offer points of reflection on
the theoretical system, as well as bringing forward interesting data. They
are not aimed in particular at the student first approaching Linguistics,
as they require familiarity with a variety of theoretical as well as
empirical issues. They nevertheless offer an invaluable example of these
different approaches at work, which will certainly inspire students and
more experienced linguists alike.

REFERENCES

Cinque, Guglielmo (1999) Adverbs and Functional Heads. Oxford University
Press.

Halle, Morris and Alex Marantz (1993) 'Distributed Morphology'. In Kenneth
Hale and Samuel Jay Keyser (eds) The View from Building 20. MIT Press.

Rizzi, Luigi (1990) Relativized Minimality. MIT Press.

Rizzi, Luigi (1997) 'The fine Structure of the Left Periphery'. In Liliane
Haegeman (ed) Elements of Grammar. Kluwer. pp. 281-337




 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER


Sandra Paoli is a researcher at the University of Cambridge, UK. Her
interests lie within Romance linguistics, Italian dialectology in
particular.


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