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Review of The Syntax of Nominalizations across Languages and Frameworks
EDITORS: Alexiadou, Artemis and Rathert, Monika TITLE: The Syntax of Nominalizations across Languages and Frameworks SERIES TITLE: Interface Explorations [IE] 23 PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton YEAR: 2010
Alexandru Nicolae, Department of Grammar, ''Iorgu Iordan -- Al. Rosetti'' Institute of Linguistics of the Romanian Academy
This book examines some problems of the syntax of nominalizations, with a focus on deverbal and deadjectival nominalizations; it also discusses the syntax of genitives and the syntax of distinct readings of nominalizations. It is the outgrowth of the ''Nominalizations across languages'' workshop, held at Stuttgart University in December 2007.
The same editors, Monika Rathert and Artemis Alexiadou, published a sister-volume in the same series (Interface Explorations 22) which deals with the semantics of nominalizations (''The Semantics of Nominalizations across Languages and Frameworks'').
I will first summarize the contents of each individual chapter, and then evaluate the volume as a whole and discuss some salient problems examined therein.
In the ‘Introduction' (pp. 1-7), Alexiadou and Rathert first discuss the non-homogeneity of the class of nominalizations, and follow Grimshaw (1990) in distinguishing Argument Structure Nominals (ASN; e.g. ''the examination of the patients'') and Referential Nominals (RN; e.g. ''the examination was on the table'') - in Grimshaw's (1990: 45) formulation, these are called ''complex event'' nominals, on the one hand, and ''simple event'' and ''result'' nominals, on the other hand. Next, they discuss the two main models of representation of ASNs, i.e. the lexical and the structural one. In a lexical model of representation (cf., for instance, Grimshaw 1990), the ASN inherits its argument structure from the embedded verb; this is a transformation which happens in the lexicon. In structural models (cf., for instance, Alexiadou 2001), the ASN is built in a syntactic manner and the presence of argument structure inside nouns is the result of the existence of some verbal projection inside the nominal domain. Another important problem of nominalizations, ''affix rivalry'' (the phenomenon of ''competition between two or more affixes and the properties they are sensitive to'' (p. 3)), is also briefly presented. In the remainder of this introductory chapter, the content of the volume's contributions is presented. This introduction is very useful, for both specialists and beginners: specialists will find here the theoretical orientation of the volume/contributions; beginners will find the relevant background for the study of nominalizations.
In their study, 'On the syntax of episodic vs. dispositional -er nominals' (pp. 9-38), Artemis Alexiadou and Florian Schäfer approach the problem of the internal make-up of -er nominals in English. Using the 'external argument generalization' criterion, the authors distinguish two types of -er nominals: nominals which observe this criterion and nominals which do not; the former are further divided into ''episodic'' (which always project their internal complements) and ''dispositional'' (which may leave their complements unexpressed). The goal of the study is to correctly derive the presence/absence of complement structure for these two types of nominals. The authors approach the subject from a structural perspective and use the tools and principles of Distributed Morphology (DM) to derive the internal structure of nominals. Previous approaches to the problem of the presence/absence of complement structure of these nominals made use of a classification along a [±event] dimension. Alexiadou and Schäfer show that a distinction of this sort is not entirely accurate to correctly distinguish episodic and dispositional nominals. Instead, claiming that both these nominals are eventive, they propose (and bring evidence for) an approach in terms of their internal make-up. Specifically, both types have an internal structure of the type nP > Asp > VoiceP > vP > RootP, and it is the type of aspect which distinguishes them: dispositional vs. episodic aspect head. This proposal is accurate since it correctly derives the properties of the nominals under discussion.
In her contribution, 'On the morphological make-up of nominalizations in Serbian' (pp. 38-66), Monika Bašić approaches the problem of the internal structure of Serbian nominalizations using Ramchand's (2008) system of verbal decomposition. Starting from the empirical observation that complex event nominals, result nominals and simple event nominals display the same morphology, the author seeks to trace the origin of the different syntactic and semantic behavior of these types of nominalizations. Thus, making use of the three core projections in Ramchand (2008), i.e. Init(iation)P > Proc(ess)P > Res(ult)P, Bašić proposes that the difference between (types of) nominalizations is attributable to different internal structures with respect to the presence/absence of these core projections. More exactly, a (particular) verbalizer may be the instantiation of different sub-sequences of the functional sequence. For instance, the verbalizer in complex event nouns lexicalizes all three projections: InitP is responsible for properties relating to agentivity and may surface in the form of a by-phrase; ProcP is tied to eventivity, etc. In contrast, in result nominals, the verbalizer lexicalizes only the Res head, while in the case of simple event nominals the verbalizer lexicalizes only ProcP and ResP. This approach correctly derives the properties of all types of nominalizations and, moreover, solves the morphological puzzle raised above.
In his contribution, 'A syntactic account of affix rivalry in Spanish nominalizations' (pp. 67-91), Antonio Fábregas studies the ''rivalry'' of three nominalization affixes in Spanish: -ción (e.g., construc-ción 'building'), -miento (e.g., sanea-miento 'sanitarization'), -do/-da (e.g., sella-do 'sealing'). Fábregas' goal is to propose a principled account of the choice of nominalizer, and to show that this is not a choice dependent on the idiosyncratic properties of the base or on notions of complexity of parsing; on the contrary, it is shown that the choice is due to syntactic and semantic properties of the base. Using research on the typology of internal arguments (rheme path objects vs. undergoers) and the lexical decomposition system proposed by Ramchand (see above), the author shows that -miento and -do/-da attach at the verbal base (i.e., stem) level and that their distribution is constrained by the nature of the internal argument of the verb; -ción, however, attaches to the root level and is not sensitive to the argument structure of the verb. The syntactic mechanisms employed in the derivation are however different: -miento makes use of a ''remerge'' strategy; -do/-da nominals are the outcome of merging a nominal layer on top of the verbal structure (above a projection labeled ''E(xternal) A(spect)P, which is lexicalized in Spanish by the participle morpheme); -ción is the result of the lexical spell-out of an NP layer which subordinates the verbal structure (root). The proposed mechanisms correctly predict the distribution of the three affixes and, moreover, account for cases in which a verbal stem selects two rival affixes.
In 'The syntax of deverbal nominals in Bulgarian' (pp. 93-128), Angelina Markova shows that argument structure is governed by functional structure, more exactly, that argument structure is licensed within a nominalization only by certain functional projections. Like other authors of this volume, Markova approaches word formation (nominalization formation) from a syntactic perspective. The author distinguishes three morphological types of nominalizations in Bulgarian (-ne, Voice -ie and ''other-suffix'' nouns), and presents their main syntactic and distributional traits. These three morphological types of nominalizations are different from a syntactic point of view (i.e. they are derived in different ways and have different internal structures), and these differences carry over to their argument structure. Thus, in a Grimshaw (1990) fashion, with respect to argument structure, three types of nominalizations are distinguished: ''argument-structure nouns'' (Grimshaw's 1990 ''complex event nominals''), ''participant-structure nominals'' (Grimshaw's 1990 ''simple event nouns''), ''result nominals'' (idem in Grimshaw 1990). Finally, the author presents the role of prefixation in the nominalizing process and the interactions of prefixation and argument structure.
In 'Deadjectival nominalizations and the structure of the adjective' (pp. 129-158), Isabelle Roy approaches the problem of nominals derived from adjectives, with data from French; the aim of the paper is to provide an analysis of this type of nominal and to properly account for their internal syntactic and semantic properties. The analysis is carried out in the DM framework. The paper has several claims, among which the most interesting ones are the following: deadjectival nominals belong to two classes with distinct properties (''state-nominals'' and ''quality-nominals''); adjectives can be nominalized (turned into nouns) only by the mediation of a PredP or, the other way around, only predicative (in opposition to attributive) adjectives can be nominalized. The author brings convincing evidence to substantiate both claims: the correlation of different readings of adjectives and the reading kept in nominalization; modification by adverb-like adjectives, etc. Likewise, in section 2, the author makes a short but thorough presentation of the mapping between the semantics of adjectives and their internal structure. Isabelle Roy's proposed mechanism correctly derives deadjectival nominals and is able to account for the distinct interpretations of this type of derived nominal.
In the study 'Event-structure constraints on nominalization' (pp. 159-198), Ivy Sichel discusses the problem of the 'deficiency' of nominalization structures with respect to their verbal counterparts. She starts by discussing ECM, Double object, Object-Control and Particle shift asymmetries in the case of derived nominals, ing-of gerunds and poss-ings. The problems thoroughly covered in Siechel's insightful study include: agent exclusivity, agentivity as a co-temporal cause, nominal passives, and complex events in ing-of nominalizations. The conclusion arrived at (which is, as well, the main claim defended throughout the paper) is that derived nominals in English are deficient in the sort of events they can host, being restricted to simple, single events, this in addition to the pure morphosyntactic deficiency they display.
In 'Aspect and argument structure of deverbal nominalizations: A split vP analysis' (pp. 199-217), Petra Sleeman and Ana Maria Brito critically revisit Grimshaw’s (1990) theory of nominalizations, and argue that in fact there are five types of nominalizations with distinct readings (not two, as in Grimshaw). They have a syntactic perspective on the building of nominalizations, and adopt Ramchand's (2008) split vP hypothesis; different readings and different possibilities of realization of the argument structure of nominalizations are tied to various differences within this model of split vP. One interesting result is a fine-grained analysis of the aspectual dimension of deverbal nominalizations, and the dissociation of a process reading from the presence of argument structure.
In his study, 'Post-nominal genitives and prepositional phrases in German: A uniform analysis' (pp. 219-251). Torgrim Solstad approaches the topic of post-nominal genitives and PPs in German in the framework entitled ''surface-oriented syntax'', providing solid (binding-theoretic) evidence against the DM analysis. More specifically, his proposal is that these constituents should be analyzed uniformly as N(ominal) P(hrase) adjuncts. As to semantics, all post-nominal genitives are represented by the underspecified two-place relation r (rho); in the case of PPs, the picture is more diverse, but is still congruous with this assumption. Different realizations of this relation give rise to various interpretations of post-nominal genitives. The semantic analysis is developed in Discourse Representation Theory (Underspecified DRT implementation, more exactly). Solstad convincingly argues against the assumption of structure-sharing between VPs and their corresponding nominalizations, thus providing arguments against the current DM approaches.
The book's title is entirely justified ('The syntax of nominalizations across languages and frameworks'): the syntactic issues of nominalizations are examined against data from a great number of languages, and from various theoretical perspectives. For instance, data from English, Spanish, Serbian, Bulgarian, French, Hebrew and German are extensively analyzed; also, additional evidence from Dutch, Romanian, Malagasy and Portuguese is brought into the discussion of the facts, when necessary. As to the theoretical frameworks employed, the DM (/syntactic) approach to word-formation is dominant; the lexicalist approach is argued against in some of the contributions; in the last paper of the book, the semantic analysis is developed in Discourse Representation Theory.
The book is very well-written and clearly structured; the presentation of the data is made in a clear way, with strict demarcations that eliminate the possibility of confusion between concepts and ideas. All the authors bring into their discussion a great variety of examples to support their claims.
As a native speaker of Romanian, I do not agree with the interpretation of one of the Romanian examples used in the argumentation Alexiadou and Schäfer (p. 29): in (37a), ''dormitor'' may only denote a 'bedroom'; the reading in (i), 'a person who sleeps', is, at least for me and for other native speakers I consulted, excluded.
I think that this book will be of very much help to all researchers who currently work on nominalizations, since it acquaints the reader with several analyses of particular phenomena concerning nominalizations, and it shows the current state of research in the domain.
Alexiadou, Artemis. 2001. Functional structure in nominals. Nominalization and ergativity. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Grimshaw, Jane. 1990. Argument structure. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Ramchand, Gillian, 2008. Verb Meaning and the Lexicon: A First Phase Syntax. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Alexandru Nicolae is assistant researcher at the 'Iorgu Iordan − Al.
Rosetti' Institute of Linguistics of the Romanian Academy (the Department
of Grammar). His main research interests are: the syntax of the Romanian DP
from a comparative perspective; the diachronic development of functional
categories (nominal categories, in particular); the biolinguistic
perspective; nominal and clausal ellipsis. In the last two years, he has
been working with Professor Alexandra Cornilescu on various topics
regarding the syntax of Romanian DPs: nominal ellipsis, nominal phases and
peripheries, definiteness valuation, and diachronic changes in the nominal
phrase (changes in the patterns of definiteness valuation, the evolution of
the definite article and genitives in Old Romanian). His is co-author of
'Dinamica limbii române actuale. Aspecte gramaticale şi discursive' ('The
Dynamics of Present-day Romanian. Grammatical and Discourse Aspects'),
2009, 'Gramatica de bază a limbii române' ('The Basic Grammar of