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Review of  Minimalist Interfaces

Reviewer: Eugenia Romanova
Book Title: Minimalist Interfaces
Book Author: Yosuke Sato
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Syntax
Subject Language(s): Indonesian
Book Announcement: 23.1886

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AUTHOR: Yosuke Sato
TITLE: Minimalist Interfaces
SUBTITLE: Evidence from Indonesian and Javanese
SERIES TITLE: Linguistik Aktuell/ Linguistics Today 155
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins Publishing
YEAR: 2010

Eugenia Romanova, Department of Linguistics, Institute of International
Relations, Yekaterinburg, Russia

The book is devoted to a set of different syntactic problems, with two common
denominators, the languages under scrutiny and the theoretical framework. It
consists of six chapters. In chapter 1 the theoretical framework, the Minimalist
Program, is presented and justified. The main question to be answered is the
interaction of the i(nternal)-language with such external systems as the sensory
mechanism and the conceptual module, that is, their interfaces with syntax. At
the very start the author makes a statement that there is no Lexicon in its
traditional sense, a point supported in subsequent chapters with data from
Indonesian and Javanese.

In chapter 2 (Reduplication asymmetries at the syntax-lexicon interface) the
author presents a corpus study of reduplication patterns for certain verbal and
nominal affixes in Indonesian and Javanese. Some affixes (like the verbal prefix
ber-) allow only stem reduplication:

(1) belit 'twist' > [ber[belit-belit]] 'meander'/ *[[ber-belit]-[ber-belit]] (p.
18, ex. 6-a and 7-a)

However others (the nominal suffix -an) vary with respect to this ability:

(2) a. sayur 'vegetable' > [[sayur-sayur]-an]] 'many types of vegetables'/
b. pikir 'think' > [[pikir-an]-[pikir-an]] 'thoughts'/ *[[pikir-pikir]-an]] (p.
19, ex. 8a and 9a)

It looks like affix-stem reduplication is only possible when the stem is
nominal. Searching for the explanation of this asymmetry the author undertakes a
brief overview of lexicalist and non-lexicalist theories. Most lexicalist
approaches cannot offer any explanation for this phenomenon (except di Sciullo
and Williams 1997): the pre-syntactic process of affixation cannot happen after
the syntactic process of reduplication. So Sato appeals to non-lexicalist
Distributed Morphology (Halle and Marantz 1993). Applying Distributed Morphology
to reduplication asymmetries in Indonesian, he concludes that with verbs RED
(reduplication) is an aspectual head (which rightly reflects the change in the
interpretation of the verb with the reduplicated stem) merged with the
acategorial root belit ((18) on p. 31). AspP (Aspect Phrase) itself is the
complement of the verbalizing projection (vP), hosting the verbalizing prefix
ber-. In nominal derivations RED is the NUM(ber) head, which does not merge with
the acategorial root. In case of a plural noun ('many types of vegetables') RED
merges with the nominalizing zero morpheme immediately dominating the
acategorial root. The suffix -an is then some functional head (F) dominating NumP:

(3) [FP [F -an ][NumP [Num RED] [nP [n ∅] [√ sayur]]]] (p. 33)

In nominalizations of a verb (for example, 'thoughts'), RED dominates two
projections: the empty verbalizing morpheme above an acategorial root and the
nominalizing suffix -an above the verbalizing projection vP:

(4) [NumP [Num RED][nP [nP -an][vP [v ∅][√ pikir]]]] (p.33)

Thus, the phonetic form of (3) and (4) corresponds to the desired result and
expresses the order of syntactic and morphological processes taking place in
reduplicated verbs and nouns in Indonesian.

Chapter 3 (Successive cyclicity at the syntax-morphology interface) continues
the study of the syntax-morphology interface. The linguistic subject matter is
the behavior of the active voice (AV) morpheme. It looks like the active voice
morpheme (the prefix meN-) in Standard Indonesian is deleted under certain
locality configurations: wh-movement and relativization ((3) and (4) on pp. 40-41):

(5) Siapa-i yang Bill (*mem)-beritahu ibu-nya [CP yang t-i *(men)-cintai Fatimah]?
who that Bill AV-tell mother-his that AV-love
'Who does Bill tell his mother that loves Fatimah?'

MeN-deletion takes place also under A-movement ((5) on p. 41):

(6) Ali-i saya (*men)-cubit t-i.
Ali I AV-pinch
'Ali was pinched by me.'

Later it turns out that it does not matter what type of movement occurs; the
main requirement for meN-deletion is that the verb carrying this prefix be
crossed by the moved NP (noun phrase) ((7) on p. 42). Kendal Javanese
demonstrates the same behavior of the active voice morpheme.

According to the author's explanation, the moved NP undergoes
D(eterminer)-feature checking with the v head with subsequent erasure of
uninterpretatble D-feature on v. When the feature bundle on the phase head is
not complete (D-feature is lacking), the prefix meN- cannot be inserted.
Instead, the zero variant is inserted in compliance with the vocabulary
specification below:

(7) i. meN- <-- --> [v_______ [+D]] (specific case)
ii. ∅meN- <-- --> [v________[…]] (elsewhere case) (p. 48)

The proposed analysis captures the category sensitivity of the AV deletion,
which does not happen when non-nominal phrases move across the verb. The latter
will naturally have no D feature to be checked against v. The prediction that
any NPs will trigger the checking operation is also borne out: indeed, it is not
only direct objects that trigger the deletion of meN-, but also nominals having
other grammatical functions ((18)-(19) on p. 50).

In addition, since little v of unaccusative verbs does not constitute a phase
head, the deletion of the prefix carried by them does not take place ((23), p.
52; (24), p. 53):

(8) Tarif listrik me-nurun.
price electricity AV-fall
'The electricity price is falling.'

(9) [TP [NP tarif listrik] [vP [v meN-] [VP [V turun] tNP]]]]

At the end of the chapter the author outlines the alternative analyses of the AV
deletion (Case-Agreement analysis (Cole et al. 2008) and antipassive analysis
(Aldridge 2008)) in order to reject them in favor of his own.

Chapter 4 treats the syntax-phonology interface, specifically
preposition-stranding under sluicing. Indonesian and Javanese seem to overtly
violate Merchant’s 2001 Preposition-Stranding Generalization (PSG):

(10) A language L will allow preposition stranding under sluicing iff L allows
preposition stranding under regular wh-movement. (p. 65)

On the basis of Merchant's theory the author predicts that no languages disallow
preposition-stranding under regular wh-movement but allow it under sluicing, and
gives mysterious data from Indonesian ((5a, c), p. 66):

(11) *Siapa yang kamu berdansa dengan?
who that you dance with
'Who did you dance with?'

(12) Saya ingat Ali berdansa dengan seseorang, tapi saya tidak tahu (dengan)
I remember Ali dance with someone but I NEG know with who
'I remember Ali danced with someone, but I don't know with whom.'

To see why this apparent violation of PSG arises, the author follows Merchant’s
2001 analysis of sluicing. There might be two derivations for the English
sluicing construction: genuine sluicing (when wh-movement is followed by
TP(Tense Phrase)-deletion, (14) below) and pseudosluicing (with the cleft
source, where the copula and the subject are deleted, (15) below) ((8 a, b), p. 67):

(13) Ben danced with someone, but I don't remember who.
(14) Ben danced with someone, but I don't remember [CP who-i [TP Ben danced with
(15) Ben danced with someone, but I don't remember [CP who-i [TP it was t-i]].

Using some of Merchant’s ten diagnostics for genuine sluicing the author
demonstrates that the source of a sluicing structure in Indonesian is not a
cleft and thus pseudosluicing cannot be used as an explanation for the violation
of PSG. He goes on to test whether the optionality of a preposition under
sluicing can be connected with resumption or P(reposition)-drop. These two
operations are considered to take place in Mandarin Chinese and Serbo-Croatian,
respectively, which superficially exhibit the same P-stranding profile as
Indonesian. However Indonesian does not use the presumptive pronoun strategy.
Neither does it have preposition-drop at phonetic form, according to available

Thus the author proposes the analysis related to the repair by ellipsis (Ross
1969). In Ross's work repair by ellipsis (namely, sluicing) was used to save
sentences from island violations ((41)-(42), p. 82). What is repaired in the
Indonesian case is a failure of the [+wh] feature to percolate at the
preposition phrase level. Individual prepositions can optionally or obligatorily
percolate [+wh] feature. If this operation is obligatory, prepositions cannot
strand in interrogative sentences, but are strandable under sluicing. This can
even happen in English (pp. 81, 85):

(16) Under what circumstances will we use force? (p. 81, ex 39a)
(17) *What circumstances will we use force under? (p. 81, ex 39b)
(18) We are willing to use force under certain circumstances, but we will not
say in advance which ones. (p. 85, ex. 49b)

The chapter closes by the extensive comparative study of preposition stranding
under sluicing in German and French.

Chapter 5 (The structure and denotation of bare nominals at the syntax-semantics
interface) introduces Chierchia's (1998 a,b) Nominal Mapping Parameter. Then the
author demonstrates that Indonesian does not fit into any of the three types
predicted along the Parameter. The three types roughy correspond to 1) Chinese
and Japanese ([+arg(ument), -pred(icate)]), which allow bare nominal arguments,
have no plural morphology, and have classifiers; 2) Italian and French ([-arg,
+pred]), which do not allow bare nominal arguments and always require
determiners next to nominals; and 3) English and Russian ([+arg, +pred]) with
the mixed behavior of nouns: mass and bare plurals are mapped onto kinds,
singular count nouns are mapped onto properties. Following (Chung 2000) the
author claims that in Indonesian bare nominal arguments occur freely like in
[+arg, +pred] languages, but bare nouns have a singular-plural contrast like in
[-arg, +pred] languages.

The author proposes an alternative to Chierchia's semantic parameter, a
syntactic parameter based on the size of the nominal phrase. The universal
nominal hierarchy looks like this (p. 113):

(19) [DP [QP [ClP [NumP [N]]]]],

where DP is Determiner Phrase, QP is Quantifier Phrase, ClP is Classifier Phrase
and N stands for Noun. Indonesian and Javanese have very small nominals: they
''grow'' just to the size of NumP. Definite bare nouns in Mandarin and Cantonese
are ClP, bare plurals and mass nouns in English and Japanese are QP and definite
count nouns in Italian and English are DP. NumP can have two sets of values:
{singular, plural} and {neutral, plural}. Languages like English and Italian
alternate between the first and the second set of values, whereas languages like
Japanese, Indonesian and Javanese select only the latter. Thus, in English the
grammatical distinction between mass and count nouns does not always follow from
their conceptual structures: oats is a plural noun, whereas wheat is not.
Detailed analysis follows of nominal structure for each language in the
crosslinguistic survey.

Chapter 6 concludes, in which the author speculates about minimalist interfaces,
the notion of phases and the linguistic faculty in general.

The book is impressive for the number of complex problems treated. The ability
to identify such problems and posit questions relevant to linguistic theory is
important. Moreover, Yosuke Sato is not a native speaker of the languages whose
intricacies he attempts to untangle, which adds to his outstanding achievement.

The layout and the manner of presentation are fairly clear. In two or three
places I was confused, though the puzzles were explained later. For instance, it
would work better if the dependence of the reduplication type on the stem the
affix attaches to ((8)-(9) p. 19) were explained before the examples, not after
them. In addition, more information about this phenomenon in Indonesian could be
helpful. Does only one suffix behave like this? Do prefixes only attach to
verbs? Some of the answers are given, but not immediately.

Another puzzle appears on p. 52, where the author illustrates the behavior of
unaccusative verbs with the active voice prefix meN-. In (23-a) there is no
prefix and the sentence has a past tense interpretation, in (23-b) the prefix is
there and the sentence has a present progressive interpretation. It is hard not
to notice this contrast, but the author says nothing about it until p. 54, where
he briefly mentions that this prefix may not be the same as the one under study.
These are minor drawbacks.

I did have more serious questions, which may reflect insufficient explanation on
some issues.

In section 5 of chapter 2 Sato applies the distributed morphology approach to
reduplication asymmetries in Indonesian. On p. 31 (ex. (18)) the abstract
morpheme RED(uplication) is the head of the Aspect Phrase (AspP), while on p. 33
(ex. (21) and (22)) it heads the Number Phrase (NumP). This variability might be
explained by the categorial status of the elements it merges with. However, in
(18) on p. 31 the root belit 'twist' has no category, the categorial v head
attaches above RED. The question is: can AspP merge with a root before the
latter is verbalized? If so and if we assume that AspP is a verbalizing
projection, why can then NumP not be a nominalizing projection and merge
directly with acategorial roots like sayur 'vegetable'?

Another question concerns the nominal derivations on p. 33: in (21) RED merges
with the nominalizing morpheme ∅ (and then -an heads some functional phrase),
and in (22) with the nominalizing morpheme -an, which, in turn, is merged with
the verbalizing morpheme ∅. So, if in principle RED can appear above vP, what
keeps it from doing so in (18)? And, finally, what underlies the variable
behavior of RED with respect to the suffix -an in (21) and (22)? It looks like
the structures behind these two orders (-an RED vs RED -an) are given just to
account for different phonological expressions of simple nouns ('many types of
vegetables’, where -an precedes RED) and nominalized verbs ('thoughts', where
RED precedes -an).

In chapter 3 the uninterpretable D-feature of the verbs with the prefix meN-
raises concerns. Since this feature has to be checked and deleted, it follows
that every nominal that crosses the verb should carry the interpretable
D-feature, but nothing is said about the semantics of Indonesian (and Javanese)
nouns until chapter 5. What we learn there actually contradicts the expectation:
the Indonesian nominal structure never seems to have the DP (determiner phrase)
level. It looks like a problem, unless the D-feature discussed in chapter 3 is
unrelated to the actual semantics of Indonesian nouns.

On pp. 52-53, unaccusative verbs with the active voice (AV) prefix meN- are
discussed. This discussion is also slightly puzzling. One of the main
theoretical premises of the book is the absence of the Lexicon in its
traditional understanding, yet on p.52 the author mentions ''the standard picture
of the lexicon-syntax correspondence''. Moreover, he tries to defend this
standard picture against neoconstructivist views (Borer 2005), which state that
''the unaccusative vs. unergative distinction is determined by the functional
environments a verb is inserted within''. So, Sato maintains the Unaccusative
Hypothesis in its original form, which, as far as I know, is tightly linked to
lexical specifications of vocabulary items. I am not sure whether this is in
compliance with the position outlined on p. 2: ''there is no room for the Lexicon
as traditionally conceived of as a static storage point for words and their
formation process… what syntax interacts with is the sound and meaning
component.'' The choice of the Unaccusative Hypothesis as a theoretical tool also
creates some controversy for the analysis of apparently unaccusative verbs with
the prefix meN- ((23), p. 52). As I have already mentioned, the difference
between the verbs in (23-a) (without the prefix) and (23-b) (with the prefix) is
aspectual, and progressive interpretation is more characteristic of
transitive/unergative verbs due to some correspondence between argument and
event structures. That, too, would hint at the syntactic origin of the
unaccusative vs unergative distinction.

In chapter 4, which I deem as the strongest and the most enjoyable part of the
book, the biggest problem is the lack of native speaking consultants. The issues
discussed are very speaker-sensitive: sluicing, P-stranding, clefts,
pseudogapping. So it is really important to distinguish between poor(er)
acceptability of sentences and their clear ungrammaticality. It is a pity there
was only one consultant helping the author throughout his research into Indonesian.

I also had difficulty with some of the terms used in this chapter, regarding
questions of islands and feature percolation. It would be nice to have some
clarification of notions such as PF (phonetic form) island and percolation as
pumping (as opposed to percolation as copying). Although there are schematic
representations of no percolation on p. 80, percolation as pumping and
percolation as copying, unfortunately they are not accompanied by text.

My bigger question refers to the ideas developed in section 4.2, namely, the
failure of percolation and repair by ellipsis. We know -- and it is repeated in
this section -- that Ross (1969) understood ellipsis as a strategy for repairing
subject island violations, without which the sentences would be strongly
ungrammatical. Why should the failure of feature percolation be repaired at all,
since it can be optional?

Showing the effect pseudogapping has on P-stranding (presumably making it
optional), the author gives an English sentence that should support his view.
However the judgment of only two native speakers is clearly not sufficient
evidence, either positive or negative ((56), p.88, copied as (20) below). This
is again a pity, since this point is worth defending, in my opinion. It would
corroborate most of what was said in the chapter:

(20) ?(*) We will use force under these circumstances but they will (under)
those circumstances.

In chapter 5 the author shows that Indonesian and Javanese have no D
(determiner) layer in the nominal structure. One of the arguments against it is
given in (31) and (32) on p. 119:

(21) buku ini 'this book', buku John 'John's book', buku John ini 'this John's book'

Sato treats (31) (rendered here as (21)) and (32) as support that demonstratives
in these languages are modifiers of a lexical projection. However he says
nothing about an analogous Italian construction, presented in (41-b) on p. 124:
il mio latte 'the my milk'. And according to the analysis presented here Italian
does have the D-level.

Proposing the nominal functional hierarchy on p. 127, the author never mentions
Borer (2005), where this structure was worked out in detail. On the other hand,
it is remarkable that he relatively independently arrives at conclusions shared
by a great number of contemporary linguists working on NP (whose works could be
cited, e.g., Pereltsvaig 2006, Boskovic, 2009).

In spite of a few such arguable statements and lines of reasoning, this work is
a solid contribution to ongoing discussions of interfaces between syntax and
other linguistic systems. The author does not claim to know all the answers, but
his intricate analyses of different syntactic, morphological and semantic
problems found in Indonesian, Javanese and other languages can ignite fruitful
discussions among the scholars working in minimalist syntax, for whom this book
will be especially interesting and useful.

Aldridge, Edith. 2008. Phase-based account of extraction in Indonesian. Lingua
118: 1440-1469

Borer, Hagit. 2005. Structuring Sense. Vol. I: In Name Only. Oxford: OUP

Boskovic, Zelko. 2009. More on the no-DP analysis of article-less languages.
Studia Linguistica 63: 187-203

Chierchia, Gennaro. 1998a. Reference to kinds across languages. Natural Language
Semantics 6: 339-405

Chierchia, Gennaro. 1998b. Plurality of nouns and the notion of semantic
parameter. In Events and Grammar, Susan Rothstein (ed.), 53-103. Dordrecht: Kluwer

Chung, Sandra. 2000. On reference to kinds in Indonesian. Natural Language
Semantics 8: 157-171

Cole, Peter, Hermon, Gabriella and Yanti. 2008. Voice in Malay/Indonesian.
Lingua 118: 1500-1553

Di Sciullo, Anna-Maria and Williams, Edwin. 1987. On the Definition of Words.
Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press

Halle, Morris and Marantz, Alec. 1993. Distributed morphology and the pieces of
inflection. A View from Building 20: Essays in Linguistics in Honor of Sylvain
Bromberger, Kenneth Hale and Samuel Jay Keyser (eds), 111-176. Cambridge, MA:
The MIT Press

Merchant, Jason. 2001. The Syntax of Silence: Sluicing, Islands and the Theory
of Ellipsis. Oxford: OUP

Pereltsvaig, Asya. 2006. Small nominals. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory
24: 433-500

Ross, John. 1969. Guess who In Papers from the 5th Regional Meeting of the
Chicago Linguistic Society, Chicago Linguistic Society, Robert Binnick, Alice
Davison, Georgia Green and Jerry Morgan (eds.), 252-286. Chicago, IL: Chicago
Linguistic Society

Eugenia Romanova holds a PhD from Tromsø University in Norway. Her thesis deals with the problems of verbal prefixation, event and argument structure and syntax-semantics interface in the Russian language. At present she is a lecturer in linguistics at a private university in Yekaterinburg, Russia.