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Review of  Contemporary Approaches to Romance Linguistics

Reviewer: Isabelle R. Ra
Book Title: Contemporary Approaches to Romance Linguistics
Book Author: Julie Auger J. Clancy Clements Barbara S Vance
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Subject Language(s): Catalan-Valencian-Balear
French, Old
Language Family(ies): Romance
Book Announcement: 16.1665

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Date: Tue, 24 May 2005 17:03:43 +0100 (IST)
From: Isabelle Lemee <>
Subject: Contemporary Approaches to Romance Linguistics

EDITORS: Auger, Julie; Clements, J. Clancy; Vance, Barbara
TITLE: Contemporary Approaches to Romance Linguistics
SUBTITLE: Selected Papers from the 33rd Linguistic Symposium on Romance
Languages (LSRL)
SERIES: Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 258
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins Publishing Company
YEAR: 2004

Isabelle Lemée, State University of New York at Albany,

This volume contains a selection of 20 papers given at the Thirty-Third
Linguistic Symposium on the Romance Languages, held at Indiana University
in April 24-27, 2004. Linguists as well as those interested in the theory
and acquisition of morphology, phonology, semantics and syntax will find a
range of specialised research discussed within this volume.

In 'Case, Agreement, and Expletives: A Parametric Difference in Old French
and Modern French', Arteaga and Herschensohn reexamine the distribution
expletives and case agreement. They focus on subject-verb agreement
patterns and case assignment and propose that neuter subject pronoun 'il'
merges at CP only to satisfy the EPP of C like in the example 'il arrive
des filles' (some girls are coming). They argue that the richness of overt
morphology determines the availability of uninterpretable features, and
thus derive the 'syntax directly from the morphology of the language'

In 'Paradigmatic and Syntagmatic Relations in Italian Verbal Inflection',
Burzio defends the relatively traditional view that affixes play a crucial
role in conditioning the form of their stems in Italian. His analysis
relies on his framework and works against Pirelli and Battista's (2000)
claim that the stem form is purely a function of the paradigm cell in
which it appears. He argues that although Pirelli and Battista are correct
in highlighting the role of paradigmatic relations, they fail to factor in
the phonology which is responsible for many of the syntagmatic ones.

Cabrera and Zubizarreta's 'The Role of the L1 in the Overgeneralization of
Causatives in L2 English and L2 Spanish' is an empirical study conducted
with 153 informants of different levels of proficiency which investigates
whether the L1 properties of lexical causatives are reflected in the
interlanguage of L1 English/L2 Spanish and L1 Spanish/L2 English adult
learners, as far as overgeneralization of causatives is concerned. Their
findings suggest that the L2 learners make use of different aspects of
their L1 knowledge at different levels of proficiency. They propose
that 'non advanced learners tend to focus on the L1 constructional
properties of causatives whereas advanced learners focus on L1 specific
lexical properties of verb class' (p45).

In 'The Inchoative Interpretation of the IMPERFECTO', Cipria focuses on
Spanish and highlights the fact that 'there is an important difference in
how the atelicity of the IMPERFECTO affects the aktionsart of its clause
in different environment' (p79). She concludes that such a process is only
justifiable for the special telic reading of the IMPERFECTO arising in
combination with temporal adverbials.

After reviewing the articulatory and acoustic characteristics of palatal
laterals and glides, Colantori accounts for the change in palatals in
Corrientes Spanish in 'Reinterpreting the CV Transition. Emergence of the
glides as an allophone of the palatal lateral'. She shows that there is a
glide in the CV coarticulation in Corrientes Spanish. She concludes that
the observed allophonic pattern is a consequence of both the presence of a
glide in the CV transition and a change in quality of the palatal lateral,
which mainly involves a more open articulation. Hence the increasing
similarity between the palatal lateral and the glide.

In 'Intervocalic Velar Nasals in Galician', Colina considers historical
and cross-linguistic facts as part of an Optimality Theory account in
order to offer additional support for the underlying nature of the velar
nasals in this Romance language of northwestern Spain. This Optimality
Theoretic analysis proposed for the Galician data also accounts for
diachronic and synchronic data in Portuguese and Gascon, thus 'shedding
light on the grammars of those languages' (p119).

In 'Null Objects in French and English', Cummins and Roberge wish to
sketch out the semantic and syntactic characteristics of three types of
null objects, and the role that pragmatic principles play in their
recovery. They claim that the existence of null objects is largely
determined by the Transitivity Requirement, whereby an object position is
always included in VP, independently of the lexical choice of the verb.

Déprez and Martineau's 'Micro-Parametric Variation and Negative Concord'
proposes to compare the properties of negative concord in Standard French
in relation to Quebec French and French-based Creole in order to better
analyse the factors that condition and limit observed micro-parametric
variations. They suggest that 'movement internal to the nominal structure
of N-words could account for the variations observed synchronically and
diachronically among the distinct dialects' (p156).

Eguren and Sánchez's 'Contrast and Addition in Romance' is a case study on
the expression of contrast and addition in French and Spanish,
respectively 'AUTRE' and 'OTRO'. They show that two major loci for
microvariation between Spanish and French -- and among Romance languages
more generally, in particular Italian, Portuguese and Catalan which they
also compare in the study -- can be found with respect to these lexical
items. Eguren and Sánchez show that OTRO in Spanish clearly belongs to the
determiner word class, whereas French AUTRE is an adjective but also
behaves like an additive degree operator.

In 'On the Structure of Syncretism in Romanian Conjugation', Feldstein
shows that both Stump (2001) and Bobaljik (2002) operate with
the 'inadequacy of' traditional textbook approach to present tense
syncretism of Romanian conjugation. This syncretism leads them to make
analytical errors whereby they do not distinguish phonologically
conditioned -- or variable syncretism -- from invariant syncretisms that
have nothing to do with particular phonological environment.

'Sluicing in Romanian' is a typological study where Hoyt and Teodorescu
discuss the similarities between Romanian, Japanese and English sluicing.
The study underlines the fact that the three languages have comparable
semantics, however Romanian and English sluicing has one general kind of
structure while 'that is disjoint with the structure of Japanese sluicing'

In 'Romance Intonation from a Comparative and Diachronic Perspective',
Hualde uses a comparative approach to reconstruct aspects of the evolution
of Romance patterns of intonation. He discusses features such as nuclear-
accent patterns in Romance languages which are different from English
ones. He acknowledges French as the most divergent Romance language in
intonational respects, and argues that modern Occitan could represent an
intermediate stage in the evolution of French as far as intonation is

Kempchinsky's 'Romance SE as an aspectual element' examines the morpheme
SE --French/Spanish/Portuguese SE, and Italian SI -- in two different
manifestations: a reflexive and an ergative or inchoative SE. She proposes
that SE is primarily an aspectual element and concludes that 'the specific
ways in which SE interacts with event structure will yield as a
consequence of the variety of syntactic constructions in which it is
found' (p240).

In 'Proto-Romance *[w] and the velar preterites', Lief shows that there is
no support for w > gw. He reformulates the original sound change (bw > gw)
and proposes a mechanism for its analogical extension throughout the Old
Occitan and Catalan past tense systems. To demonstrate the likelihood of
analogy with HAVE he examines Spanish and Portuguese perfects where the
influence of HAVE is unequivocal.

Lloret's 'The phonological role of paradigms' reviews the behaviour of the
inflected forms of insular Catalan with respect to vowel insertion and
concludes that Optimal Paradigms model better captures the fact that in
some languages nouns and verbs may differ phonologically in a way that is
somehow connected with differences in their paradigms. Her analysis
provides a novel type of evidence for the OP model, ie dialectal variation
due to the reranking of OP constraints.

Within the Optimality Theory framework, Martínez-Gil's 'A constraint-based
analysis of Galician GEADA' provides a formal account for the quasi-
complementary surface distribution of the velars [g] and [x] found in
the 'geada' dialects of Galician. He proposes underlying /x/ and derives
[g] after nasals within morphemes, thus crucially resorting 'to the local
conjunction of faithfulness and markedness constraints' (p299).

O'Rourke's 'Peak placement in Peruvian Spanish' offers an analysis of two
regional varieties of Spanish spoken in Peru with respect to the placement
of peaks. Lima speakers and some Cusco speakers are found to follow the
trait observed in other Spanish varieties of realizing prenuclear peaks on
the post-tonic syllable in open syllables within broad-focus declaratives.
However alternate intonation patterns occur in the speech of some Cusco
speakers which could be explained by the long-standing language contact
situation with Quechua.

In 'On intentional causation in Italian', Vecchiato focuses on the
existence of a tacit intentional predicate in Italian which accounts 'for
the ambiguity of sentences with QUASI, the ban on some particular causal
dynamics with causative FARE, and the interpretation of the predicate
proform LO, all phenomena for which the asymmetry between intentional and
unintentional causation' (p359) is a covert distinction unlike other

Vicente's 'Inversion, reconstruction, and structure of relative clauses'
argues in favour of a double-headed analysis of restrictive relative
clauses. Using a data set from Spanish and comparing with its English
counterpart, Vicente presents a theory that provides a 'means to derive
all kinds of relatives in a strikingly similar way' (p377).

In 'Infinitival complement constructions in Spanish', Yoon argues that
Construction Grammar better explains Spanish infinitival complement
constructions by accounting for semantic as well as syntactic aspects that
many formal approaches have attributed to the individual meanings of the


This volume is not for those without background knowledge in the fields
addressed. It contains very insightful articles on issues of the highest
interest to phoneticians, morphologists, syntacticians, and cognitive
linguists. They touch upon several Romance languages with a major emphasis
on Spanish.

The articles presented in this volume all reveal a high standard of
methodology and are for the most part well-structured. The majority are
very well supported by precise examples, and have a well-developed
research plan. Only one article does not have a proper conclusion, which
prevents the reader from having a real sense of achievement in this case.

I particularly liked the alphabetical arrangement of the articles in the
volume. It makes it much easier to keep interested. However I would have
liked to read on a wider range of Romance languages.

Most of the articles have been well proof-read; I found only one
substantive error -- on page 257, "radical" appears with the feminine
article "la". I appreciated the fact that the articles are provided with
acronyms in full, which makes their understanding much easier.

A major regret, though, is that since this volume is dedicated to Albert
Valdman, it would have been nice to have had more pedagogical aspects
discussed in the volume, and maybe more empirical studies.


Bobaljik, J. D. (2002) 'Syncretism Without Paradigms : Remarks on Williams
1981, 1994', Yearbook of Morphology 2001. In Geert Booij & Jaap van Marle,
eds., 53-85. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Pirelli, V. & M. Battista. (2000) 'The Paradigmatic Dimension of Stem
Allomorphy in Italian Verb Inflection', Rivista di Linguistica 12:307-380.

Stump, G. ed. (2001) Inflectional Morphology: A theory of paradigm
structure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Isabelle Lemée is an Assistant Professor at State University of New York
at Albany and currently teaches Spoken Language as well as Language
Teaching Methodology. Her research interests include Second Language
Acquisition, Sociolinguistics and Language Variation.