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Review of  Case, Referentiality and Phrase Structure

Reviewer: Nihan Ketrez
Book Title: Case, Referentiality and Phrase Structure
Book Author: Balkız Öztürk
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Language Acquisition
Subject Language(s): Chinese, Mandarin
Issue Number: 16.2897

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Date: Thu, 6 Oct 2005 18:11:02 -0400
From: Nihan Ketrez
Subject: Case, Referentiality and Phrase Structure

AUTHOR: Öztürk, Balkiz
TITLE: Case, Referentiality and Phrase Structure
SERIES: Linguistik Aktuell / Linguistics Today Volume 77
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins Publishing Company
YEAR: 2005

Nihan Ketrez, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Yale


The book analyzes the two conditions on argumenthood, namely case and
referentiality, and, based on data from Turkish, shows that they are
strongly related. It presents a new definition of (non-)configurationality
based on the availability of case-driven Agree in languages and proposes
that the parametric variations observed in the (non-) configurationality
across languages is closely correlated with the realization of case and
referentiality in various clause structures. The argument is based on an
analysis of Turkish clause structure but rich data are provided from
typologically different languages such as Chinese, Hungarian, English and
Japanese as well.

The book has four chapters. The first chapter introduces the topics with an
overview of the theoretical framework. The second and third chapters
present the analysis and the proposal and discuss the crosslinguistic data.
Each of them is followed by an appendix with further discussion of the
relevant issues. The fourth chapter concludes the discussion.


Chapter 1 (Introduction) is an overview of the theoretical framework of the
book with a particular focus on the two conditions for argumenthood, namely
visibility through case marking and theta-role assignment and
referentiality assignment by a functional category such as D. In the
literature these two properties of arguments are discussed as two different
conditions, assigned by different functional projections. The present study
proposes that these conditions are closely correlated and they need to be
associated with each other in such a way that they can be assigned under
the same domain. The argument is further extended to the issue of
(non-)configurationality. Configurationality is defined as the availability
of a case-driven Agree mechanism. Typological differences across languages
in terms of configurationality is proposed to be a consequence of the way
case and referentiality interact in languages. The chapter ends with an
overview of the following chapters.

Chapter 2 (Referentiality in Turkish) discusses how referentiality is
achieved in Turkish, a language without overt determiners. It argues that
there is no evidence for a DP projection in Turkish and case directly
interacts with referentiality. There are no morphological determiners in
Turkish. There is no definite article either. Definiteness is marked with
overt case morphology. "Bir" (a/one) and the demonstratives are discussed
as possible candidates for DP heads but they fail to provide any evidence
for a determiner status in the language. The possibility of an abstract D
is also discussed and eliminated. In the present analysis case is proposed
to be a referentiality marker and type shifter that turns predicates into
arguments in the absence of a DP projection. In other words, the functional
projection that assigns case, also assigns referentiality in Turkish.
Turkish contrasts with English-type languages in this sense, because in
such languages determiners are responsible for referentiality while TP and
vP mediate case assignment.

The second part of the chapter discusses preverbal bare nouns as evidence
to the proposal. In Turkish, in the absence of a DP projection, if an NP is
merged at a position where case assignment is possible, it is type-shifted
into an argument and assigned referentiality and case at the same time. If
it is merged at a position where case is not available, such as the
complement position of a lexical verb, the NP retains its predicate status
and forms a complex predicate with the verb. The chapter presents a
detailed discussion of the earlier accounts of bare objects in Turkish and
adopts the pseudo-incorporation account of Massam (2001) as the mechanism
that can account for complex predicate formation. A discussion of bare
objects that appear in light verb constructions and idioms are also
included in the discussion as further examples of complex predicates. The
chapter also presents examples of agent incorporation as well as theme
incorporations. The discussion in Chapter 3 is built upon the proposals in
this chapter.

Chapter 3 (Case, Referentiality and Non-configurationality) deals with the
possible functional categories in Turkish that are responsible for case and
referentiality assignment. The clause structure is divided into two major
domains: The functional domain, which is above VP and the lexical domain,
which is VP. Then a neo-Davidsonian Model is proposed for the arguments.
Through this model, NPs can be merged either at the functional domain, or
at the lexical domain. Both case and referentiality are assigned at the
functional domain. In this account, there is no case-driven Agree with the
heads of functional projections such as vP and TP. The chapter argues that
there is no vP layer in Turkish clause structure and TP does not assign
case either. Double objects constructions are discussed as evidence for
theta-role assignment in situ and absence of Agree relation with functional
projections such as vP or TP.

Turkish is compared with Hungarian and Japanese and contrasted with Chinese
and English in this respect and a crosslinguistic analysis of
configurationality is proposed to account for the difference between these
languages. Scrambling, null arguments, availability of pseudo-incorporation
are discussed in relation to non-configurationality. In Turkish, Japanese
and Hungarian, case and referentiality are assigned by the same functional
category within the domain of a single functional projection. In these
languages, NPs acquire their argument status in their theta-positions and
they do not need to check their case through an Agree relationship with vP
and TP. Under the present account and according to the configurationality
definition proposed, this results in a non-configurational phrase structure
because all arguments remain in their theta-positions, which are
hierarchically equal, i.e., they are in an equal distance to the verb. This
type of language has common properties with respect to
pseudo-incorporation, scrambling, argument-drop and the superiority effects.

In English-type languages on the other hand, case and referentiality are
assigned at different domains by different functional categories.
Referentiality is achieved within DP and the language needs a case-driven
Agree with vP and TP for case assignment. In languages like English, a
hierarchical structure is required therefore they are analyzed as
configurational languages. Chinese, which is discussed as a representative
of the third type of languages, exhibit hybrid properties in terms of
non-configurationality. In Chinese, NPs enter into the structure as
arguments. They only require a specification for the theta-roles, which are
assigned by light verbs. The NPs remain in their theta-positions due to the
absence of case morphology and V-to-T movement, scrambling is not allowed.
Chinese has a configurational structure similar to English, but arguments
remain in situ. It allows argument-drop and does not have superiority
effects unlike Turkish-like languages.

Chapter 4 (Conclusion) summarizes the main findings.


This is definitely one of the most extensive studies of Turkish clause
structure that has ever been published. While reading it one feels that all
the pieces of the puzzle that have been around for the last couple of
decades finally come together and form the big picture.

It is an interesting book to read and an important contribution to
linguistic theory in general. It looks at case and referentiality, which
has been central to the theory, with a new perspective and in great detail.
It proposes a new definition of configurationality based on case-driven
Agree. It presents a very detailed analysis of Turkish clause structure
together with a review of the earlier accounts of Turkish and it relates
the analysis of Turkish clause structure to typologically different
languages. Although its main focus is case, referentiality and
configurationality, it has important implications for the clause structure
in general, therefore it addresses a wide range of audience.

The book is written within the theoretical framework of the Minimalist
Program (Chomsky 1995) and assumes some theoretical background and
theory-specific jargon. However, it is written in a clear and accessible
language. Discussions may only be difficult to follow because of the
ambiguous use of some terminology. The term referentiality, for example, is
never defined. This makes the discussion difficult to follow especially in
the first chapter because the particular term is used in completely
different senses in the literature. Its use in Givon (1978), which is
adopted by Massam (2001), for example, is different from its use in Fodor
and Sag (1998). The discussion becomes even more confusing because an
accusative case example is given citing Enç (1991) (p. 1). However, Enc
(1991) discusses the accusative case in the context of specificity, not
referentiality in the sense of argumenthood of nominals and it has a
particular definition of specificity, based on partitivity, which does not
necessarily go along with the referentiality discussion of the accusative
case in the present work. Nor does it question the argument status of
non-case marked objects that have "bir". In Chapter 2, a number of works
are cited all together although they are not necessarily relevant to the
discussion of referentiality in the sense that is discussed in the present
work (p. 26). On the contrary, by analyzing the accusative case as a
type-shifter only and drawing a line between the two different types of
non-case marked objects, the present study is proposing a completely new
clause structure, which is crucially different from all the literature.

The use of the term "bare noun" is another such example of ambiguous use.
In some statements it refers to predicate nominals, which are not
arguments. In some others, it refers to an argument that is not overtly
case marked. On p. 24 for example, the statement "... bare nouns are
totally acceptable in any syntactic position in Turkish, and are
interpreted as arguments" sounds like it is contradicting one of the most
important points of the analysis.

The analysis is based on two important proposals. One of them is the
absence of DP projection in Turkish and the other one is the absence of vP
layer in the clause structure. Although a detailed discussion is presented
for both proposals, at the end of the discussions, the conclusion is based
on absence of evidence for these projections, rather than any evidence
against their existence. This is mostly because the well-known tests for vP
and DP cannot be applied to Turkish. Although it is shown in detail that
the clause architecture that is proposed works very well, we still need
further exploration of the basic assumptions on which this architecture is
built. Therefore, the book is an important contribution to the discussion
of case, referentiality and configurationality not only with the solutions
it provides to the problems, but also with the questions it raises and the
new grounds it opens for further research.

Finally, a minor comment (or correction) on one of the works cited that I
come across in other studies as well. The reference Taylan (1984) does not
exist. It is Erguvanli (1984).


Enç, M. (1991). Semantics of specificity. Linguistic Inquiry 22, 1-55.

Erguvanli, E. E. (1984). Function of word order in Turkish Grammar.
Berkeley: University of California Press.

Fodor, J. and I. Sag (1982). Referential and quantificational indefinites.
Linguistics and Philosophy 5, 355-398.

Givon, T. (1978). Definiteness and referentiality, in J. Greenberg (ed.)
Universals of Human Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 291-330.

Massam, D. (2001). Pseudo-incorporation in Niuean. Natural Language and
Linguistic Theory 19, 153-197.


Nihan Ketrez is a lector in Turkish at Yale University, Department of Near
Eastern Languages and Civilizations. She holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics
(University of Southern California, 2005). Her research interests include
Turkish morphology, syntax and child language acquisition.