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Review of  The Order of Prepositional Phrases in the Structure of the Clause

Reviewer: Ahmad R. Lotfi
Book Title: The Order of Prepositional Phrases in the Structure of the Clause
Book Author: Walter Schweikert
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Subject Language(s): German
Issue Number: 17.646

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Date: Thu, 16 Feb 2006 11:15:07 -0800 (PST)
From: Ahmad R. Lotfi
Subject: The Order of Prepositional Phrases in the Structure of the

AUTHOR: Schweikert, Walter
TITLE: The Order of Prepositional Phrases in the Structure of the
SERIES: Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 83
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins Publishing Company
YEAR: 2005

Ahmad R. Lotfi, Azad University (Iran)


''The order of prepositional phrases in the structure of the clause'' is
Walter Schweikert's PhD thesis completed under the supervision of
Guglielmo Cinque at University Ca 'Foscari, Venice in 2004. The book
is concerned with the word orders of PPs in VO and OV languages in
general, and those in German and English in particular. It consists of
seven chapters including a short introductory chapter and a
conclusion (each with less than 3 pages).


Chapter 1 (Introduction) opens with the observation that prepositional
phrases as locative expressions (of cities and countries) and those as
temporal ones are differently ordered in different languages although
the order between locative expressions, i.e. LOC1=country +
LOC2=city, remains fixed in the languages under study here:

GERMAN TEMP=year + LOC1=country + LOC2=city
ENGLISH LOC1=country + LOC2=city + TEMP=year
ITALIAN LOC1=country + LOC2=city + TEMP=year

As the order between temporals and locatives seems to be fixed in
focus-neutral structures, such prepositional expressions cannot be
adjuncts given the assumption that adjunction is a free-order
operation. Since Italian and English are both VO languages while
German is OV, the author asks if the differences in PP ordering are
related to VO/OV order.

Chapter 2 (Arguments and Modifiers) is a selective review of the major
developments in the field of generative grammar over the past two
decades that the author finds relevant to his exploration of PP orders.
These include sentence constituents (Fillmore 1968, Chierchia 1995,
Kratzer 1995 Anderson 1971), representations in X-bar structure, the
Split-Infl hypothesis (Emonds 1978, Pollock 1989), the Minimalist
Program (Chomsky 1995-2001), antisymmetry (Kayne 1994, Koopman
2000), semantic interpretation of X-bar structure (Barbiers 1995), the
Mirror Principle (Baker 1985), and Cinque's universal hierarchy of
modifier types (1999).

Kayne's and Cinque's findings are of particular relevance to
Schweikert's work with PPs. Kayne (1994) establishes a relationship
between hierarchical syntactic structures and the linear ordering of
terminal nodes where asymmetric C-command regulates the
relationship (the Linear Correspondence Axiom). In contrast with
minimalist syntax where economy principles play a decisive role in
minimizing structural projections, ''the antisymmetric framework ends
up postulating more structure'' (p. 31). Given that adjunction is
incompatible with Kayne's model, and that adverb types are grouped
among themselves in a rigid order and in harmony with a universal
hierarchy of modifiers subject to parametric variation as Cinque
establishes, and also that PPs are primarily modifiers, the authors
want to see how far the structure of PPs can be extended within the
antisymmetric framework and in harmony with the Cinque hierarchy.

In Chapter 3 (The Order of PPs in German: Empirical Observations),
Schweikert reports his findings concerning the order of PPs in German
in contrast with those in English. The surface order of German PPs is
expected to be the reverse of those in English if OV/VO is relevant in
this respect. Three syntactic tests of Quantifier Scope (QS),
Information Focus (IF), and Pair-List Reading (PLS) were applied to
possible combinations of German PP types compatible with the tests.
With the results from these three tests, the hierarchy of German PP
types proves to be:

Evidential > Temporal > Locative > Comitative > Benefactive > Reason
> Source > Goal > Malefactive > Instrumental/Mean/Path > Matter >

Two native-speakers of English were asked to judge the
grammaticality of comparable word orders and scope ambiguities in
English. The results, according to Schweikert, confirm the hypothesis
that ''in unmarked English sentences, the PPs surface in inverted
order with respect to the German order'' (p.130).

Chapter 4 (Restrictions on Structure and Movement) and Chapter 5
(Affixes in Syntax) once more take us back to the history of generative
grammar where efforts have been made within GB and MP
frameworks to put restrictions on projections and the operations of the
transformational component, and to relate morphological and syntactic
orderings in different languages. Extended projections, such as VPs
DPs and PPs, are assumed to consist of three layers each: (from left
to right) the pragmatic layer (e.g. force, focus, and topic for verbal
extended projections, the modifier layer (e.g. adverbs, PPs, and
modals), and the predication layer (e.g. verb-arguments). Derivation
of direct/inverted order of prefixes and suffixes is explained in
reference to consecutive cyclic application of Move and Merge
operations in a bottom-up fashion.

Chapter 6 (Syntactic Analysis of the Surface Word Order of PPs)
resumes the discussion of order of PPs in OV/VO languages. A default
universal hierarchy of PPs is built into the structure of the clause
where all PPs merge in their basic order in both OV and VO
languages. The verb is base-generated below PPs and moves
overtly/covertly up. Languages are also parametrically distinguished in
this respect. For V may or may not pied pipe the passed PPs en route.
For each preposition, Schweikert proposes an extended projection
with a case projection KP in the lowest position slelected by P itself.
Also a landing position for the VP (LVP) is added to this. The VP is
attracted to the LVmax-1P with/without piedpiping the lower PP.
Though base-generated in direct order, English PPs end up in a
reversed surface order due to a reversed cyclic order as the relevant
elements merge and move. FOr German PPs, additional movements
of PPs across the moved V are assumed so that in the final run, verb
raising would be ''hidden''. Schweikert considers his derivational
analysis of these PP orders economic enough as ''only two types of
operations'' are used ''during the derivations: Merge of another
projection and movement of a complement (no head movement, no
specifier movement). The movements were driven by cyclic attractions
of similar elements: LPrepnP attracts LPrepn+1P, LVnP attracts
LVn+1P'' (p. 284).

The author agrees that he has assigned a very rich structure to
prepositional modifiers. But he adds that like lexical verbs, Ps must
have such a rich structure once a PP is given an extended projection
consisting of a lower argumental layer, a middle field for further
modifiers, and higher one for pragmatic elements. Prepositions must
now be viewed as predicates (p. 309). Schweikert is not even satisfied
with this, however. When analysing 'John read a book in Venice' on
page 310, he goes even further and claims that:

''it is not the preposition 'in' but the lower abstract head of the PrefP
(Prefix Phrase), which in this case could be called PLACE. We might
view this as a predicate with three arguments which states that there
is a locative relation between a DP and an event. The preposition 'in',
which specifies this local relation, is the third argument. We thus would
get: PLACE([ev John read a book], [PP in], [DP Venice])''.

Chapter 7 (Conclusion) brings the book to an end with some
questions left still open concerning (among other things) the possible
application of this morphological approach to other phenomena such
as template morphology, umlaut, and reduplication, how to derive
patterns of verb-auxiliary complexes in German and Dutch, and how
to account for adverbs and prepositions behaving differently in


My general impression is that Schweikert's obsession with hierarchical
structures (as conceived of in Kayne's antisymmetric model) sweeps
under the rug many indispensable questions concerning the order of
PPs. As a result, his analysis fails both in capturing cross-linguistic
facts of PP ordering in a principled way, and also in addressing some
significant issues raised in recent years concerning the adequacy of
theories in such terms as economy, perfectness, and elegance. All it
borrows from minimalist syntax is Chomsky's mechanism of feature-
checking in order to motivate too many cases of Merge and Move that
Schweikert introduces in his derivation of PPs via inflated structures of
his. His layered structure of PPs has got no independent empirical
motivation of any sort. It is just an arbitrary artefact to replace
the 'arbitrary' linear order of PPs with another equally arbitrary
hierarchical structure of PPs and LPs. The analysis fails to explain
why these specific projections are put into the language faculty to the
effect that such surface ordering finally emerges. The analysis is not
informative enough as it could equally 'explain' any other ordering that
had happened to surface instead. Schweikert's theory doesn't further
the explanatory adequacy of our grammar while it does lose the
original simplicity of our former x-bar representations of PPs: it
replaces (1a) below with (1b) with no significant empirical/theoretical

(1) a. PP
spec P'

b. PREPmax-1P
PREPmax-1 LVmax-1P
LVmax-1 LPrepmax-1P
LPrepmax-1 Pmax-1P
Pmax-1 Kmax-1P
DPmax-1 Kmax-1'
Kmax-1 PREPmaxP

Schweikert expects us to swallow all this just because PPs would
better have an extended structure like that of VPs (and DPs). But why
should they? Even if we are justified in assigning such rich structures
to verbs and nouns due to the existence of the relevant lexical
information (via GB's Projection Principle or something equivalent to it
in more uptodate versions of P&P), it is still too hard to do the same
with prepositions, which must be drastically simpler than N's and V's in
the argument structure (if any) they assign as predicates. Pragmatic
effects possibly associated with Ps are not even conceivable. And
Schweikert's attempt to raise the status of the abstract head of a
PrefP to a predicate with the locative, event, and P as its arguments
leads to absurdity. Such abstract heads are not even lexical items to
carry all this information along!

The book also suffers serious organisational limitations. Although the
author takes very little for granted, which makes each chapter
accessible enough (though a bit boring for more experienced
readers), the book fails to communicate with the reader as a coherent
whole. Chapters 4 and 5, for instance, logically precede Chapter 3,
which should be immediately followed by Chapter 6. I have a suspicion
that these two chapters have been displaced from somewhere else
with very little done to make them more comfortable where they stand

Schweikert's review of the literature is both limited in size and shallow
in quality. The list of references at the end of the book comprises only
3 pages, which is too short for a work of this size. From time to time,
his review makes the impression that works are mentioned there only
for the sake of completion. For instance, his review of Chomsky's
Probe-Goal Model on pages 44 and 45 is too shallow and brief while
the model is relevant enough to be treated more thoroughly. Some
definitions like those of binding principles on pp. 58-59 are taken from
introductory textbooks like Haegeman (1994) or Cook and Newson
(1996), which are not even intended for academic referencing at this

Finally, the book is in need of serious editorial changes as it is full of
typos, misspellings, ungrammatical (sometimes incomprehensible)
sentences, improper punctuation marks, and other stylistic mistakes.
There are too many of them, and they are too severe even for an
unpublished thesis, let alone for one published as a book in LA series.
For instance, references are repeatedly made to certain appendixes
of the book (e.g. on p. 2 or p. 240) while there are no appendixes at
the end of this publication at all. The introduction says there are 6
chapters in this book while there are actually 7. The title of Chapter 6
should read ''... surface ORDER of PPs'' rather than ''...surface WORD
ORDER of PPs'', I believe, as the author primarily deals with the order
in which different PP types are arranged inside the clause rather than
one among words themselves within a phrase. Finally, a stylistic note:
the Adjacency Principle is often violated, as in ''it C-commands locally
the preposition'' (p. 309), where the adverb ''locally'' intervenes
between the NP object and the transitive verb.


Anderson, J. 1971. The Grammar of Case: Towards a localistic
theory. Cambridge University Press.

Baker, M 1985. The mirror principle and morphosyntactic explanation.
Linguistic Inquiry 16(3): 373-415.

Barbiers, S. 1995. The Syntax of Interpretation. Holland Academic

Chierchia, G. 1995.individual-level predicates as inherent generics.
The Generic Book. University of Chicago Press.

Chomsky , N. 1995. The Minimalist Program. MIT Press.

Chomsky , N. 1998. Minimalist inquiries. MIT Occasional Papers in
Linguistics 15.

Chomsky , N. 1999. Derivation by phase. MIT Occasional Papers in
Linguistics 18.

Chomsky , N. 2001. Beyond explanatory adequacy. MIT Occasional
Papers in Linguistics 20.

Cinque, G. 1999. Adverbs and Functional Heads: A cross- linguistic
perspective. Oxford University Press.

Cook, V. and M. Newson. 1996. Chomsky's Universal Grammar: An
introduction. Blackwell Publishing.

Emonds, J. 1978. The verbal complex V'-V in French. Linguistic
Inquiry 9:151-175.

Fillmore, C. 1968. The case for case. Universals in Linguistic Theory.
Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Haegeman, L. 1994. Introduction to Government and Binding Theory,
2nd ed. Blackwell Publishing.

Kayne, R. 1994. The Antisymmetry of Syntax. MIT Press.

Koopman, H. 2000. The spec head configuration. The Syntax of
Specifiers and Heads. Routledge.

Kratzer, A. 1995. Stage-level and individual-level predicates. The
Generic Book. University of Chicago Press.

Pollock, J. 1989. Verb movement, universal grammar and the structure
of IP. Linguistic Inquiry 20:365-424.

Dr. Ahmad R. Lotfi, Assistant Professor of linguistics at the English
Department of Azad University at Khorasgan (Esfahan) where he
teaches linguistics to graduate students of TESOL. His research
interests include minimalist syntax, second language acquisition
studies in generative grammar, and Persian linguistics.