Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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AUTHORS: Eric J. Reuland TITLE: Anaphora and Language Design SERIES TITLE: Linguistic Inquiry Monographs PUBLISHER: MIT Press YEAR: 2011
Darcy W.R. Sperlich, Department of Applied Linguistics and Language Studies, University of Auckland/ School of English, Manukau Institute of Technology
The main focus of the book is to abandon the Binding theory, and instead to derive the patterns observed from general principles of language.
The book is divided into 9 chapters, some more technical than others -- the summaries will reflect this.
Chapter 1 Reuland begins by setting out the goals of his work, first to discuss the principles around anaphoric resolution from a syntactic perspective; and second, to discuss why we have such principles, from their place in cognition to how they are generated from general cognitive principles, and their interactions with each other.
He covers the Binding theory, variations of binding found in different languages, and its problems; then moving onto a discussion of the Minimalist Program. Also discussed are various factors pertaining to anaphoric interpretation, and how to dispense with indices. Most importantly though, is that here Reuland establishes key points on which later discussion is based, such as A-binding, SE (simplex) versus SELF (complex) anaphors and the Feature Determinacy Thesis (how the morphosyntactic features of anaphora affect how they are bound).
Finally, he presents a preview of each chapter.
Chapter 2 The second chapter presents an in-depth discussion on the status of c-command in relation to A-binding. Importantly, the extension condition on Merge gives rise to c-command. He then discusses the thorny issue of an anaphor being unable to be locally bound, compared to a pronominal ('Every girl's father loves herself*/her'); working on the structural difference between adjuncts and specifier positions for pronominal binding, and showing how this explains the contrast seen with anaphors. (There is a minor typo here, just after (9) on p. 73 'the professor who liked…' should read 'the professor who failed…'.)
Chapter 3 Reuland sets the stage for the use of his theory, first defining what reflexivity is. Then he moves to the issues surrounding conditions A and B in languages such as Dutch, Frisian and English. He points out in condition A, where the syntactic parser has nothing to say about binding relations (e.g. in logophoric environments), reference would be taken over by other modules, such as discourse. He continues with a discussion of syntactic versus semantic predicates, the structure of SE and SELF anaphors; and then turns to syntactic chains, which involve phi-features and Case. The question is asked whether this is a stand-alone concept or as a result of general properties of the grammar, where it is then reformulated under probe-goal relations.
Chapter 4 Reuland begins by discussing encoding of anaphoric relations, which leads him to stipulate the Economy of encoding, below:
This hierarchy shows the different levels that variables can be bound at; most importantly though, if, say, 'B' could not be bound by 'A' at narrow syntax due to some fundamental, the system then could not try again at a higher level. Reuland then points out the possible rationales for this type of economy (listed on p. 127), discussing the costs of differing processing effects. He observes these economy principles in Brazilian Portuguese, as well as in Dutch. Finally, he raises an interesting point that if a variable violates a basic principle of the grammar, the process is cancelled and cannot be accessed higher up on the hierarchy -- ''rejection is final'' in his words.
Chapter 5 Here, Reuland aims to offer a relatively timeless explanation of anaphoric binding that will outlast changes in syntactic theory, that is, through introducing the concept of Chain formation between an anaphor and its antecedent. While this has taken on various forms throughout generative syntactic history, he sets the scene discussing underspecification of SE anaphors (in terms of phi-features), and then discusses how binding is index free, couched in terms of Merge, Agree and Deletion. He then looks at anaphoric versus logophoric use, and asks why logophoric interpretations are selected at times. Next, he discusses the syntactic model used and its underlying assumptions. It is here that Chains are introduced. Briefly, the anaphor and the antecedent enter a relation (being A-positions) due to phi underspecification (of the anaphor) which rules out 3rd-person pronouns (which have full phi-features). This then forms an A-Chain, which in turn must not violate the Principle of Recovery of Deletion. He also discusses how A-Chains compare with A-chains, which are actually quite similar. Hence, given the right conditions, if one object is a Chain and the other a chain, they can then form a CHAIN. Next, Reuland shows how covert V-T movement relates to chains, and then enters into a discussion on formal features (category, person, gender and number) to see how this might block chain formation. Through the number feature, Reuland notes that pronominals internally have N to D movement, but SE anaphors have no D, and are therefore able to enter a chain. He also touches upon possessive anaphors, discussing why some languages do not have them. After this, a discussion of logophoric interpretations takes place, showing how they arise from a CHAIN formation being blocked. One such case is the subjunctive -- he points out that CHAIN blocking follows from language specific encoding devices, such as the subjunctive. He then has a short discussion about SE anaphors as subjects (or not); and finally he discusses how elements agree to bind (via Agree and feature valuation), before concluding the chapter.
Chapter 6 Reuland, having explained how the syntax works, now turns to the reasons for licensing reflexivity. To start with condition B, he introduces the IDI (inability to distinguish between indistinguishables), which is a general principle of the computational system. In a nutshell, this is about how complex expressions with two arguments reduce to one, which leads to the expression being uninterpretable (unless, of course, it is a reflexive). Then, after reviewing some literature on reference licensing, he moves onto what lexical reflexivization entails, adopting the Theta System (TS). The TS is a theory which maps lexical items from the conceptual to the computational system; using this theory, Reuland looks closely at it when applied to valency reduction in lexical reflexivization, for example with verbs such as 'shave', which reduces its internal role to form a complex theta-role ('I shave' compared to 'He shaved me'). Reuland believes that such entries are specified in the lexicon in transitive and intransitive terms. Importantly, based on the TS literature, Reuland adopts the distinction between syntax and lexicon languages, which involves how theta-roles are manipulated in TS. Moreover, with a focus on lexical reflexivization (noting that Dutch and English are lexicon languages), he shows how Dutch verbs and anaphors interact with one another. Also briefly discussed are syntactic languages.
Moving on, Reuland considers how in some languages valency reduction leaves residue case, where for example in Dutch 'zich' is used to check it. He points out that with other languages, one must investigate closely the morpheme at hand to fully understand its role in syntax; he makes the point with Georgian, which has two different licensing strategies.
Finally, Reuland discusses SELF's role in protecting a variable, that instead of reducing the arguments, they are kept apart. This is then followed by a summary of what has been discussed in the chapter so far.
Subsequently, the discussion on Condition A starts (to be derived from general economy conditions), with a focus on English. Informally, SELF is semantically identical to an individual person, an individual's SELF. He then considers the logical form of SELF, showing SELF moving to V. This explains why for example SELF in picture NPs cannot move to V due to movement constraints; therefore, SELF maps onto its connected pronoun, resulting in intensification.
Next, Reuland discusses proxy readings of sentences such as 'Ringo undresses himself', in the wax museum context, adopting a semantic analysis. The next section deals with how extending a reflexive predicate enforces a reflexive interpretation. He then discusses and evaluates SELF movement in two possible ways from general principles of grammar, the first called the lexical-semantics approach. The other possibility is called the inalienable possession model, where SELF is analyzed as a body part. Other possible strategies are presented as well. Briefly, he considers whether 'anaphor' as a category is in fact a necessary category at all. Finally he discusses the effects of 'masking', that is languages appear to act differently on the surface which might require language specific explanations; here Reuland suggests that we search deeper for an underlying syntactic principle that is marked in some languages, but not in others.
There are two errors on p. 244, 'Fijian' has been written as 'Fiji' twice. This error has also made its way into the subject index.
Chapter 7 Reuland devotes this chapter to SELF movement and its consequences. He discusses the internal makeup of SELF, its licensing in a biclausal environment, then provides details of what a syntactic predicate might be to attract SELF. Reuland then looks at the question as to why first and second person pronominals cannot be bound in English, which is due to the IDI (and a structural quirk). He then moves the discussion to chain heads, involving SE and SELF anaphors, pointing out how they may or may not occur at the head of a chain. Finally moving to the English 'himself', he investigates why it cannot occur in finite positions and the non-occurrence of 'heself'.
Chapter 8 In this chapter, Reuland discusses Frisian local binding of pronouns compared to Dutch, and then discusses German 'sich', which is analysed to be a SELF anaphor. This interestingly comes from phonological evidence which is thought to reflect sich's syntactic makeup. Next, he discusses the licensing of pronouns/anaphors in prepositional phrases, showing the interaction between V and P in terms of Case. This is followed by an in-depth discussion of Scandinavian and German anaphora, detailing their distribution. Reuland covers the P&P generative literature on anaphora, noting their problems with capturing different binding domains. Investigating the issue, Reuland, while considering the structure of the complement and tense system in finite/nonfinite clauses, observes that SE binding across clauses is due to VO/OV symmetry between languages; due to syntactic configurations a SE anaphor is unable to move into the matrix clause in an OV language, whereas it is acceptable to do so in a VO language. He also observes SE long-distance binding in a direct object position. This is followed by discussion of Icelandic logophoricity, where Reuland argues for separate conditions regulating Icelandic 'sig' in infinitives vs. subjunctives, the former structural and the latter discourse. Finally, he briefly discusses instances of 'sig' being in a co-referential relationship, rather than a binding one.
Chapter 9 The final chapter includes a review of other recent minimalist work on binding, summarises the whole project, and presents the author's concluding thoughts on the topic.
This is a seminal work. From the preface of the book it appears that this has been many years in the making -- reflecting the author's deep knowledge and understanding of the topic.
His endeavour certainly is an ambitious one, namely to abandon the Binding theory and have anaphoric relations derived naturally from general principles of the computational system; and it appears that he has successfully argued the case. The Binding theory has always had a problem in trying to capture differing binding domains, while also trying to maintain complementary distribution between pronominals and anaphors. By reducing the binding theory to nothing, we are now much freer to discuss anaphoric relations -- albeit as Reuland constantly reminds us, a close investigation of each language is needed to fully appreciate how differing modules interact with each other to produce what we see on the surface.
Another outstanding feature of the book is in the way it has been written. As noted by Reuland himself, he took some very worthwhile advice in presenting to his work in a most accessible fashion; meaning, that instead of writing for the narrow circle of generative linguists, he has successfully presented his thesis in such a way that a non-generativist can easily pick up the book and start reading. While it still contains theory-intensive discussions, it is nevertheless easy to follow. Concepts are clearly explained and demonstrated in a variety of languages rather than just in English. Another worthwhile feature is that the author alerts the reader to parts which may already be known to them (e.g. theory background), hence time is saved.
While the book mainly covers European languages, it does occasionally make reference to others, to make the point that the analysis can be extended to other language groups as well. However, the elephant in the room appears to have escaped scrutiny, which of course is Chinese Mandarin. The main anaphor in contention here is the SE anaphor 'ziji', which has resisted syntactic analyses over the years. Mandarin only has overt person features, with no agreement, case or apparent clause type differences (e.g. finite versus non-finite), which causes problems when trying to apply a theory which uses these to good effect. That is not to say the analytical methods proposed by Reuland will not work for Mandarin, but it will be very interesting to see how this new perspective works for such languages with the Binding theory now being rejected.
All in all, I may add that this work is a game- and paradigm-changer in the field of anaphoric relations, hence is highly recommended to all interested scholars working in the field of anaphora, regardless of their theoretical background.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Darcy Sperlich is currently a teaching fellow in the Department of Applied
Language Studies and Linguistics at the University of Auckland, and also a
lecturer of ESOL in the School of English at the Manukau Institute of
Technology, in Auckland, New Zealand. He is a PhD candidate at the
Department of Applied Language Studies and Linguistics at the University of
Auckland, investigating anaphoric interpretation in Chinese Mandarin by
speakers of other languages, and whether or not this suggests an anaphoric
pragmatic/syntactic division of labour in the languages concerned. His
other research interests include Chinese comparative dialectology,
especially as related to syntax.