LINGUIST List 14.1078

Fri Apr 11 2003

Review: Syntax: Deh� (2002)

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  • Tully J Thibeau, Particle Verbs in English

    Message 1: Particle Verbs in English

    Date: Wed, 09 Apr 2003 19:11:40 +0000
    From: Tully J Thibeau <>
    Subject: Particle Verbs in English

    Deh�, Nicole (2002) Particle Verbs in English: Syntax, Information Structure and Intonation, John Benjamins Publishing Company, Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 59.

    Announced at

    Tully J. Thibeau, University of Montana - Missoula


    At issue is that construction in English involving a verb, a preposition functioning as a particle, and a direct object (i.e., a transitive particle verb, or PV). A PV's distinguishing feature is its potential to alternate the linear order of a particle and object: The particle immediately follows a verb or an object when the object is a fully-fledged Determiner Phrase (DP), but, if the object is a personal pronoun, then the particle must follow the pronominal, unless the pronominal receives contrastive focus. As just intimated, an important point is the property Focus, part of a clause's Information Structure (IS) that is unpredictable and not presumable, ''typically new information [that] cannot be taken for granted'' (p. 105). The book's most central point is related to Focus, addressing effects of IS on a uniform underlying syntactic structure for PVs: a Focus feature enters the derivation according to the minimalist framework, but not by projecting a phrasal structure (it is not a formal feature) but by being assigned to one phrasal projection (three Focus domains, minimal, non-minimal, and maximal, match three projections, direct object DP, verb phrase, or VP, and Subject-Agreement Phrase, or AgrSP, respectively). Each chapter pertains to this central point (one basic phrase structure for alternate derivations that are not optional but derived from Focus), concluded to be a structure with continuous order (verb-particle-object) after consideration and rejection of other PV analyses recommending basic structures for continuous and discontinuous verb and particle. Finally, an added point of discussion posits that this uniform syntactic structure underlies all classifications of English PVs.


    The first chapter takes up PV classes. A helpful introduction informs us that PVs characterize Germanic languages, that they attract attention of linguists in varying specializations, and that subsequent chapters address alternations between continuous and discontinuous verb and particle. Then, Deh� presents three standard PV categories (compositional, idiomatic and aspectual), a system of classification exemplified in Emonds 1985 and Jackendoff 2002: The first class, compositional PVs, derive meaning from literal interpretations of verb and particle, as in 'throw out.' Contrarily, idiomatic PVs derive no meaning from interpreting verb or particle literally, as in 'turn down' (reject). Aspectual PVs involve particles that function telically as described in Brinton 1985, that is, by furnishing verbs with an endpoint, resembling notions that have been referred to as delimitedness (Tenny:1994) or boundedness (Jackendoff:1990). The system is intuitively appealing, but does not capture telicity effects often present in all three types. This three-way classification is contrasted it with Ishikawa 1999, categorizing classes via interpretation of particle and verb and PV's selection of arguments, producing three different categories that would reclassify members in the former system. The former system is favored for its affinity with empirical data reported later). A two-way system, such as Aarts 1989 or Wurmbrand 1998 (where each class entails unlike syntactic structures), receives brief mention (but detailed in Chapter Two) and immediate rejection because PVs behave alike in syntactic environments like nominalization. The introduction prepares one for the ensuing chapters by providing sufficient background for following the course of development.

    The second chapter systematically reviews literature on generative analyses. Deh� lists five types: traditional, small clause (SC), extended VP (EVPA), functional category, and other. Traditional types receive brief attention and are set aside for their incongruity with the minimalist operation Merge, a strictly binary branching structure- building procedure. Because they view PV as a complex head in continuous order and derive discontinuous order via head plus two complements with ternary branches, traditional analyses suit Deh�'s content and purpose poorly. Yet, such analyses require our attention for their account of modification of discontinuous particles by 'right,' a basis for the SC analysis, too. However, such modification is used against this analysis: Directing criticism at Kayne 1985, popularizing SC analyses, Deh� argues that 'right' modification, nominalization, and operations like wh-extraction from DP do not distinguish them as the only correct one since such evidence also agrees with EVPA. Technical points (adjunction, for one) are considered problematic, and rightly so, for this and other SC analyses, like Den Dikken 1995, Gueron 1990, Hoekstra 1988, and Svenonius 1996, but it is rejected primarily because PVs do not simulate SCs (We found him foolish/ We found that he was foolish v. I put the clown down/*I put that the clown was down). Rejecting SC analyses on grounds that PV patterns unlike SC seems inadequate: Some constructions construed as SCs avoid the pattern noted by Deh� (I made him an associate /*I made that he is an associate).

    The favored EVPA follows Larson's 1988 VP-shell where functional projections dominate VP, forming sites for displaced VP-internal elements. The support in its favor does not so much involve different evidence used in SC analyses but interprets it as displaying a restricted use of SC's discontinuous order in syntactic environments, mainly coordination. In coordinate structures (turn the radio off and the TV on), we see in EVPA's displaced constituents that well- formedness need not refer to underlying discontinuous order. Yet EVPAs explain coordination using either word order as basic, depending on how constituents move, and are never clear about what motivates movements setting apart basic and derived order. Thus, EVPAs in Harley and Noyer 1998 or Nicol 2002 seem inadequate. Johnson's 1991 propose object- raising serves as impetus for the EVPA most favorably received in Chapter 2 and developed in Chapter 5 (analyzing data collected Chapter 3 and 4): Koizumi 1993 exemplifies the approach well but suffers from defects in the other EVPAs, namely no motive for necessitating derived order.

    The principal defect in this chapter is its rationale for rejecting SC analyses, which conform with the data equally as well as EVPAs, in spite of the empirical data inclined to the latter. Regardless, the last two analytical types, not as prevalent as the previous two, are determined to be insufficient: Functional category analyses in Deh� 2000 and Sol� 1996 conceive particles as functional heads raised to a Telicity head, but not all particles function to telicize, so it is rejected; other analyses involve Aarts 1989 and Wurmbrand 2000, proposing two basic PV structures, one that can coordinate and one that cannot, rejected due to complications of ternary branching and secondary predication ascribed to some particles, but the ultimate reason must be that they are contrary to a uniform PV phrasal structure.

    The third chapter ascertains a neutral order for all PV classes. Factors believed to govern alternating order reduce to one, IS. Svenonius 1996 refers to phrasal heaviness as conditioning clause-final DP, but, for Deh�, heaviness may be only a processing constraint or reflect that modifications making DP heavy also augment its news value (NV), a matter of IS. NV's role is examined in Erades 1961, where DPs bearing NV appear clause-final (continuous PV) but DPs bearing none follow verbs (discontinuous PV). Erades adds that, in the latter position, particles function as predicates and, in the former, as adverbs, a point not raised here, one that resounds an SC analysis. Deh�, following Olsen 2000, views clause-final particle more as an adverb in compositional PVs, and empirical data reported here seem to bear that point out. Before presenting the data, two other sources supporting continuous order should be noted: First, degree modifier 'right' suggests that clause-final particles behave as adverbial prepositions allowing such modification, and nominalized PVs require continuous order, implying a restricted clause-final particle; second, processing constraints, like Hawkins' 1994 Early Immediate Constituent (EIC) Principle (read: locate complex constituent toward clause-final position) entail continuity, so deducing basic discontinuity on the premise that it could not exist if it were not basic (as Hawkins does) is counterintuitive, and presuming IS as the condition for alternate order respects EIC by defining complexity as NV.

    A problem with Deh�'s analysis emerges in consideration of pronouns, assumed to be coreferential, causing discontinuous order, but the indefinite pronoun 'one' appears in both orders (Diesing & Jelinek:1994). This assumption that PV objects need be definite pervades experimental findings reported here. Subjects were presented six permutations of verb, particle and definite DP and asked to arrange them in a grammatical order; they preferred continuous over discontinuous order. This is not surprising, given that no context surrounds any array, rendering DPs as NV constituents. Yet, among items, subjects showed preference for discontinuous order in compositional PVs over idiomatic and aspectual PVs, intimating that the classification has validity and that particles in compositional PVs pattern with prepositional adverbs.

    The fourth chapter discerns a motive for choosing one order over the other. Since IS is deemed the most central factor by reducing others to it, content is directed at surveying IS, examining its interaction with intonation, and reporting data that advance the previous chapters' claims. A survey begins the discussion, clearly addressing ideas such as Theme/Rheme, Given/New, and Topic/Comment, constructs believed to organize clauses with respect to their contexts. Adopting a Focus- Background Structure (FBS) as illustrated in Steedman 2000, Deh� establishes concatenations of IS and a tonal template that will place pitch accent on focused material. A relation exists between Focus and NV, recognized as early as 1909 by Behagel, who noted interaction of NV and complexity. Krifka 1998 lends the analysis vital support insomuch that it proposes all VP-internal constituents raise except for focused ones, responsible for scrambling (alternating PV order is not scrambling, though). IS's role in scrambling is elaborated in Steube 2000, where checking formal features is completely VP-internal and raising from it is motivated by semantic feature Focus: New information receives +F marking and remains in situ and is realized in clause-final position, recognized in Krifka 1998.

    This useful survey precedes an intricate one on intonation, concentrating on pitch accent. This survey concerns matching up the concept of focus domain from the prior survey with the concept of intonational phrase, a structure mapped onto the surface of a syntactic derivation, providing phrases and clauses with tonal contour and pitch prominence. The section is very dense, demanding close attention, justifiably since it is devoted to the interface that links phonetic performance with a formal object, unclearly culminating in a Sentence Accent Assignment Rule (SAAR) from Gussenhoven 1984, stating that arguments of a predicate located in the focus domain receive accent. Deh� conducts two experiments demonstrating clause-final PV constituents receive pitch accent and extended syllable duration when the context suits the NV of object DP (the design involves only definite DPs, matching either NV context, continuous order, or no NV context, discontinuous order). One may desire to know possible results of nondefinite DPs in unmatched contexts and wonder why a neutral order exists but normal stress or context must not.

    The fifth chapter revises Deh� 2000, where alternating order involve objects marked +F raising out of VP, deriving the discontinuous from the continuous. The crucial difference in the revision is that object raising is understood to be overt, so PV alternations arise from stranding particles in VP to meet a Condition on Focus Domains, based on SAAR. Fundamental to this analysis is overt object raising posited in Koizumi 1993, elaborated in Lasnik 1999. Koizumi's was a favored analysis in Chapter 2, where PV as complex head excorporated verb and particle while object stood between, but it did not specify why excorporation ensued. However, Deh�'s revised analysis provides a clearer motivation for this operation, namely it is costly but necessary (and hence not optional) for meeting the condition stating that a particle binds its +F feature when it does not match F-features for PV objects (Condition on Focus Domain). Thus, DPs with no NV (entailing pronouns) are marked -F, causing a mismatch in the focus domain of VP and thus motivating PV excorporation, the motive for non- optional discontinuous order.

    Grounds for assuming a complex VP head are central to the analysis. If particles bind +F features and receive pitch accent, then why do simplex VP heads with contrastive focus raising from VP retain accent if nothing binds +F?

    Relying on Keyser and Roeper's 1992 Abstract Clitic Hypothesis (ACH), Deh� proposes an unrealized affix binds +F in simplex verb cases, but this affix is phonetically realized in a PV. This portion of the analysis hinges on Ishikawa's 1999 view of verb heads (V) as having two domains, a lower domain where only morphological rules apply to V (tense affix) and an upper domain where morphological and syntactic operations (excorporation) apply to V. The account explains facts about prefixation (re-), suffixation (-ed) and excorporation, centralized on abstract clitic affix (particles excorporate, affixes cannot, and verbs are tensed instead of particles). If particles obey ACH, and clitics are functional categories, then the revised analysis (other than its non-optional alternating orders) is not radiacally different from Deh� 2000 (particle as functional category) and approaches an analysis where a particle is a functional SC head, raising to a functional category VP-sister (Thibeau:1999), deriving a continuous order. The simple advantage of the revised analysis is that it avoids SC discontinuity, putatively proved lacking in Chapter 2 and complicated by the data reported earlier.

    In a section that thoroughly tests the structure analyzed in Chapter 5, Deh� qualifies the completeness of her analysis by saying it has concentrated on full DPs only. But in fact it has concentrated on definite full DPs only. One might expect some elaboration on potential findings for quantified DPs in PVs, which have been exhibited to influence acquisition (Van Hout:1997), but the concluding Chapter 6 entertains other implications, like relating PVs to dative shift verbs and applying the proposed English PV structure to PVs in other Germanic languages (constructive avenues for future research).

    Deh�'s book is a welcome addition to the recently growing literature on PVs, including variety of data yet balanced with precise theoretical examination, splendidly organized for easy reading and altogether a worthwhile endeavor for all interested in a discussion on interfaces between language systems, especially for linguists specializing in PV and related constructions found in English and across languages.


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    Behagel, O. (1909) Beziehungen zwischen Umfang und Reihenfolge von Satzgliedern. Indogermanische Forschungen, 25, 110-142.

    Brinton, L. (1985) Verb Particles in English: Aspect or Aktionsart? Studia Linguistica, 39, 157-168.

    Deh�, N. (2000) English particle verbs: Particles as functional categories. In H. Janssen (Ed.), Verbal Projections (pp. 105-121). T�bingen: Max Niemeyer.

    Diesing, M., and E. Jelinek (1994) Distributing Arguments. Natural Language Semantics, 3(1), 1-47.

    Dikken, M. den (1995) Partilces: On the Syntax of Verb-Particle, Triadic, and Causative Constructions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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    Gu�ron, J. (1990) Particles, prepositions, and verbs. In J. Mascar� & M. Nespor (Eds.), Grammar in Progress: Glow Essays for Henk van Riemsdijk (pp. 209-239). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

    Gussenhoven, C. (1999) On the Limits of Focus Projection in English. In P. Bosch & R. van der Sandt (Eds.), Focus: Linguistic, Cognitive, and Computational Perspectives (pp. 43-55). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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    Jackendoff, R. (2002). English Particle Constructions, the Lexicon, and the Autonomy of Syntax. In N. Deh�, R. Jackendoff, A. McIntyre, & S. Urban (Eds.), Verb-Particle Explorations (pp. 67-94). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

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    Tully J. Thibeau divides his interest in verb-preposition combinations between generative models accounting for constructions such as the PV and empirical research on the development of verb and preposition collocations in adult English language learners. His most current career goals include firmly establishing a research program in studying second language knowledge of the English PV in particular, with a specific objective of following trends in pedagogical grammar that direct a learner's attentional resources at problematic forms (like the English PV) to help natural internalization of the principles governing their systematicity via classroom instruction.