Editor for this issue: Megan Zdrojkowski <meganlinguistlist.org>
EDITORS: Fuss, Eric and Trips, Carola TITLE: Diachronic Clues to Synchronic Grammar SERIES: Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 72 PUBLISHER: John Benjamins YEAR: 2004 Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/15/15-3040.html Brady Clark, Department of Linguistics, Northwestern University. INTRODUCTION There is a long tradition in linguistics of diachronic explanations for synchronic phenomena (e.g. Paul 1880, Greenberg 1966 , Givon 1971, 1975, 1976, Bybee 1985, Garrett 1990, Aristar 1991, Alexiadou and Fanselow 2001, 2002, Keenan 2003, Kiparsky 2005). The papers in the collection under review apply this particular mode of explanation to synchronic morphosyntactic phenomena, utilizing the descriptive devices of formal syntactic theory. A consistent theme throughout the collection is the use of the notion of economy to explain particular cases of morphosyntactic change. Economy has played a major role in recent generative work on syntactic change, see Roberts and Roussou (2003) and van Gelderen (2004). I briefly address this notion in the critical evaluation below. On the whole, Fuss and Trips' collection makes novel empirical and theoretical contributions to the literature, and will be of interest to historical morphosyntacticians. It is important to highlight the fact that this volume is focused solely on historical morphosyntax, despite what its very general title suggests. Readers interested in diachronic explanations for synchronic phonological, semantic, or pragmatic phenomena should look elsewhere. Further, all of the papers are embedded in the Principles and Parameters tradition (Chomsky and Lasnik 1993). For recent historical morphosyntax work in the Lexical-Functional Grammar tradition see the superb collection edited by Butt and King (2001). In what follows, I give a description of each of the papers in the volume. Each description is immediately followed by a critical evaluation. DESCRIPTIVE AND CRITICAL EVALUATION Introduction (Eric Fuss and Carola Trips): In their introduction, Fuss and Trips give an overview of the generative approach to diachronic phenomena, focusing in particular on the work of Lightfoot (1979), Kroch (1989), and Roberts (1993). In this work, differences between historical stages of a single language are treated in terms of parametric differences. Syntactic change is described in terms of a change that affects that parameter values for a given language. Following this overview, Fuss and Trips discuss the apparent conflict between the gradualness of language change and the notion of parametric change. They argue that this conflict is resolved if the linguistic competence of speakers during periods of change involves command over more than one internalized grammar (Santorini 1989, Pintzuk 1999, Kroch 2001). Next, they survey work that argues that certain synchronic phenomena do not reflect principles of universal grammar, but rather are the result of either the way that syntactic change proceeds in general, or a specific syntactic change. For readers unfamiliar with recent generative work on diachronic syntax, Fuss and Trips' introduction is a good entry point to this literature and serves as decent background for the rest of the collection. However, Fuss and Trips obscure some important differences between the approaches they discuss. For example, as noted below, Kroch and Lightfoot propose very different models of syntactic change. Lightfoot (e.g. 1999) has argued that syntactic change occurs when the frequency of use of a given sentence type rises above some critical threshold, i.e. reanalysis is late. Kroch has argued against this view (e.g. 2001), providing evidence that suggests that reanalysis is early. Further, Fuss and Trips give rather short shrift to diachronic explanations for synchronic phenomena outside of the generative tradition. Their heavy focus on Principles and Parameters work overshadows the important contribution of non-generative work. For example, as Fuss and Trips note, there is a long tradition (e.g. Greenberg 1966 , Vennemann 1973, Givon (1971, 1975, 1976)) of diachronic explanations for word order correlations. It would have been helpful to discuss how recent diachronic explanations for syntactic change improve upon earlier work by non-generativists. On the development of possessive determiners: Consequences for DP structure (Artemis Alexiadou): Alexiadou argues that an examination of the diachronic development of possessive elements in English, German, and French provides insights into the structure of possessive DPs synchronically. Drawing upon Cardinaletti and Starke's work (Cardinaletti and Starke 1999, Cardinaletti 1998) work on possessive and personal pronouns, Alexiadou argues that weak adjectival possessives were the source of English clitic possessive determiners (as in "my book"). Further, Alexiadou claims that this shift is an example of the grammaticalization pathway strong > weak > clitic. The bulk of generative work on properties of pronoun systems has relied upon synchronic evidence. In contrast, Alexiadou utilizes diachronic data from English, German, and French to support Cardinaletti and Starke's inventory of pronoun types. For this reason, Alexiadou's paper should be read by both historical syntacticians and analysts interested in pronoun systems. The perspective of this paper is slightly different from the rest of the volume. Alexiadou's main aim is to support Cardinaletti and Starke's tripartite formal distinction between possessive pronouns (strong vs. weak vs. clitic) by using evidence from diachrony. This distinction is not taken to be a consequence of converging specific language changes (compare Givon's work on word order correlations cited above), nor is Alexiadou arguing that diachronic evidence should be used to alter formal analyses of possessive pronouns "that resist analysis in purely synchronic terms" (pg. 19). In contrast, most of the other papers in the volume attempt to explain particular synchronic phenomena in terms of specific cases of language change. Diachronic clues to pro-drop and complementizer agreement in Bavarian (Eric Fuss): The primary goal of Fuss's paper is to provide a diachronic explanation for the puzzling fact that pro-drop and complementizer agreement are limited to second person (and, for some varieties, first singular) contexts in Bavarian. Fuss argues that both syntactic and morphological factors enabled the reanalysis of certain subject clitics as verbal agreement. Inversion contexts with V-to-C movement facilitated the reanalysis of subject enclitics as agreement morphemes. This reanalysis is schematized in (1) (pg. 79): a clitic in the head of DP ("Dclit") is reanalyzed as an agreement morpheme ("AGR"). (1) [CP Topic [C' C+Vfin [TP [DP_i Dclit.] [T' t_i]]]] > [CP Topic [C' [C [C+Vfin] [AGR]] [TP pro_i [T' t_i]]]] However, syntax alone cannot explain why pro-drop and complementizer agreement are limited to second person (and first singular, in some varieties). Fuss provides evidence that suggests that this restriction was a consequence of blocking effects that prefer new verbal agreement morphology to be more specific than existing morphology. Fuss marshals a range of different types of diachronic evidence to explain a surprising synchronic constraint on Bavarian. Further, his mode of explanation is a neat display of how Distributed Morphology (Halle and Marantz 1993) might be utilized in diachronic explanations for synchronic phenomena. There are two aspects of Fuss' analysis that need further development. First, Fuss suggests that economy principles might explain the reanalysis in (1), as well as the restriction of pro-drop and complementizer agreement to second person and first singular (77-78, 85). For the reanalysis in (1), Fuss suggests that a preference for simpler structures may be at play (Clark and Roberts 1993). For the person/number restrictions, Fuss argues that language learners prefer more specific, more marked lexical entries over less marked ones, guaranteeing an optimal, non-redundant lexicon. Fuss ties these hypotheses to recent work in the generative tradition (e.g. Roberts and Roussou 2003) that assumes that these preferences should be explained in terms of domain-specific innate biases on language learners. Fuss does not explore alternative explanations for apparent economy effects that do not ascribe domain- specific innate biases to the learner. For example, the apparent preference for simpler structures could be a consequence of processing biases (see e.g. Hawkins (1994, 2004), Kirby 1999, Wasow 2002). Second, Fuss invokes several constraints on reanalysis. For example, consider the constraint in (2) (pg. 78): (2) Preservation of argument structure: The reanalysis of a pronoun as an agreement marker must preserve the predicate's argument structure. What is the status of this constraint? Is it a constraint on the language learner, i.e. an innate bias of the sort discussed above? If so, it is unclear where or how it applies. If the language learner has not yet learned a predicate's argument structure, how could the learner preserve it? If (2) is not a constraint on the language learner, what is it a constraint on? As such, constraints like (2) are descriptive observations about reanalysis that are in need of deeper explanation. Syntactic effects of inflectional morphology (Eric Haeberli): It has long been observed that there is a relationship between inflectional morphology and syntactic variation. For example, many researchers have attributed cross-linguistic positional variation in the finite verb to variation in the domain of agreement morphology (Roberts 1985, Pollock 1989, Rohrbacher 1994, among others). Haeberli focuses on two phenomena that have been claimed to be constrained by a relationship between morphology and syntax: the distribution of subjects and adjuncts in subject-verb inversion and the order of arguments. For the order of arguments, rich case marking on nominal constituents tends to go along with free word order. This correlation can be observed diachronically. Sapir (1921: 168) refers to "the drift toward abolition of most case distinctions and the correlative drift toward position as an all-important grammatical method." However, variable word order has been shown to occur independently of rich case morphology, e.g. in the history of English (Koopman 1994, Allen 1995). Haeberli proposes that correlations between syntactic variation and variation in inflectional morphology that appear problematic from a purely synchronic point of view can be explained if diachrony is taken into account. His proposal has two components. First, the relationship between morphology and syntactic phenomena is mediated by syntactic features. Second, apparent mismatches between morphology and syntactic phenomena are indicative of a transitional stage of the language in which morphology has been lost but syntactic features remain. Over time, the more "economical" grammar in which the syntactic feature is not maintained drives out the less "economical" grammar in which the syntactic feature is. Haeberli's paper is an interesting attempt to salvage the idea that there are systematic explanations for syntactic variation in terms of inflectional morphology, despite synchronic counterexamples. Like Kiparsky (1997), Haeberli suggests that mismatches between morphology and syntax can be explained by the mediation of another linguistic level. For Haeberli, this level involves syntactic features and the syntactic structures those features project. In order to explain the gradual loss of grammars that involve a mismatch between syntax and morphology, Haeberli, like Fuss, invokes the notion of economy: Children disprefer grammars for which syntactic structures contain elements that are not required by the morphology. Without this bias, Haeberli cannot explain why syntactic change usually follows the loss of morphology. As with Fuss' paper, Haeberli's (tentative) invocation of economy is a missed opportunity to explore explanations that do not invoke domain-specific innate biases. Instead, Haeberli simply stipulates a preference for simpler grammars in the language acquisition device. Language change versus grammar change: What diachronic data reveal about the distinction between core grammar and periphery (Roland Hinterholzl): Syntactic change proceeds in a gradual fashion. For example, the shift from OV to VO in early English involved intratextual and intertextual variability between these two orders at all stages of the change (Pintzuk 1999). Hinterholzl employs the distinction between core and periphery to explain gradual syntactic change. Specifically, Hinterholzl claims that base word order and unmarked word order must be distinguished. He argues that language change is caused by the rise of certain peripheral (stylistic) rules that are exploited by speakers for communicative purposes. Peripheral rules lead to a marked prosodic output, which, when crossing a certain frequency threshold in their use, are reinterpreted as rules of core grammar. There are a several problems with Hinterholzl's approach. Hinterholzl, like Lightfoot (1991, 1999), assumes that parametric change results when the frequency with which a certain sentence type is used rises above some critical threshold. As Kroch (2001: 702) points out in his review of Lightfoot's frequentistic approach, this type of account "depends on a fragile assumption; namely, on the existence of directionally consistent drifts in usage over long periods of time that are unconnected to grammar change." There is little evidence for such drifts. Further, marginal options can be passed on from generation to generation (Santorini 1989: 134). Hinterholzl fails to address either of these concerns in any detail. The bulk of Hinterholzl's paper is a critique of the competing grammars account, in which word order variation follows from the coexistence of competing grammars. According to Hinterholzl, the main problem with competing grammars accounts is that they cannot explain how language internal factors such as information structure requirements are integrated into the model. However, this is no more than an argument from ignorance given that Hinterholzl does not attempt to extend the competing grammars model. An interesting research project would be to extend the competing grammars model that Yang (2002) presents to account for the interactions Hinterholzl discusses. Lastly, Hinterholzl completely mischaracterizes earlier accounts (e.g. Pintzuk 1999) of the OV to VO shift in early English when he writes (pg. 139) that it is a central assumption of these approaches that "VO orders are an [Early Middle English] innovation that was brought about by language contact between Anglo-Saxons and the Scandinavian settlers in the 10th century". This is a misreading of the literature. First, Pintzuk (1999) (among others) discusses evidence that strongly suggests that VO orders were already present in Old English. Second, nobody takes it as uncontroversial that the OV to VO shift in early English was a consequence of language contact with Scandinavian. The EPP, fossilized movement and reanalysis (Andrew Simpson): Simpson discusses postverbal modal constructions in Thai, Taiwanese, and Cantonese. In these languages a single modal meaning 'to be able' appears in post-verbal position. This is unexpected since modal verbs otherwise occur in preverbal position in these languages. Simpson provides evidence that suggests that in Thai this construction is constrained by focus interpretation. In contrast, postverbal modal constructions in Taiwanese and Cantonese do not have a clear semantic or pragmatic motivation synchronically. Simpson argues that a purely formal syntactic mechanism, EPP features, licenses the postverbal modal construction in these languages after the semantic, pragmatic, and/or morphological trigger was lost. Simpson's paper is an important contribution to the historical morphosyntax literature on southeast Asian languages, and will be of interest to historical linguists working on those languages. Simpson succeeds nicely in drawing important consequences for syntactic theory, namely the idea that there are purely formal syntactic EPP features that drive movement. Unfortunately, Simpson does not address some of the recent work that has argued that there are no uninterpretable functional categories or features (Roberts and Roussou 1999, Roberts and Roussou 2003). Further, Simpson seems to assume that focus interacts directly with word order. This assumption is not uncontroversial. For example, Buring (2001) argues that focus interacts with prosodic phrasing, which in turn interacts with word order. Lastly, Simpson's analysis depends greatly on how focus is characterized. Unfortunately, Simpson does not engage the focus or information structure literature at all, apart from Zubizaretta (1998). Restructuring and the development of functional categories (Zoe Wu): Synchronically, the resultative verb construction in Chinese involves secondary verbal elements that signal the result or termination of the action denoted by the primary verbal element. This construction has the form schematized in (1) (pg. 192): (3) Subject V1 V2 (Object) Wu proposes that the historical development of this construction helps explain the morphosyntactic structure and interpretation of these verbal clusters synchronically. First, the source of the secondary verbal element in the resultative construction (V2 in (3)) was lexical elements that were reanalyzed as functional heads. Wu argues that the semantic interpretation of the resultative verb constructions highlights the telic property of V2 in (3). As a consequence, this property of V2 gained greater importance than V2's lexical content. Second, the resultative construction underwent a word order change: V1 NPobject V2 > V1 V2 NPobject. Wu argues that this word order change was a consequence of the interaction between a learning preference for uniform headedness and the frequent occurrence of the V1-V2 order. Wu's article will be of interest to both historical syntacticians and linguists interested in resultatives cross-linguistically. As with some of the other papers in the volume, economy is invoked as an explanation for word order change, but, unlike other papers in the volume, Wu proposes that the word order change described above is a consequence of the INTERACTION between a bias for uniform headedness and changes in the learning data. Kiparsky (1996) provides evidence that suggests that a similar type of interaction explains the shift from OV to VO in English. It would be particularly interesting to see if this word order change can be explained in terms of work (Hawkins (1994, 2004), Kirby 1999) that attempts to explain the preference for uniform directionality of heads in terms of parsing complexity, rather than a domain-specific innate bias. As noted above, a primary focus of Wu's article is the aspectual properties of the secondary verb in the Chinese resultative verb construction. Recent work on the resultative construction (in English and other languages) has also explored the semantics and pragmatics of this construction, including its aspectual properties (e.g. Levin and Rappaport Hovav 2004). Wu does not discuss this work, or much of the broader resultatives literature at all (e.g. Goldberg 1995, Jackendoff 1990). CONCLUSION As noted in the introduction, this is a fine collection. Historical morphosyntacticians will find much of interest in the volume, both in terms of novel empirical contributions and theoretical innovations. The collection would have been much stronger if the authors had attempted to show in detail why utilizing current formal descriptive tools takes us further than earlier accounts (e.g. Givon 1971, 1975, 1976) in explaining synchrony via diachrony. One theme runs through the book. Several of the papers (Fuss, Haeberli, Wu), invoke the notion of economy to explain change. A shared assumption in the collection seems to be that economy preferences are domain-specific innate biases on language learners (see also van Gelderen 2004). A crucial next step would be to address the growing literature that suggests that universal properties of language can be explained in terms of parsing biases (Hawkins (1994, 2004), Kirby 1999) or even general non-linguistic biases (Christiansen and Kirby 2003: 278-282). REFERENCES Alexiadou, Artemis and Gilbert Fanselow. 2001. Laws of diachrony as a source for syntactic generalisations: The case of V to I. Glow Newsletter. 46: 57-58. Alexiadou, Artemis and Gilbert Fanselow. 2002. On the correlation between morphology and syntax: The case of V-to-I. In J.-W. Zwart and W. Abraham (eds), Studies in Comparative Germanic Syntax (pp. 219-242). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Allen, Cynthia. 1995. 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Syntactic Change: A Minimalist Approach to Grammaticalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Rohrbacher, B. 1994. The Germanic languages and the full paradigm: A theory of V-to-I raising. Doctoral dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Santorini, Beatrice. 1989. The Generalization of the Verb Second Constraint in the History of Yiddish. Doctoral dissertation, University of Pennsylvania. Sapir, Edward. 1921. Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World. Wasow, Thomas. 2002. Postverbal Behavior. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications. Yang, Charles D. Knowledge and Learning in Natural Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Zubizaretta, Maria L.. 1998. Prosody, Focus, and Word Order. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ABOUT THE REVIEWER Brady Clark is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in linguistics at Northwestern University, where he is involved in several research projects in historical linguistics, semantics, and pragmatics. He received his BA in linguistics from the University of Washington in 1997 and his PhD in linguistics from Stanford University in 2004.