LINGUIST List 23.1886

Sun Apr 15 2012

Review: Syntax: Sato (2010)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 15-Apr-2012
From: Eugenia Romanova <>
Subject: Minimalist Interfaces
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AUTHOR: Yosuke SatoTITLE: Minimalist InterfacesSUBTITLE: Evidence from Indonesian and JavaneseSERIES TITLE: Linguistik Aktuell/ Linguistics Today 155PUBLISHER: John Benjamins PublishingYEAR: 2010

Eugenia Romanova, Department of Linguistics, Institute of InternationalRelations, Yekaterinburg, Russia

SUMMARYThe book is devoted to a set of different syntactic problems, with two commondenominators, the languages under scrutiny and the theoretical framework. Itconsists of six chapters. In chapter 1 the theoretical framework, the MinimalistProgram, is presented and justified. The main question to be answered is theinteraction of the i(nternal)-language with such external systems as the sensorymechanism and the conceptual module, that is, their interfaces with syntax. Atthe very start the author makes a statement that there is no Lexicon in itstraditional sense, a point supported in subsequent chapters with data fromIndonesian and Javanese.

In chapter 2 (Reduplication asymmetries at the syntax-lexicon interface) theauthor presents a corpus study of reduplication patterns for certain verbal andnominal affixes in Indonesian and Javanese. Some affixes (like the verbal prefixber-) allow only stem reduplication:

(1) belit 'twist' > [ber[belit-belit]] 'meander'/ *[[ber-belit]-[ber-belit]] (p.18, ex. 6-a and 7-a)

However others (the nominal suffix -an) vary with respect to this ability:

(2) a. sayur 'vegetable' > [[sayur-sayur]-an]] 'many types of vegetables'/*[[sayur-an]-[sayur-an]]b. pikir 'think' > [[pikir-an]-[pikir-an]] 'thoughts'/ *[[pikir-pikir]-an]] (p.19, ex. 8a and 9a)

It looks like affix-stem reduplication is only possible when the stem isnominal. Searching for the explanation of this asymmetry the author undertakes abrief overview of lexicalist and non-lexicalist theories. Most lexicalistapproaches cannot offer any explanation for this phenomenon (except di Sciulloand Williams 1997): the pre-syntactic process of affixation cannot happen afterthe syntactic process of reduplication. So Sato appeals to non-lexicalistDistributed Morphology (Halle and Marantz 1993). Applying Distributed Morphologyto reduplication asymmetries in Indonesian, he concludes that with verbs RED(reduplication) is an aspectual head (which rightly reflects the change in theinterpretation of the verb with the reduplicated stem) merged with theacategorial root belit ((18) on p. 31). AspP (Aspect Phrase) itself is thecomplement of the verbalizing projection (vP), hosting the verbalizing prefixber-. In nominal derivations RED is the NUM(ber) head, which does not merge withthe acategorial root. In case of a plural noun ('many types of vegetables') REDmerges with the nominalizing zero morpheme immediately dominating theacategorial root. The suffix -an is then some functional head (F) dominating NumP:

(3) [FP [F -an ][NumP [Num RED] [nP [n ∅] [√ sayur]]]] (p. 33)

In nominalizations of a verb (for example, 'thoughts'), RED dominates twoprojections: the empty verbalizing morpheme above an acategorial root and thenominalizing suffix -an above the verbalizing projection vP:

(4) [NumP [Num RED][nP [nP -an][vP [v ∅][√ pikir]]]] (p.33)

Thus, the phonetic form of (3) and (4) corresponds to the desired result andexpresses the order of syntactic and morphological processes taking place inreduplicated verbs and nouns in Indonesian.

Chapter 3 (Successive cyclicity at the syntax-morphology interface) continuesthe study of the syntax-morphology interface. The linguistic subject matter isthe behavior of the active voice (AV) morpheme. It looks like the active voicemorpheme (the prefix meN-) in Standard Indonesian is deleted under certainlocality configurations: wh-movement and relativization ((3) and (4) on pp. 40-41):

(5)Siapa-i yang Bill (*mem)-beritahu ibu-nya [CP yang t-i *(men)-cintai Fatimah]?who that Bill AV-tell mother-his that AV-love Fatimah'Who does Bill tell his mother that loves Fatimah?'

MeN-deletion takes place also under A-movement ((5) on p. 41):

(6)Ali-i saya (*men)-cubit t-i.Ali I AV-pinch'Ali was pinched by me.'

Later it turns out that it does not matter what type of movement occurs; themain requirement for meN-deletion is that the verb carrying this prefix becrossed by the moved NP (noun phrase) ((7) on p. 42). Kendal Javanesedemonstrates the same behavior of the active voice morpheme.

According to the author's explanation, the moved NP undergoesD(eterminer)-feature checking with the v head with subsequent erasure ofuninterpretatble D-feature on v. When the feature bundle on the phase head isnot complete (D-feature is lacking), the prefix meN- cannot be inserted.Instead, the zero variant is inserted in compliance with the vocabularyspecification below:

(7)i. meN- <-- --> [v_______ [+D]] (specific case)ii. ∅meN- <-- --> [v________[…]] (elsewhere case) (p. 48)

The proposed analysis captures the category sensitivity of the AV deletion,which does not happen when non-nominal phrases move across the verb. The latterwill naturally have no D feature to be checked against v. The prediction thatany NPs will trigger the checking operation is also borne out: indeed, it is notonly direct objects that trigger the deletion of meN-, but also nominals havingother grammatical functions ((18)-(19) on p. 50).

In addition, since little v of unaccusative verbs does not constitute a phasehead, the deletion of the prefix carried by them does not take place ((23), p.52; (24), p. 53):

(8)Tarif listrik me-nurun.price electricity AV-fall'The electricity price is falling.'

(9) [TP [NP tarif listrik] [vP [v meN-] [VP [V turun] tNP]]]]

At the end of the chapter the author outlines the alternative analyses of the AVdeletion (Case-Agreement analysis (Cole et al. 2008) and antipassive analysis(Aldridge 2008)) in order to reject them in favor of his own.

Chapter 4 treats the syntax-phonology interface, specificallypreposition-stranding under sluicing. Indonesian and Javanese seem to overtlyviolate Merchant's 2001 Preposition-Stranding Generalization (PSG):

(10) A language L will allow preposition stranding under sluicing iff L allowspreposition stranding under regular wh-movement. (p. 65)

On the basis of Merchant's theory the author predicts that no languages disallowpreposition-stranding under regular wh-movement but allow it under sluicing, andgives mysterious data from Indonesian ((5a, c), p. 66):

(11)*Siapa yang kamu berdansa dengan?who that you dance with'Who did you dance with?'

(12)Saya ingat Ali berdansa dengan seseorang, tapi saya tidak tahu (dengan) siapa.I remember Ali dance with someone but I NEG know with who'I remember Ali danced with someone, but I don't know with whom.'

To see why this apparent violation of PSG arises, the author follows Merchant's2001 analysis of sluicing. There might be two derivations for the Englishsluicing construction: genuine sluicing (when wh-movement is followed byTP(Tense Phrase)-deletion, (14) below) and pseudosluicing (with the cleftsource, where the copula and the subject are deleted, (15) below) ((8 a, b), p. 67):

(13) Ben danced with someone, but I don't remember who.(14) Ben danced with someone, but I don't remember [CP who-i [TP Ben danced with t-i]].(15) Ben danced with someone, but I don't remember [CP who-i [TP it was t-i]].

Using some of Merchant's ten diagnostics for genuine sluicing the authordemonstrates that the source of a sluicing structure in Indonesian is not acleft and thus pseudosluicing cannot be used as an explanation for the violationof PSG. He goes on to test whether the optionality of a preposition undersluicing can be connected with resumption or P(reposition)-drop. These twooperations are considered to take place in Mandarin Chinese and Serbo-Croatian,respectively, which superficially exhibit the same P-stranding profile asIndonesian. However Indonesian does not use the presumptive pronoun strategy.Neither does it have preposition-drop at phonetic form, according to availableevidence.

Thus the author proposes the analysis related to the repair by ellipsis (Ross1969). In Ross's work repair by ellipsis (namely, sluicing) was used to savesentences from island violations ((41)-(42), p. 82). What is repaired in theIndonesian case is a failure of the [+wh] feature to percolate at thepreposition phrase level. Individual prepositions can optionally or obligatorilypercolate [+wh] feature. If this operation is obligatory, prepositions cannotstrand in interrogative sentences, but are strandable under sluicing. This caneven happen in English (pp. 81, 85):

(16) Under what circumstances will we use force? (p. 81, ex 39a)(17) *What circumstances will we use force under? (p. 81, ex 39b)(18) We are willing to use force under certain circumstances, but we will notsay in advance which ones. (p. 85, ex. 49b)

The chapter closes by the extensive comparative study of preposition strandingunder sluicing in German and French.

Chapter 5 (The structure and denotation of bare nominals at the syntax-semanticsinterface) introduces Chierchia's (1998 a,b) Nominal Mapping Parameter. Then theauthor demonstrates that Indonesian does not fit into any of the three typespredicted along the Parameter. The three types roughy correspond to 1) Chineseand Japanese ([+arg(ument), -pred(icate)]), which allow bare nominal arguments,have no plural morphology, and have classifiers; 2) Italian and French ([-arg,+pred]), which do not allow bare nominal arguments and always requiredeterminers next to nominals; and 3) English and Russian ([+arg, +pred]) withthe mixed behavior of nouns: mass and bare plurals are mapped onto kinds,singular count nouns are mapped onto properties. Following (Chung 2000) theauthor claims that in Indonesian bare nominal arguments occur freely like in[+arg, +pred] languages, but bare nouns have a singular-plural contrast like in[-arg, +pred] languages.

The author proposes an alternative to Chierchia's semantic parameter, asyntactic parameter based on the size of the nominal phrase. The universalnominal hierarchy looks like this (p. 113):

(19) [DP [QP [ClP [NumP [N]]]]],

where DP is Determiner Phrase, QP is Quantifier Phrase, ClP is Classifier Phraseand N stands for Noun. Indonesian and Javanese have very small nominals: they''grow'' just to the size of NumP. Definite bare nouns in Mandarin and Cantoneseare ClP, bare plurals and mass nouns in English and Japanese are QP and definitecount nouns in Italian and English are DP. NumP can have two sets of values:{singular, plural} and {neutral, plural}. Languages like English and Italianalternate between the first and the second set of values, whereas languages likeJapanese, Indonesian and Javanese select only the latter. Thus, in English thegrammatical distinction between mass and count nouns does not always follow fromtheir conceptual structures: oats is a plural noun, whereas wheat is not.Detailed analysis follows of nominal structure for each language in thecrosslinguistic survey.

Chapter 6 concludes, in which the author speculates about minimalist interfaces,the notion of phases and the linguistic faculty in general.

EVALUATIONThe book is impressive for the number of complex problems treated. The abilityto identify such problems and posit questions relevant to linguistic theory isimportant. Moreover, Yosuke Sato is not a native speaker of the languages whoseintricacies he attempts to untangle, which adds to his outstanding achievement.

The layout and the manner of presentation are fairly clear. In two or threeplaces I was confused, though the puzzles were explained later. For instance, itwould work better if the dependence of the reduplication type on the stem theaffix attaches to ((8)-(9) p. 19) were explained before the examples, not afterthem. In addition, more information about this phenomenon in Indonesian could behelpful. Does only one suffix behave like this? Do prefixes only attach toverbs? Some of the answers are given, but not immediately.

Another puzzle appears on p. 52, where the author illustrates the behavior ofunaccusative verbs with the active voice prefix meN-. In (23-a) there is noprefix and the sentence has a past tense interpretation, in (23-b) the prefix isthere and the sentence has a present progressive interpretation. It is hard notto notice this contrast, but the author says nothing about it until p. 54, wherehe briefly mentions that this prefix may not be the same as the one under study.These are minor drawbacks.

I did have more serious questions, which may reflect insufficient explanation onsome issues.

In section 5 of chapter 2 Sato applies the distributed morphology approach toreduplication asymmetries in Indonesian. On p. 31 (ex. (18)) the abstractmorpheme RED(uplication) is the head of the Aspect Phrase (AspP), while on p. 33(ex. (21) and (22)) it heads the Number Phrase (NumP). This variability might beexplained by the categorial status of the elements it merges with. However, in(18) on p. 31 the root belit 'twist' has no category, the categorial v headattaches above RED. The question is: can AspP merge with a root before thelatter is verbalized? If so and if we assume that AspP is a verbalizingprojection, why can then NumP not be a nominalizing projection and mergedirectly with acategorial roots like sayur 'vegetable'?

Another question concerns the nominal derivations on p. 33: in (21) RED mergeswith the nominalizing morpheme ∅ (and then -an heads some functional phrase),and in (22) with the nominalizing morpheme -an, which, in turn, is merged withthe verbalizing morpheme ∅. So, if in principle RED can appear above vP, whatkeeps it from doing so in (18)? And, finally, what underlies the variablebehavior of RED with respect to the suffix -an in (21) and (22)? It looks likethe structures behind these two orders (-an RED vs RED -an) are given just toaccount for different phonological expressions of simple nouns ('many types ofvegetables', where -an precedes RED) and nominalized verbs ('thoughts', whereRED precedes -an).

In chapter 3 the uninterpretable D-feature of the verbs with the prefix meN-raises concerns. Since this feature has to be checked and deleted, it followsthat every nominal that crosses the verb should carry the interpretableD-feature, but nothing is said about the semantics of Indonesian (and Javanese)nouns until chapter 5. What we learn there actually contradicts the expectation:the Indonesian nominal structure never seems to have the DP (determiner phrase)level. It looks like a problem, unless the D-feature discussed in chapter 3 isunrelated to the actual semantics of Indonesian nouns.

On pp. 52-53, unaccusative verbs with the active voice (AV) prefix meN- arediscussed. This discussion is also slightly puzzling. One of the maintheoretical premises of the book is the absence of the Lexicon in itstraditional understanding, yet on p.52 the author mentions ''the standard pictureof the lexicon-syntax correspondence''. Moreover, he tries to defend thisstandard picture against neoconstructivist views (Borer 2005), which state that''the unaccusative vs. unergative distinction is determined by the functionalenvironments a verb is inserted within''. So, Sato maintains the UnaccusativeHypothesis in its original form, which, as far as I know, is tightly linked tolexical specifications of vocabulary items. I am not sure whether this is incompliance with the position outlined on p. 2: ''there is no room for the Lexiconas traditionally conceived of as a static storage point for words and theirformation process… what syntax interacts with is the sound and meaningcomponent.'' The choice of the Unaccusative Hypothesis as a theoretical tool alsocreates some controversy for the analysis of apparently unaccusative verbs withthe prefix meN- ((23), p. 52). As I have already mentioned, the differencebetween the verbs in (23-a) (without the prefix) and (23-b) (with the prefix) isaspectual, and progressive interpretation is more characteristic oftransitive/unergative verbs due to some correspondence between argument andevent structures. That, too, would hint at the syntactic origin of theunaccusative vs unergative distinction.

In chapter 4, which I deem as the strongest and the most enjoyable part of thebook, the biggest problem is the lack of native speaking consultants. The issuesdiscussed are very speaker-sensitive: sluicing, P-stranding, clefts,pseudogapping. So it is really important to distinguish between poor(er)acceptability of sentences and their clear ungrammaticality. It is a pity therewas only one consultant helping the author throughout his research into Indonesian.

I also had difficulty with some of the terms used in this chapter, regardingquestions of islands and feature percolation. It would be nice to have someclarification of notions such as PF (phonetic form) island and percolation aspumping (as opposed to percolation as copying). Although there are schematicrepresentations of no percolation on p. 80, percolation as pumping andpercolation as copying, unfortunately they are not accompanied by text.

My bigger question refers to the ideas developed in section 4.2, namely, thefailure of percolation and repair by ellipsis. We know -- and it is repeated inthis section -- that Ross (1969) understood ellipsis as a strategy for repairingsubject island violations, without which the sentences would be stronglyungrammatical. Why should the failure of feature percolation be repaired at all,since it can be optional?

Showing the effect pseudogapping has on P-stranding (presumably making itoptional), the author gives an English sentence that should support his view.However the judgment of only two native speakers is clearly not sufficientevidence, either positive or negative ((56), p.88, copied as (20) below). Thisis again a pity, since this point is worth defending, in my opinion. It wouldcorroborate most of what was said in the chapter:

(20) ?(*) We will use force under these circumstances but they will (under)those circumstances.

In chapter 5 the author shows that Indonesian and Javanese have no D(determiner) layer in the nominal structure. One of the arguments against it isgiven in (31) and (32) on p. 119:

(21) buku ini 'this book', buku John 'John's book', buku John ini 'this John's book'

Sato treats (31) (rendered here as (21)) and (32) as support that demonstrativesin these languages are modifiers of a lexical projection. However he saysnothing about an analogous Italian construction, presented in (41-b) on p. 124:il mio latte 'the my milk'. And according to the analysis presented here Italiandoes have the D-level.

Proposing the nominal functional hierarchy on p. 127, the author never mentionsBorer (2005), where this structure was worked out in detail. On the other hand,it is remarkable that he relatively independently arrives at conclusions sharedby a great number of contemporary linguists working on NP (whose works could becited, e.g., Pereltsvaig 2006, Boskovic, 2009).

In spite of a few such arguable statements and lines of reasoning, this work isa solid contribution to ongoing discussions of interfaces between syntax andother linguistic systems. The author does not claim to know all the answers, buthis intricate analyses of different syntactic, morphological and semanticproblems found in Indonesian, Javanese and other languages can ignite fruitfuldiscussions among the scholars working in minimalist syntax, for whom this bookwill be especially interesting and useful.

REFERENCESAldridge, Edith. 2008. Phase-based account of extraction in Indonesian. Lingua118: 1440-1469

Borer, Hagit. 2005. Structuring Sense. Vol. I: In Name Only. Oxford: OUP

Boskovic, Zelko. 2009. More on the no-DP analysis of article-less languages.Studia Linguistica 63: 187-203

Chierchia, Gennaro. 1998a. Reference to kinds across languages. Natural LanguageSemantics 6: 339-405

Chierchia, Gennaro. 1998b. Plurality of nouns and the notion of semanticparameter. In Events and Grammar, Susan Rothstein (ed.), 53-103. Dordrecht: Kluwer

Chung, Sandra. 2000. On reference to kinds in Indonesian. Natural LanguageSemantics 8: 157-171

Cole, Peter, Hermon, Gabriella and Yanti. 2008. Voice in Malay/Indonesian.Lingua 118: 1500-1553

Di Sciullo, Anna-Maria and Williams, Edwin. 1987. On the Definition of Words.Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press

Halle, Morris and Marantz, Alec. 1993. Distributed morphology and the pieces ofinflection. A View from Building 20: Essays in Linguistics in Honor of SylvainBromberger, Kenneth Hale and Samuel Jay Keyser (eds), 111-176. Cambridge, MA:The MIT Press

Merchant, Jason. 2001. The Syntax of Silence: Sluicing, Islands and the Theoryof Ellipsis. Oxford: OUP

Pereltsvaig, Asya. 2006. Small nominals. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory24: 433-500

Ross, John. 1969. Guess who In Papers from the 5th Regional Meeting of theChicago Linguistic Society, Chicago Linguistic Society, Robert Binnick, AliceDavison, Georgia Green and Jerry Morgan (eds.), 252-286. Chicago, IL: ChicagoLinguistic Society

ABOUT THE REVIEWEREugenia Romanova holds a PhD from Tromsø University in Norway. Her thesisdeals with the problems of verbal prefixation, event and argument structureand syntax-semantics interface in the Russian language. At present she is alecturer in linguistics at a private university in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

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