LINGUIST List 23.3857

Mon Sep 17 2012

Review: Semantics; Syntax: Kluck (2011)

Editor for this issue: Rajiv Rao <>

Date: 17-Sep-2012
From: Robert LaBarge <>
Subject: Sentence Amalgamation
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Announced at
AUTHOR: Marlies KluckTITLE: Sentence AmalgamationSERIES TITLE: LOT dissertation seriesPUBLISHER: Landelijke Onderzoekschool Taalwetenschap (LOT)YEAR: 2011

R. E. Santana-LaBarge, Department of English, Arizona State University


Marlies Kluck’s “Sentence Amalgamation” is a dissertation from the University ofGroningen that, in eight chapters, tackles a widely understudied syntacticphenomenon. Kluck’s goal is to develop an explanatory theory of amalgamationusing today’s tools of Chomsky’s Minimalist Program, modern X-bar theory, andformal semantics and pragmatics, extending far beyond the brief transformationalanalysis given originally by George Lakoff in the mid-1970s. Her work builds andexpands upon the scant literature of the subject - most notably a recentdissertation by Maximiliano Guimarães (2004) - and related theories ofmultidominance in relative clauses by Henk van Riemsdijk (2006). Ultimately,Kluck rejects some of the important ideas laid down by the authors before her infavor of a view of amalgamation as parentheticals, a syntactic analysis of which“involves a special structure-building operation (‘par -Merge’) that creates aparatactic hierarchy” (p. 5).

Kluck’s first chapter begins by discussing a comparatively little-known workpresented by George Lakoff at the 10th Annual Conference of the ChicagoLinguistic Society. Published in the proceedings as “Sentence Amalgams” (1974),Lakoff discusses two syntactic phenomena that had been brought to his attentionby linguists John R. Ross (via Avery Andrews) and Lawrence Horn. Acknowledgingthe similarities of these phenomena, Lakoff declares them both to be types of“syntactic amalgams”, which he defines as sentences that have “chunks of lexicalmaterial that do not correspond to anything in [their] logicalstructure...rather they must be coped in [via] other derivations underspecifiable semantic and pragmatic limitations” (p. 321). Lakoff christened eachtype of amalgam after its discoverer; his examples of each appear below (p. 321):

Andrews amalgam(1) John invited you’ll never guess how many people to his party.

Horn amalgam(2) John is going to I think it’s Chicago on Sunday.

What makes sentences such as (1) and (2) “amalgams” is that they contain elidedor “sluiced” (see Ross, 1969) clauses stuck in the argument position of a rootclause. Kluck (p. 1) labels these sluiced clauses “interrupting clauses” (IC)(i.e. in (1), the string “you’ll never guess how many people” and in (2), thestring “I think it’s Chicago”), and, unlike Lakoff, who approaches each type ofamalgam by means of a series of transformations combined with asemantic/pragmatic analysis, Kluck is prepared to give an (almost) entirelysyntactic account of the nature of the IC and its relationship to itscorresponding matrix clause, with the goal of approaching theoreticalexplanatory adequacy (p. 8).

To begin, Kluck acknowledges the presence of what she calls the IC’s “contentkernel”, which “expresses content related to what is missing in the matrix” (p.2). That is to say, the IC fills a spot where an “ordinary” constituent might beplaced, and intuitively corresponds with that constituent (for instance, in thecase of (1), the content kernel is “some number of people”, which is supplantedby the IC “you’ll never guess how many people”).

Having established this, Kluck makes it clear that the puzzle driving herinquiry is how we might reconcile the apparent independent nature of the IC withits paradoxically semi-dependent relationship to the matrix clause; in herwords, “the content kernel behaves as if it is part of the matrix clause, whilethe rest of the IC is found to be inaccessible for structural relations withelements of the matrix clause” (p. 4). To this end, “[t]he idea that amalgamsinvolve ellipsis is central” (p. 2); for Andrews amalgams, the key lies insluicing, and in Horn amalgams, it-cleft reduction (another form of sluicing, p.4) is crucial. With respect to the IC’s relationship to the matrix clause, Kluckseeks to answer that question via the notion of parentheticals. The rest of herdissertation involves analyzing (and in many cases refuting) some of the claimsmade regarding amalgams and similar constructions in the established literatureby means of her own and others’ data - primarily gleaned from English, Dutch,and other West Germanic languages, among a few others - and establishing thevalidity of her hypotheses with reasonable certainty.

Chapter 2 gives a broad outline of what others have had to say aboutamalgamation, primarily, the question as to how the IC can be represented itselfand in relation to the matrix clause. Beginning with Lakoff (1974), criticismis aimed at his semantic/pragmatic approach, which, as mentioned above, does notexplain why “an indirect wh-question with exclamative force, or…hedgedassertions in the form of embedded it-clefts should be allowed to occur in theplace of regular constituents of a sentence” (p. 16), as opposed to any otherconstruction type. As Chomsky has outlined (1957, p. 13), a linguistic grammarmust satisfactorily generate all acceptable sentences while simultaneouslyexcluding ungrammatical ones.

Kluck moves on to analyze two proposed relative clause approaches to amalgams.These have the advantage of “dealing with the unexpected appearance of a clause”(p. 17) by assuming a relativizing, null Complementizer Phrase (CP) headintroducing the IC. Unfortunately, they ultimately fail because they assume theIC to be subordinate with respect to the matrix clause. This, in turn, impliesthat the matrix clause can c-command into the IC, which it cannot. Kluck alsooutlines, while reserving full judgment on, two other important approaches: themultidominance approach, which assumes that the IC is “shared” among separatesyntactic derivations (thus solving the c-command/subordinate clause problem);and a previous derivation approach, which explains the general opaqueness of theIC but has the undesirable result that the IC is instead not a clause at all,but rather the result of some other previous derivation (pp. 46-47). Some ofthese theories are discussed in further detail in subsequent chapters.

Chapters 3-6 represent the bulk of the dissertation, and each contains animmense amount of data and theoretical information. As such, I will only be ableto briefly touch on a few of the important ideas presented therein.

Chapter 3 expands on some of the fundamental research discussed in the previouschapter, especially with regards to the idea that the IC is a non-subordinatedclause. Kluck seeks to establish the presence of root properties at the level ofthe IC, showing that it is, for instance, fundamentally different from arelative clause (p. 49). Importantly, verb second (V2) data in Germaniclanguages that pattern this way clearly show root behavior on the part of theIC; it is well know that in finite sentences of these languages, verbs move fromthe position in which they were generated to the head of a complementizer phrase(p. 51). Embedded/subordinate clauses do not display this movement: “if the ICis a subordinate clause...we expect the IC to be V[erb]-final in Dutch andGerman” (p. 52). Kluck’s data show that this is not the case (p. 53, herexamples (7a) and (7b) in Dutch):

(3) a. Bill heeft eigenlijk dacht ik dat het Bea was gekust Bill has actually thought I that it Bea was kissed “Bill kissed actually I thought it was Bea”

b. *Bill heeft ik eigenlijk dacht dat het Bea was gekust Bill has I actually thought that it Bea was kissed

Very clearly, the IC is patterning like a root clause, as expected in a V2language such as Dutch. The data presented in Chapter 3 continues in thisfashion, analyzing and refuting any exceptions to V2 patterning rules present inthese languages, or objections that ICs are specialized relative clauses.

In refuting the subordinate clause hypothesis, her data extend to Italian,Spanish, and Portuguese pro-drop, where the conditions for null subjects patternsimilarly in main clauses and ICs. Furthermore, Kluck invokes speech acttheory, in combination with split-CP cartography, to show that the presence ofillocutionary force and the patterning of speaker-oriented CP adverbs (such as“frankly”) again support her claim that the IC is a non-subordinated clause.

Lastly, Kluck shows that the distribution of the IC itself within the matrixclause does not pattern as a subordinate would. Evidence comes again fromDutch, where ICs do not pattern the same way Dutch subordinates would (in thesentence’s “Nachfeld”) (p. 72), nor can Dutch ICs undergo rightward displacementvia Heavy Noun Phrase Shift.

Chapter 4 explores the conflict between the data present in Chapter 3 thatclearly shows clause-like behavior of the IC, and the obvious observation thatthe IC is not a complete clause. To solve this problem, Kluck invokes apreviously-mentioned concept, that of Ross’s (1969) “sluicing”. That is, the ICsare full phrases that have been elided at the phonetic form (PF) interface and,unlike traditional sluiced constituents, “have no correlate in the antecedentclause” (p. 110). Kluck gives a detailed theoretical account of her reasoning,the simplest of which is shown below (as (4), from her (31), (32), and (33), pp.118-119):

(4) a. Bob married [you’ll never guess who]. IC = “you’ll never guess who”.

b. #You’ll never guess [DP who].

c. You’ll never guess [CP who [IP Bob married]].

(4a) is an Andrews amalgam and (4b) is meant to show that the IC cannot stand onits own (i.e. cannot take the Determiner Phrase “who” as a complement). Only(4c) is possible: the IC is a clause sluiced at the level of the InflectionPhrase. The non-sluiced version of (4a), then, is (5), with sluiced partsappearing in angled brackets (Kluck’s (34), p. 24):

(5) Bob married [you’ll never guess who ].

In short, “[t]he IC is structurally derived as a full-fledged clause at thelevel of syntax” (p. 166) and sluiced at the PF-interface. The sluicing islicensed by features on complementizer phrase heads within the IC, whichexplains its ability to sluice at the IP, while the retention of non-sluicedmaterial (i.e. wh-words in Andrews amalgams) is retained through simpleA’-movement (p. 158).

Chapter 5 is data heavy, with the ultimate goal of showing that “the contentkernel is the remnant of sluicing in the IC” (p. 170). This is achieved via thepresence of reconstruction effects (i.e. “clefted pivots are accessible toc-command-based relations with the cleft clause, via their reconstruction site”,p. 173), island effects (p. 174), case-matching constraints (i.e. “[a]wh-content kernel must bear the case that its selecting verb assigns”, p. 184)and P(reposition)-stranding generalizations (i.e. prepositions cannot bestranded under sluicing in languages that require pied-piping).

While Chapters 4 and 5 discuss the internal structure of the IC, Chapters 6 and7 discuss its relation to the matrix clause. It is argued by the author that ICsare non-subordinate clauses; instead, they are examples of a type ofparenthetical. To show this, in Chapter 6, Kluck relies on pragmatic/semanticinterpretation, building on what Lakoff originally “characterized in terms of‘exclamatory force’ and ‘hedging’” (p. 8). Importantly, the illocutionaryaspects of the IC and its relation to the matrix clause show that theabove-mentioned multidominance hypothesis of amalgams (which, to this point inthe thesis, had been presented as the most complete theoretical explanation, dueespecially to its treatment of the IC as non-subordinate) is unlikely to betrue: “the information in the IC adds information that reflects the speakers[sic] cognitive relation towards a part of what is asserted in the matrix” (p.227). As a parenthetical with a null anchor (Chapter 7), this is predicted;under a multidominance model, we would predict separate illocutionary force forthe IC and the matrix.

Chapter 8’s conclusion summarizes Kluck’s findings and suggests avenues forfurther research. Among the most important of the latter include what amalgamscan tell us about sluicing in general, including, but not limited to, itsability to target the CP layer with the exception of material that has beenmoved into the CP’s specifier.


It is fair to say that the topic under review in Kluck’s recent dissertation hasbeen understudied over the last 35 years. Speaking with the benefit ofhindsight, Lakoff’s original descriptive account of amalgamation does notapproach explanatory adequacy, especially from a syntactic point of view. Assuch, Kluck’s work, in both its theoretical analysis and execution, is a welcomeaddition to the scant literature available since Lakoff’s presentation. Itestablishes itself as one of the most complete and in-depth analyses of thetopic to date, and is likely to become necessary reading for any futureresearchers wishing to venture into the curiosities of sentence amalgamation.

There is a lot of information present in this dissertation; more than can becovered with any justice in a short review, and in general, the material itselfis complicated and uses other advanced texts as its foundation. I found myselfpausing more than once to read or review a cited text. However, this is to beexpected in a dissertation, and in this very important way, Kluck pushes theenvelope of the available literature and theories regarding not onlyamalgamation, but also sluicing, relative clauses, and parentheticals. As such,the overall goals of her dissertation are met with incredible success.

On a more detailed level, Kluck is meticulous in her organization by clearlystating the goals for each chapter and section at the beginning and ending ofthe relevant chapters and sections, and by showing exactly how those goals havebeen met (and at the end of each chapter, they inevitably are). The datapresented are relevant and poignant, and in each case, further the support ofher hypotheses. My only regret is that the data had to be limited largely toGermanic and other European languages. Future ambitious researchers mightseriously consider applying her ideas to African or Asian languages.

Syntacticians desiring a concise and interesting look into an understudiedphenomenon will benefit most from the first three chapters. Those who havefollowed the work of Kluck’s committee member, Henk van Riemsdijk, mayespecially be interested in her treatment of his multidominance approach, andespecially, her ultimate rejection of that hypothesis (outlined in Chapter 2).For non-syntacticians, Kluck provides a very interesting look intoparentheticals by means of a pragmatics approach (Chapter 6), and the formalsemanticist may find her treatment of sluicing and ellipsis in Chapter 4 to beof note. Regardless, any interested linguist will likely benefit from having hadread some of the important texts under review (Lakoff (1974), and Ross (1969),especially).

Despite the difficulty of the text, it ought to be recommended, at least inpart, to students of linguistics at all skill levels. Kluck’s early, briefreview of Minimalism, X-bar theory, Merge, and other fundamental concepts insyntax are among the clearest and most concise I have read. I will readilyadmit, however, that the reader may have benefited from a short introduction tothe formal semantics and logical symbols that are present throughout.

For intermediate students such as me, the skill level (and perhaps generalesoteric or unheard of nature of the phenomena in question) forces the reader topush just beyond what may be his or her current level. Lastly, since Kluckbuilds upon and even improves the work of some of the most important names insyntactic research today, it is most likely safe to assume that even seasonedexperts will not be disappointed.


Chomsky, Noam. 1957. Syntactic Structures. The Hague: Mouton.

Guimarães, Maximiliano. 2004. Derivation and representation of syntacticamalgams. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Maryland.

Lakoff, George. 1974. Syntactic amalgams. In Papers from the 10th regionalmeeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, ed. Michael Galy, Robert Fox, andAnthony Bruck, 321–344. Chicago: University of Chicago.

van Riemsdijk, Henk. 2006. Free relatives. In The Blackwell Companion to Syntax,ed. Martin Everaert and Henk van Riemsdijk, volume II, Chapter 27, 338–382.Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Ross, John R. 1969. Guess who? In Papers from the 5th regional meeting of theChicago Linguistic Society, 252–286. Chicago: University of Chicago.


R. E. Santana-LaBarge is a student of Elly van Gelderen at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. His fields of interest include Minimalist syntax, formal semantics, the philosophy of language, and Cartesian rationalism.

Page Updated: 17-Sep-2012