LINGUIST List 23.4397

Sat Oct 20 2012

Review: Morphology; Syntax: Rezac (2011)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <jsalmonslinguistlist.org>



Date: 20-Oct-2012
From: Michael Barrie <mikebarriesogang.ac.kr>
Subject: Phi-features and the Modular Architecture of Language
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AUTHOR: Milan RezacTITLE: Phi-features and the Modular Architecture of LanguageSERIES TITLE: Studies in Natural Language and Linguistic TheoryPUBLISHER: SpringerYEAR: 2011

Michael Barrie, Department of English, Sogang University

SUMMARYRezac's monograph presents a wealth of empirical data, the kind one finds tuckedaway in a footnote of many a journal article with the caveat "left to futureresearch". The data discussed largely fall under the umbrella of Person CaseConstraints (PCC), in which a first or second person direct object cannot appearwith an overt indirect object, or some variation thereof. While the studyfocuses mainly on French and to a lesser extent Spanish (making it essentialreading for Romance linguists), it delves into a number of languages around theworld. This monograph is much more than an analysis of quirky facts in a numberof languages. Rezac ties a common thread among all of them to not only develop atheory of repair mechanisms, but to argue for a modularized view of grammar,showing that certain PCC phenomena have clear syntactic effects, while othersare purely morphological. Thus, the monograph has two clear goals:

(1) to argue for a special repair mechanism, R, that can detect impendingfailures at the interfaces and insert an extra Probe in the Numeration to rescuethe derivation, and

(2) to argue for a modularized, cognitive view of grammar, in which syntactic,morphological and phonological phenomena are encapsulated and sheltered from oneanother.

Chapter 1 introduces the conceptual basis for the book's thesis, as well as theempirical foundation for the study, starting with the following asymmetry inFrench (simplified from his discussion).

(i) Elle vous le présentera. she you.DAT him.ACC will.introduce 'She will introduce him to you.'

(ii) *Elle le présentera à vous she him.ACC will.introduce to you ('She will introduce him to you.')

(iii) *Elle nous vous présentera. She us.ACC you.DAT will.introduce ('She will introduce us to you.')

(iv) Elle nous présentera à vous she us.ACC will.introduce to you 'She will introduce us to you.'

The direct and indirect objects appear as clitics attached to the verb, (i).Normally, the indirect object cannot appear in a separate prepositional phrase(PP), (ii). However, a 1st or 2nd person or reflexive cannot appear as a directobject clitic if there is an indirect object in the clause, (iii). In this case,the indirect object can exceptionally appear as a PP, (iv). Rezac is quick topoint out that the repair structure in (iv) is available only if the standardstructure, (iii) would give rise to ungrammaticality. This chapter goes on todiscuss modularity as a general strategy for cognitive organization, usingmodular properties of the visual cortex as an example. He then discusses themodularity of syntax as a set of operations distinct from morphophonology andmeaning -- roughly phonetic form (PF) and logical form (LF), respectively,although Rezac is careful to remain theory neutral at this point. Rezac thengoes on to discuss the ubiquity of phi-features in the grammar. Specifically, heintroduces data to be discussed later in the book showing that phi-features arenot the sole province of syntax proper, but are also accessed by morphology andLF. This chapter ends with a discussion of the empirical topic of this book --repair strategies. He starts with some examples of irreparable failures such asthe impossibility to repair extraction out of a coordinate structure, even witha resumptive pronoun, thereby dismissing Optimality Theoretic approaches tosyntax. His argument, however, tacitly assumes that alternative structures arenot made available by GEN in such a framework (his examples (34a-b)).

v. Who set out for Pohjola __ along with Niera's son?vi. *Who set out for Pohjola __/he and Niera's son?

Specifically, v. could be in the evaluation set, and is ultimately selected bythe grammar. He states here that the repair paradigm in i.-vi. above iscross-linguistically robust and begs a unified treatment. The core of his theoryof repairs is summed up in his formulation of R.

R: An uninterpretable feature may enter the numeration only if needed for FullInterpretation of the syntactic structure built from it.

Chapter 2 discusses the role of phi-features in morphology. Here, Rezac is moreconcrete regarding his view of the organization of grammar. He adopts a fairlystandard Y model that firmly puts morphology after syntax (i.e., nopre-syntactic generative lexicon), and uses this discussion as a vehicle tosharpen his view of modularity. And he now advances a fine-grained notion ofmodularity and defines a "modular signature". The modular signature spells outthe domain of interactions (or interfaces), the kinds of information availableto the module, and the computational processes permitted in the module (such asMerge in the case of syntax). Rezac distinguishes between syncretic and opaquecliticization. Syncretisms are better known and involve the loss of distinctionfor a given feature or features. Thus, French 'les' is syncretic for gender,although gender is distinguished in singular forms. Opaque cliticizationinvolves a lack of clear source of phi-features as opposed to a trueneutralization. For instance, in Old and Middle French a plural dative couldcombine with a singular accusative; however, plural marking could shift from thedative to the accusative clitic. Thus, the source of plurality is opaque in theovert realization. These two phenomena are clearly morphological, followingRezac's discussion. He presents data from a number of languages showing thatthey do not have any effect on the syntax. Additionally, he discusses gaps, suchas the lack of a participial form for 'stride' in English, and attributes thisto a morphological module.

Chapter 3 is devoted to person hierarchies in the syntax module. Personhierarchies are well known from Algonquian languages, where the verbpreferentially agrees with a 2nd person subject over a 1st person subject. Heshows here that person hierarchy effects in numerous languages (notably Ojibwaand Mapudungun) are syntactic rather than morphological. Unlike the phenomena inchapter 2, person hierarchy effects have visible consequences for the syntax.Thus, for example, the agreed with element can participate in certain syntacticconstructions such as cross-clausal agreement. If agreement were purelymorphological, the syntax would not have access to this information to bansyntactic operations based on it. Considering data from Arizona Tewa, Rezacrejects a post-syntactic filtering mechanism to explain person hierarchy effectsand concludes that they are genuinely syntactic, thereby adding support to hismodularity thesis.

Having established clear morphological and syntactic effects of phi featureinteractions, Rezac discusses in chapter 4 how PCC violations are repaired inspoken French, noting speaker variation where present. Rezac lays out thefundamental aspects on the syntax of French clitics, including dative andapplicative constructions. Rezac covers an impressive range of empirical facts,including naturally occurring examples. In this chapter Rezac discusses indetail the various kinds of repairs for PCC violations available in French. Hecontinues with a discussion of the syntactic nature of the PCC repairs, offeringevidence from floating quantifiers, Condition B effects, and right dislocation,thus firmly placing the PCC repair mechanism in the syntactic module he arguesfor above. After a comprehensive exposition on various kinds of applicativeclitic constructions, Rezac ends the chapter with a discussion of irreparableviolations, employing these facts to bolster his modularity hypothesis. He showsthat in some cases the failures are not visible to syntax. Since the repairmechanism, R, is firmly implanted in the syntax module, it does not see theviolation, so does not enact a repair.

Chapter 5 lays out the specifics of R -- how it operates and how it affects thesyntax. Given the potentially strong generative capacity of R, Rezac is carefulto delineate clearly its mode of operation and its limitations. In a nutshell,the PCC problem and its solution thanks to R boil down to the following. Only1st, 2nd, and reflexive pronouns have a person feature. Other 3rd personpronouns/clitics do not. When such a clitic (an accusative clitic) intervenesbetween the little v probe and its goal, the dative clitic, a blocking effectensues and the derivation crashes. The repair mechanism, R, detects this crashand adds an additional uninterpretable feature to the Numeration, thus salvagingit. In the case of the French PCC repair, the additional uninterpretable featurecomes in the form of a preposition to assign Case to the dative clitic, as Casewas swallowed up by the person-bearing accusative clitic. The global characteror R, according to Rezac, rests in the fact that it is part of the interfacesbetween syntax and the lexicon, PF and LF. Rezac runs through the long list ofPCC violations in the numerous languages he discussed in the previous chapters,showing how R accommodates the facts. He then makes the interesting connectionbetween PCC and transitivity, arguing that R can account for accusative objectsand ergative subjects. He leaves open in this chapter the parameterization of R.Specifically, he does not answer the question of what kind of additional probewould be made available in a given language. He ends the chapter with adiscussion on the limits of R. Those structures which cannot be repaired by Rare ineffable.

Chapter 6 discusses phi-features themselves in more detail. Specifically, Rezacdelves into the issues of phi-features as a common alphabet for morphology,syntax and interpretation, probing various kinds of mismatches. One suchmismatch he discusses in detail is French 'on'. This pronoun is morphologically3rd person singular, but can be interpreted as first person plural. Anothermismatch Rezac discusses is imposters in the sense of Collins and Postal (2012),in particular, 3rd person markers that act as 2nd person (What would madamlike?). It turns out that the clitic forms of these do not induce PCC effects.Finally, Rezac presents a brief conclusion that ties the work together.

EVALUATIONRezac certainly presents an impressive contribution to syntactic theorizingusing what are often seen as problematic data. Instead, Rezac gleans animportant cross-linguistic generalization and furnishes a novel and elegantmechanism to account for it. In terms of content, Rezac's analysis makes strongpredictions about the nature of such repairs. For instance, they are limited inscope to the phase in which R detects the crash. Also as mentioned, they occuronly when needed. Both of these predictions are supported. Rezac clearly laysout his goals in the introduction and regularly revisits them throughout themonograph. Furthermore, this monograph presents a novel mechanism for PCC andrelated effects in a number of languages. The majority of recent work on PCC isrestricted to a particular language or language family, Rezac ties together suchphenomena in a wide number of languages.

Although Rezac indicates that the kind of repair made available by R differscross-linguistically and that cross-linguistic variation is left to futureresearch, I would still like to see an indication of how this parameterizationlooks. Does it correlate with other aspects of the grammar (like postpositionsand OV order)? I would also like to see how R is constrained. Can it happentwice in a phase (as perhaps is the case with ditransitives)? Can it happenthree times? If not, why not? Also, what counts as having a [person] feature?For Rezac, in French, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person reflexives have a [person]feature, but other 3rd persons do not. There has, of course, been muchdiscussion on this topic (Benveniste, 1966 ; Kayne, 2000 ; Nevins, 2007). Isthis parameterized across language? If so, how is it acquired by the child?These unanswered questions, of course, indicate a clear avenue for futureresearch and are not to be taken as faults.

As a monograph, the work is well organized and contains substantial references.Indeed, Rezac's coverage of previous and related literature is thorough. Readersfamiliar with Rezac's style will quickly recall the density of his writing.This, in fact, is one drawback to the volume, as the reader sometime has to workhis way through difficult prose rather than concentrate on the content and thedata, as such it is recommended only for very advanced graduate students andother members of linguistic academia. This should not be grounds for avoidingthe book, as the argumentation is sound and presented in a logical manner. Insum, Rezac's book is important for anyone interested in the architecture ofgrammar, minimalism, or Romance syntax.

REFERENCESBenveniste, Émile. 1966. La Nature des Pronoms. Problèmes de LinguistiqueGénérale, 251-57. Paris: Gallimard.

Collins, Chris & Paul Postal. 2012. Imposters Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Kayne, Richard. 2000. Person Morphemes and Reflexives. Parameters andUniversals, ed. by R. Kayne. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Nevins, Andrew. 2007. The representation of third person and its consequencesfor the person-case constraint. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory25(2):273-313.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERMichael Barrie is an assistant professor at Sogang University in Seoul,Republic of Korea. His main interests lie in syntactic theory and Iroquoianlanguages.

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