LINGUIST List 23.557

Fri Feb 03 2012

Review: Morphology; Syntax (LF): Lomashvili (2011)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <>

Date: 03-Feb-2012
From: Aroldo Andrade <>
Subject: Complex Predicates
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AUTHOR: Lomashvili, LeilaTITLE: Complex PredicatesSUBTITLE: The syntax-morphology interfaceSERIES: Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 174PUBLISHER: John BenjaminsYEAR: 2011

Aroldo Andrade, State University of Campinas, Brazil


This book explores the morphosyntax of a subset of complex predicates, involvingcausative and applicative constructions in three polysynthetic languages of theSouth Caucasian (Kartvelian) language family. Lomashvili’s monograph applies theDistributed Morphology framework in order to explain the different possibilitiesof complex predicate formation in these languages.


The book is divided into four chapters. Chapter 1 is intended to familiarize thereader with the preliminaries to the study (introduction, basic theoreticalassumptions and specific grammatical information). Chapter 2 presents the typesof causative constructions and their derivations, with focus on the possibilityof causative alternation by syntactic-semantic verb class. Chapter 3, named“Applicatives as complex predicates,” discusses different applicativeconstructions, their derivations and productivity restrictions. Finally, chapter4 includes the conclusions of the study.

Chapter 1 begins by enumerating the research goals. The main objective of thebook, the discussion of different causative and applicative predicates,understood as complex predicates (in the sense of Baker 1996, i.e., verbalstructures containing at least two morphemes, each marking a phrasal argument inthe theta-grid) is framed by the author’s interest in the mismatches that arisebetween the syntax-semantics and the morphology of these constructions.Theoretical assumptions are presented from section 1.2 to 1.6. First,Distributed Morphology is contrasted with the lexical-semantic approach, in thatthe syntax of word and sentence derivations is treated in the same syntacticstructure in the first approach. The assumptions concerning the argumentstructure of causative and applicative constructions are then presented: theprojection of a Cause head which adds an event argument to the structure (butonly increases the valency of the verb upon its bundling with a Voice feature);and the projection of an Applicative head, either below the VP (when theargument expresses a static possession, recipient, or source), or above it (whenthe argument undergoes the effects of an event expressed by the verb). Apartfrom these assumptions, driven from Pylkkännen’s (2002) work, the author alsoconsiders Cuervo’s (2003) additional idea that psychological verb constructionsmay be interpreted as high applicatives. Another facet of Pylkkännen’s (2002)work, the variation regarding the type of complement that Cause takes (root, VPand vP), is also assumed. The mentioned configurations vary regarding thecreation of mono- or bi-eventive structures, which can be verified by checkingthe scope of VP-modifying adverbials; and the same reasoning is then applied tolow and high applicatives. Other more basic theoretical assumptions are thenpresented, such as the Distributed Morphology framework, the notion of syntacticphases, the connection between contextual allomorphy and phasehood (Embick2010), and the different flavors of little vs (v-do, v-be and v-go, Cuervo2003). Sections 1.6 and 1.7 present specific grammatical information aboutKartvelian syntax: the status of templates and Case and agreement. Thispresentation is centered on Georgian, a language with three positions formorphemes before the verbal root and up to eight positions after it. In order toaccount for its order, Lomashvili rejects Baker’s Mirror Principle, which wouldbe too restrictive to account for the data, especially with respect to thepost-verbal morphemes, with some of these recurring for no obvious semanticreason (cf. ‘-eb’ and ‘-in’):

(1) The perfective series verbga-m-e-ket-eb-in-eb-in-o-spreverbal.affix-1s-voice-make-thematic.marker-cause-thematic.marker-cause-tam-3o‘I would have caused X to make Y.’

Discontinuous bleeding (Noyer 1997), a central theme of the book, proposes thata single terminal node may be associated with two positions of exponence. Thiscan also be observed in (1), where the subject-person morpheme occurs in thesecond slot, whereas the object-person morpheme occurs in the final slot. Theauthor then discusses the functioning of the screeve system (conjugation patternfor one specific combination of Tense, Aspect, and Mood), the possibilities ofcase marking and the properties of the aspectually-conditioned split ergativity.The contexts where the inverse agreement pattern shows up are relevant, i.e.,all those where subjects are assigned dative case (the perfective series,adversity causatives, causatives of internally-changed verbs, some applicativesetc.). Finally, section 1.8 includes an outline of the following chapters.

Chapter 2, “The morphosyntax of causative alternations,” begins with theenumeration of assumptions already outlined in chapter 1. Lomashvili adoptsPylkkännen’s (2002) approach in that the Cause and Voice heads may projectseparately, with the external argument being realized in the SpecVoiceP. Thisseparation permits one to dissociate the presence of a Cause head from theprojection of an external argument, as happens with adversity causatives. Atthis point the text describes the main types of verbs (sections 2.3 to 2.5).First, causatives of inchoative verbs are formed by either an ‘a-’ or zeromorpheme inserted in the Cause head. The insertion of such a Vocabulary Item isroot-conditioned. The ‘a-’ morpheme co-occurs with non-syllabic roots, a factthat indicates the Cause head is attached at a low position in the clause.Second, in causatives of unergative verbs the Cause head is cyclic due to itsphase-selecting attachment and therefore shows only the ‘a-’ morpheme, selectedby a transitive v. In this sense, Lomashvili adopts Hale & Keyser’s (2002)theory of conflation in order to explain unergatives formed by noun or adjectiveincorporation. For iterated causatives, a second Cause head is inserted in thestructure, realized as ‘-in’, which co-occurs with ditransitive verbs. Theseadjective-incorporated causatives with the reading “make X do V” arebi-eventive, as the tests with VP-adverbials and depictive modifiers attest.Third, with causatives of transitive verbs, two causative morphemes are realized(‘a-’ and ‘-(ev)in’), but only in the perfective series (“make X do V” sequencesdo not normally show an additional causative morpheme). The occurrence of‘-evin’ instead of ‘-in’ is attributed to an erstwhile thematic marker ‘-eb’turned into ‘-ev’ due to root-conditioned allomorphy, i.e., with non-syllabicroots. The presentation then turns to the discussion of specific constructions(sections 2.6 to 2.8). First, the discussion on adversity causatives isimportant to illustrate that a causative does not necessarily involve a newargument, its main feature being the expression of a causing event: in thisconstruction, the Voice head marked [nonactive] feeds the first Cause head to bezero, and the second to be expressed as ‘-(ev)in’. Due to the fact that thecauser (external argument) is not projected, the corresponding sentences behaveas mono-eventive. Second, constructions with the meaning “make X pretend to beAdj/N” are taken up. These include the grammaticalized item “pretend” (realizedas ‘-un’ or zero, depending on the number of syllables) and involve theincorporation of a noun or an adjective, with a derivational affix and areflexive morpheme. The two causative heads are merged over the vP correspondingto the “pretend” morpheme, implying a bi-eventive interpretation. Third, thebehavior of psych verbs is analyzed. These are classified into three types,according to the expression of a state, dynamic passive, or activity. Only thislast class can alternate with both causatives and passives. In the causative ofactivity psych verbs, only one or two Cause heads may show up, the first optionindicating a reflexive causative (“make X love …self”). Finally, there is asection with the basic facts on causative predicates in the related languagesMengrelian and Svan, with data collected from grammars and dictionaries.

Chapter 3 explores the morphosyntactic properties of applicative constructions.The morphological realization of the Appl head may not be uniform due tocontextual allomorphy. In 3.1 the author presents the theoretical goals andassumptions, together with an outline of the chapter. From sections 3.2 to 3.6,low applicatives are analyzed in their manifold cases. First, recipient andsource applicatives are presented in terms of allomorphy among ‘i-’, ‘u-’ andzero, according to substantive features, except when the verbs are basicditransitives. The third semantic type, low applicatives of stative possession,is presented as being derived from activity state verbs, where a dative can bereplaced by a genitive argument. Second, applicatives occurring withunaccusative and inchoative verbs are set apart due to their novelty with regardto previous accounts in the literature. For instance, Cuervo (2003) mentionsaffected applicatives formed from inchoatives, which are higher than v-be. ForLomashvili, Georgian has examples of true low applicatives with inchoatives,where the nominative DP is not projected as an external argument, but as atheme, and the applied argument occurs in SpecApplP, as usual. In thesestructures, the Voice head is realized as ‘e-’, and the Appl head is realized aszero. The best solution for this would be a dependency between the [nonactive]feature in the former, and Vocabulary Insertion in the latter. Third, Noun- andAdjective-Incorporated predicates also realize low applicatives with a dativebenefactee subject and a nominative theme argument. Both the Appl head (‘i-’ or‘u-’, according to the person feature) and the Voice head (‘-d’) are realized.Fourth, reflexive applicatives show a benefactive relation between the theme andan external argument. This expected relation is solved by means of thepostulation of a PRO in SpecApplP, coindexed with the external argument. An ‘i-’reflexive morpheme is inserted in the same preverbal slot used for Voice andAppl. Fifth, a section is devoted to possessor datives, in which a verbal rootis inserted under v-do, v-be or v-go. It is noticeable that some stative verbsdo not accept a dative, and allow instead a genitive. The explanation for thisrestriction is that only predicates in the form of activity psychological verbsallow the dativization. In section 3.7, four-place predicates are analyzed,either as a combination of high and low applicatives in the same structure, oras a high applicative together with a PP. A correlation between case marking (orselection of postposition) and semantic interpretation is put forward: inanimatedatives are marked with ‘-ze’, indicating a location, whereas animate dativesare marked with ‘-tan’, indicating a recipient. In section 3.8, highapplicatives, i.e., applicative arguments that relate to the event expressed bythe verb, are discussed under three types: state unaccusatives, otherunaccusatives (denoting a change of state, and therefore under v-go) and dynamicactivity verbs. However, not only high applicatives are described, but also thevery distinction between high and low applicatives. A last section includescomparative data about applicatives on the related languages Mengrelian and Svan.

Chapter 4 presents the main conclusions, where the complex predicate status ofthe constructions is reaffirmed, and the main theoretical solutions of the bookare summarized.


This is a valuable book, for it includes a rich discussion on data fromdifferent Caucasian languages. The analysis of under-represented languages isalways very welcome in generative linguistics, for it broadens the scope of thetheories and at the same time it permits us to test these in typologicallydiverse systems. Another very interesting aspect of the book is the questioningof previous proposals, necessary to accomplish the challenge taken up by theauthor: to give a coherent formal account of complex predicates in Georgian, andto apply these ideas to Mengrelian and Svan, whenever possible. Therefore thefollowing criticisms are not intended to invalidate the bulk of the proposals,but to point out some weaknesses arising from the lack of clarity andcompleteness of the presentation.

Although the author does introduce theoretical background to her readers, insome points the presentation lacks clarity. First, in the literature review,some works are presented as assumptions; but in fact they are theoreticalbackground that is still worked out during the proposal, such as in thepresentation of case valuation of low applicatives on page 116, without havingpresented the proposal based on Lomashvili and Harley (2011) before. Second,there are contradictions between some parts of the presentation, at least atfirst glance: “High and low applicatives show a distinction in terms ofmono-/bi-eventiveness” (page 13) and “The simpler event structure of high andlow applicatives and the size of the complement that both Appl heads take meansthat the resulting structure will always show mono-eventive properties withrespect to adverbial scope” (page 14). Third, there are minor typing andnumbering errors (mismatches between the examples and the references to them)that may also render the text less straightforward for those less familiar withthe latest theoretical developments. In some cases, as on page 151, correlationsbetween features and exponents are switched (in the case of the morphemes ‘-ze’and ‘-tan’).

The argumentation could also be more complete and stronger. First, althoughexpressly dismissed by the author as a task outside the scope of the book, thereader feels as a relevant gap that no postsyntactic rule is presented in orderto explain the correct linearization of the morphemes. Second, some otheraspects of the book should be better explored, such as decisions regarding theprojection of arguments. For instance, in the representation of the causative ofan unergative (“X makes Y scream”) on page 50, the only argument of ‘scream’ isprojected as a theme sister of RootP, although it would usually be projected asthe external argument in SpecvP. In the same vein, no explanation is given forwhy the dative causer argument is included under a supplementary SpecApplPtogether with the genitive argument marked with a postposition ‘Gias-tvis’ (“forGia”), on page 116. Third, more explanation should be given with respect to theminimalist framework assumed, as for page 17. One example is the apparentviolation of the Inclusiveness Condition deriving from the adoption of thePrinciple of Phi-activation in Lomashvili and Harley (2011), according to which“a probe acquires an active phi-feature bundle when it is merged into a domainwhich contains a Case-active DP with marked phi-features” (page 118). Otherexamples relate to the use of coindexation of PRO to the external argument inorder to account for reflexive applicatives in section 3.7, and restriction tothe projection of multiple specifiers, used to explain why stative verbs woulddisallow the projection of applied arguments.

In conclusion, the problems pointed out above make this book more difficult toread and also give a feeling of an unfinished task. Nevertheless, I considerthese observations to be mitigated in face of the difficulties related to theapplication of this formal approach to under-represented languages. I recommendit to all linguists interested in either polysynthetic languages or in causativeconstructions.


Baker, M. 1996. The Polysynthesis Parameter. New York: Oxford University Press.

Cuervo, M. 2003. Datives at Large. PhD dissertation. Cambridge, MA:Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Embick, D. 2010. Localism versus Globalism in Morphology and Phonology.Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Hale, K. & Keyser, S. J. 2002. Prolegomenon to a Theory of Argument Structure.Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Lomashvili, L. & Harley, H. 2011. Phases and templates in Georgian agreement.Studia Linguistica 65:3, p. 233-267.

Noyer, R. 1997. Features, Positions and Affixes in Autonomous MorphologicalStructure. New York: Garland.

Pylkkännen, L. 2002. Introducing Arguments. PhD dissertation. Cambridge, MA:Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Aroldo Andrade is a postdoctoral fellow at the State University of Campinas. His research focus is the relation between morphosyntactic change and information structure. For his PhD he studied complex predicates formed by raising/control and Exceptional Case Marking verbs, in connection with the realization of clitic climbing in the history of Portuguese.

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