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Review of  Syntactic Heads and Word Formation

Reviewer: Alexandra Galani
Book Title: Syntactic Heads and Word Formation
Book Author: Marit Julien
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Morphology
Issue Number: 14.1639

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Date: Tue, 10 Jun 2003 01:06:27 -0700 (PDT)
From: Alexandra Galani
Subject: Syntactic Heads and Word Formation

Julien, Marit (2003) Syntactic Heads and Word Formation,
Oxford University Press, Oxford Studies in Comparative Syntax.

Alexandra Galani, Department of Language and Linguistic Science,
University of York, England.


This book deals with word formation. Specifically, Julien investigates
how morphemes -- the minimal units of form and meaning in language --
are organised in the syntax to form complex words. She is particularly
interested in what determines their organisation. She claims that words
are perceived -- and not formed -- in the syntax and there is no
morphological component based on distributional criteria. Any two
morphemes can adjoin to form a grammatical word, if they are adjacent.
It is, consequently, assumed that grammar does not have any operations
for forming words. Although Julien's work is inspired by the
Distributed Morphology approach to word formation (Halle and Marantz
1993), she deviates from it in not recognising the operation of
morphological merger in her theory. Evidence for her theory is drawn
from 530 languages from all over the world, for which she investigates
word and morpheme order.

The book is divided into six chapters in addition to the introduction
('an overview of the work') and the conclusion with some general
remarks on the nature of words. Appendixes of the symbols and the
abbreviations used (pp.326-329), a survey of word order and verb
morphology in the languages investigated (pp.330-357), references
(pp.331-376), other sources consulted for language classification and
language data (pp.377-399) as well as language (pp.400-402) and subject
indexes (pp.403-407) are also available.

Introduction: An overview of the work

A thorough summary of the main questions and claims which are made in
each of the chapters, is given in this introductory section.

Chapter 1: On syntax and complex words

In this chapter, the author presents a brief summary of the previous
approaches to word formation (the lexicalist view in generative grammar
and the syntactic approach). She presents the model of grammar she
assumes, and she then moves onto discussing the differences between
phonological and grammatical words. In the final section of this
chapter, she presents some of the results of the survey around the
verbal morphology of the languages she investigated.

Chapter 2: Head movement and complex heads

In the second chapter, she discusses head-movement as a word-forming
operation. She is particularly interested in what triggers head-
movement. She argues that a strong head feature attracts the next head
and, if the features are not checked, the derivation will crash. She
also claims that excorporation is not possible. The order of the
morphemes is linked to the sequence of heads in the syntactic structure
and it is derived by head-movement. Finally, she also concludes that
the operation of morphological merger is not necessary, based on the
argument that words are always formed by head-movement.

Chapter 3: Head-final languages

The aim of chapter 3 is to discuss head-final languages. She assumes
Kayne's (1994) claim that head-final order, when combined with
suffixing and agglutinating morphology, could be the result of
successive movements of complements to specifier positions.

Chapter 4: Prefixes

Prefixed verbal inflectional markers are discussed in this chapter. The
main claim is that the inflectional marker and the root of the verb are
syntactic heads which have not been moved in these cases.

Chapter 5: The distribution of verbal markers

The positions in which verbal markers appear in different word orders,
are investigated in this chapter. She concludes that, although
individual morphemes are represented in separate syntactic heads,
agreement markers should not be analysed accordingly. These morphemes
do not have an independent content but they are added to heads with
one. Chapter 6: On the morphology module In the final chapter,
Julien argues that discontinuous marking does not exist, whereas
allomorphy and syncretism are morphological phenomena dealing with how
morphemes are spelled-out morphologically. She, consequently, claims
that word formation is a syntactic process and the morphological
component does not exist, as the positions at which morphemes appear is
only determined by the syntax.

Conclusion: The nature of words

This section is a summary of the claims that have been made throughout
the chapters in this book.


As a whole the book is well-organised, coherent and (mostly) user-
friendly. The author presents an enormous amount of data based on
languages belonging to different families from all over the world. She,
generally, presents convincing data for the syntactic approach to word
formation, although it is not particularly clear that the morphological
component does not exist based on the claim that word formation is all
about the positions in which different morphemes appear.

The chapters are generally well-organised and equally presented,
although particular attention has been paid to chapter 3, devoted to
head-final languages. In chapter 1, the discussion about the previous
approaches to word formation could have been implemented, whereas the
discussion around phonological and grammatical words could have been
shorter. Cross-references are generally well-managed. The concluding
remarks after a major discussion, especially once a large proportion of
data has been presented, are particularly welcomed. The theoretical
points are well-supported by rich exemplification. A summary of what
follows is also useful, helping the reader to keep track with the
points invited for discussion next and the data used in each case. The
introductory chapter is well-presented, all issues are mentioned and
the main arguments are provided. The reader is well-prepared as to what
follows. Alternative analyses are also given in many cases where

Nonetheless, there is a number of points I would like to draw the
attention on to:

- p.7: The Hua examples run up to page 275 (from pp. 273-275 and not
p.274, as the author cites).

- p. 67: "The resulting structure, shown in (14), is repeated here as
(22)". It is actually (15).

- p.71: Some of the languages mentioned are not included in the index.

- p.73: "We would say that the highest ... 'stolen' in (33) ...". It is
actually (32).

- p.204: "Since the habitual marker in Ewes ...". It should have been

- p.190: "If a modal verb is present ...". The verb 'want' appears in
the relevant example, (5).

- p. 309: "In the [-1] markers ... in (11)". It is (10).

- Punctuation marks are missing from several points in the text (due to
space limitations I am not including them here).

- She presents a great range of data but I think a closer look to and
some additional discussion of some of the examples is needed for the
reader's better understanding and, especially, as the discussion
progresses. Perhaps, the frequent incorporation of parts of the data
within the discussion in the main text could have helped the reader.

- p.41: She talks about verb roots in the syntax but in the syntactic
representations she provides, the roots do not appear. Instead, VP is
present. According to Embick (2000) and Galani (2003a, b, c) roots
appear in the syntactic component and the environment they appear in
(nominal or verbal) is determined by the root's local environment in
the syntactic representation. This could be actually an additional
argument for the syntactic approach to word formation she is proposing:
a root is a syntactic category and the formation of particular words is
determined by the syntax. - If word formation can be seen as a
purely syntactic process, where syntax generates the appropriate
structures and determines the morpheme order, it is not particularly
clear how affixes which cannot be interpreted in the syntactic
component (for example, the augment in Modern Greek (Galani 2002b), a
prefix inserted in some past verbal forms in order to occupy the stress
-moving to the antepenultimate in the past tenses- when there is not an
available position to do so) are explained.

- In the first chapter, she discusses the differences between
phonological and grammatical words but it feels that the discussion is
not particularly linked to the rest of the claims, at least not until
chapter 4 where she discusses prefixes.

- p.213: "Furthermore, while the marker of non-imperative mood precedes
the negation in (62), the reverse order is also possible, as in (64)".
Although she explains the pattern in the first example, she does not
explain the difference/pattern shown in the second example.

- p. 225-227: Here, she offers some concluding remarks on prefixing,
incorporating grammaticalisation. Although the discussion is very
interesting and could benefit, she does not expand on it.

-p.308: "Fusion is a syntactic process ... It is not necessarily the
case that there are any specifically morphological aspects to the
phenomenon of fusion". Galani (2003a, b, c) argues that fusion can be
also be a morphological operation (based on how aspect and voice are
marked on the verb, see also (1) below).

- She claims that allomorphy does not have relevance inside complex
words. Allomorphy is phonologically conditioned. As argued by Galani
(2003a, b, c) regarding the allomorphy theme vowels present in Modern
Greek, allomorphy cannot be only seen as conditioned phonologically. It
might be related to lexical features, stored in the lexicon, which
should be interpreted at the morphological component. Otherwise,
ungrammaticality results. This shows that morphology should be an
independent component, as morphological operations alter word formation
and violations result to ungrammaticality. This is further supported by
Booij (1997) who, as Juliet mentions, further explains that
"distributional patterns of allomorphs cannot be deduced from
phonological or syntactic principles" (Julien 2003:310).

- p.310: "The Spanish spurious 'se', which appears instead of the
ordinary third person dative clitic if followed by a third person
accusative clitic, is a case in point". I believe an/the example should
have been given.

- p.335: She claims that the morpheme order in Modern Greek is
V+T/M+S/Agr. Leaving aside V (whether it is a V or a root), it has been
claimed that what follows the verb/root are the morphemes representing
aspect/voice (Smirniotopoulos 1992, Galani 2003a, b, c, among many

(1) (a) kal - 'u - s - a

(b) k'al - e - s - a
root.invite - PERFECTIVE - ACTIVE - 1SG.PAST

(c) kal - 'umun

(d) kal - 'e - stik - a

In addition, it is highly debatable how and whether mood is marked in
Modern Greek.

I believe this book provides useful arguments for a syntactic point of
view to word formation based on head-movement, although I support a
complex system of word formation which requires the interaction of
syntax-morphology-phonology (Galani 2002c). The typological value of
the view is also highly appreciated.


Booij, G. (1997). "Allomorphy and the autonomy of morphology". Folia
Interlinguistica 31:25-56.

Embick, D. (2000). "Features, syntax and categories in Latin perfect".
Linguistic Inquiry 31(2):185-230.

Galani, A. (2002a). "The morphosyntax of the verbal forms in Modern
Greek". Interlinguistica 13(2):153-170.

Galani, A. (2002b). "A DM analysis of the augment in Modern Greek".
PLUM, Univesity of Manchester.

Galani, A. (2002c). "Verb formation: morphology or syntax?". In ConSOLE
Proceedings, University of Leiden.

Galani, A. (2003a). "An analysis of theme vowels in Modern Greek".
Interlinguistica 14.

Galani, A. (2003b). "Word formation: Syntax-morphology interface.
Evidence form the theme vowels in Modern Greek". Paper presented at the
16th International Symposium on Theoretical and Applied Linguistics.
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

Galani, A. (2003c). "Allomorphy: Theme vowels in Modern Greek".
Proceedings of the First Postgraduate Conference in Language Research.
University of Cambridge.

Halle, M. and A. Marantz (1993). "Distributed Morphology and the pieces
of inflection". In K. Hale and J. S. Keyer (eds), The view from
building 20: Essays in honour of Sylvain Bromberger. Cambridge,
Massachusetts: MIT Press, pp.111-178.

Kayne, R. S. (1994). The antisymmetry of syntax. Cambridge,
Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Smirniotopoulos, J. (1992). Lexical passive in Modern Greek. Doctoral
Dissertation. New York: Garland.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER Alexandra Galani is a PhD student at the Department of Language and Linguistic Science at the University of York, UK. She is currently working on the morphosyntax of tense and aspect in Modern Greek within the theoretical framework of Distributed Morphology.