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Review of  Analysing Secondary Predication in East Asian Languages

Reviewer: Benjamin Brosig
Book Title: Analysing Secondary Predication in East Asian Languages
Book Author: Ryosuke Shibagaki
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Language Family(ies): Asian Mixed Language
Issue Number: 24.4359

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In “Analysing Secondary Predication in East Asian Languages”, Ryosuke Shibagaki compares the syntactic structure of resultatives and adjective depictives in the East and Central Asian languages Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Khalkha Mongolian and Korean within the framework of Government Binding by applying a number of syntactic and semantic tests to constructed sentences judged by a small number of informants.

For Mandarin (pp. 7-54), the main syntactic types under discussion are consequence depictives like John chi[1]-ni[4] le man[2]tou J. eat-bored PFV bun ‘John ate the bun and became bored with doing so’ that exhibit a sequence of events with a weak causal relationship and always refer to the subject, and canonical resultatives like John da[3]-po[4] le bo[1]-li J. hit-broken PFV glasses ‘John hit the glass broken’ that are always object-oriented. These are tested with time adverbials and clefting, indicating properties of consequence depictives somewhere in-between depictives and resultatives. This is followed by a critique of the previous literature about orientation patterns, and culminates into an analysis along patterns of causation and aspect such as [event [event x ACT ON-y] CAUS-ind [event BECOME [state x BE AT-y]]].

The discussion of Japanese (pp. 55-174) is about as long as the other three main chapters combined. Both intransitive resultatives (there are no transitive subject-oriented resultatives in Japanese) and object-oriented resultatives can always be marked with -ni, while the additional suffix -ku can be applied to the latter only if the adjective is a term denoting colour or shape. Depictives are marked by -de. The test battery for resultatives consists of:

(i) insertion of 10 pun-kan/-de ‘for/in ten minutes’ to detect telicity (only telic ...-de possible)
(ii) paraphrasing with onaziyoo ‘in the same way’ (impossible, as it would indicate adverbials instead)
(iii) VP nominalization (-ni can be replaced by -e for goal, but not for resultative phrases)
(iv) being the target of wh-question, pseudo-clefting and do-so-replacement (e.g. the resultative must be subsumed under soo si-ta ‘did so’, i.e., it is within the VP)
(v) insertion of overt notional subjects (impossible)
(vi) combination of two resultatives (impossible)
(vii) replacement with antonyms (impossible)
(viii) morphological properties of lexical items as an additional heuristics.

Japanese resultatives are thus analyzed as part of the VP, namely, [VP [NPi] [V’ [XP [[pro-i] [resultative predicate]] V]. Those canonical resultatives are then contrasted to a number of predicates claimed to be resultatives in some of the previous literature, which can be excluded on the basis of the tests mentioned above. The section concludes with a discussion of lexical properties of resultative adjectives based on the previous literature. A mostly identical test battery is applied to depictives (non-telic, not paraphrasable by onaziyoo, coordinatable, not targetable by wh-questions, can, but needn’t be clefted (for subject-depictive), notional subject impossible, no particular semantics required (cf. antonym test)), placing subject depictives under T’ or vP, while object depictives occupy a somewhat lower position. Discussions about fake depictives, the lexical properties of depictives, and aspect (stative vs. inchoative, lexical vs. syntactical) follow.

The sections on Khalkha Mongolian (pp. 175-224) and Korean (pp. 225-254) basically follow the pattern established in the chapter on Japanese, though no sources (of any kind) have been used for Mongolian, and the discussion of previous research on Korean is considerably less extensive than the discussions of Mandarin and Japanese.

Mongolian resultatives, marked with the converb -tal, only combine with the telic time adverbials, cannot be clefted, have to be included during do-so-replacement, only work with one item of an antonym pair, allow for notional subjects that can take accusative in case of differential subject marking and cannot be scrambled to the position behind the resultative, and can occur more than once in a sentence iff non-identical notional subjects are present. Ultimately, Mongolian resultatives are identified as not belonging to the complement type and, as pseudo-resultatives, are posited at no less than three different positions: subject resultatives as TP under T’ and TP under vP and object resultatives as TP under V’. Potential depictives are divided into the following types: Dorj Tuyaa-g a. nücgen-eer / b. nücgen-eer=n’ / c. nücgen-eer=ee / d. nücgen bai-h-ad / e. nücgen bai-h-ad=n’ / f. nücgen bai-h-d=aa / g. nücgen shalga-san ‘Dorj examined Tuyaa naked’ (pp. 194-195). Here, -aar is the instrumental case, =aa is reflexive-possessive (i.e. indicates that the possessor is the subject of the clause in which it occurs), =n’ indicates a third person non-subject possessor, and bai-h-ad is COP-NPST.PTCP-DAT. Of these, a and g are said to be ambiguous, while b, d, e are subject-oriented and c and f non-subject-oriented. The test battery consists of adilhan (hopefully the same as onaziyoo), the temporal adverbials (only atelic), pseudo-cleft (needs the depictive to stay within the VP for object depictives, while both OK for subject depictives), do-so-replacement (OK for ambiguous types, * for baihad, ? for the rest), insertion of a notional subject (OK with baihad(=n’/=aa)), scrambling (OK except for baihad; the ambiguous forms stay ambiguous), two subject-depictives/object-depictives/mixed depictives with notional subject (OK with baihad(=n’/=aa)), two depictives with identical orientation without notional subject (all *), wh-extraction (all ?/??), and orientation towards obliques (mixed results). As a result, a, c, f and g with their subject-orientation can either occur under T´ or vP, while the object-oriented depictives a, b, d and g occur under VP and d under V’. d, e and f, due to the possible insertion of a notional subject, are not small clauses and thus pseudo-depictives.

The analysis of Korean is peculiar in that secondary predicates with -lo are claimed to exhibit the properties of canonical resultatives and depictives, only to be ignored in the following discussion based on test batteries solely applied to predications in -key that are found to lack the properties of either canonical resultatives or depictives (e.g., both allowing for a notional subject to be added).

Linguistic evidence and a lack of concern for it is the book’s major shortcoming. Shibagaki relied on a single linguist native speaker for Khalkha, and on just two linguist native speakers of Korean. Single native speakers will regularly fail to recognize some situations in which certain sentences could be felicitously uttered, and linguist informants might perceive linguistic data according to the schemes they were trained to believe, such as, e.g., an extreme gradability of grammaticality judgments. A belief in universal linguistic structure may worsen matters. For Korean and in some cases even for Chinese, Shibagaki was comfortable enough to take sentences marked by “?” and “OK/??” as proof of grammatically acceptable sentences without further discussion. (I don’t understand why “OK/??” is used instead of “OK/?”, as two question marks indicate something worse than just one question mark at least on p. 76.) The situation is somewhat better for Japanese where the author often does discuss sentences marked with “?” before accepting them. But even here he is not consistent: on p. 76, the grammaticality of 49b (“?”) is argued for on the basis of gut feeling rather than reasoning, and on p. 77 Shibagaki states that an example marked as “?” is lexically problematic but grammatically fine, which would require such a division to be cognitively real in the first place. Handling of evidence might also be fair for Chinese where he relied on “a number of native Mandarin (non-)linguists from Beijing, Nanjing, Hong Kong and Taiwan” (p. 7), though Hong Kong is not particularly known for its Mandarin speakers.

A similar indifference toward linguistic evidence is probably behind Shibagaki's approach to phonemes. Mandarin was transcribed without tones, leading to drastic underdifferentiation. For Mongolian, /tsʰ/ and /ts/ are both written as < z >, /ʉ/ and /ʊ/ both as < u >, and non-initial /i/ and some of the instances of palatalization as < i >. Similarly, he doesn’t differentiate between functions and word classes, speaking of adverbs instead of adverbials (passim) and adjectival forms instead of attributive forms (p. 74).

As both the discussion of Chinese and Japanese intensively engage with and are well integrated into discussions from previous literature, there is little doubt that they actually contribute to our understanding of these forms, whether one is inclined to side with Shibagaki or, as a non-generativist would have to do, to put forward an alternative analysis. Given the rather thin evidence employed in the chapter on Korean, I am not confident that as much may be said here. The data for Mongolian cannot be readily used as it is. I discussed a number of Shibagaki’s examples with four informants. While too small to create unproblematic evidence, this limited sample should be sufficient to show how questionable grammaticality judgments on Mongolian are in this book.

One of the most problematic examples is the use of resultatives with atelic and depictives with telic time adverbials, which might have been considered ungrammatical on the basis of linguistic prejudice based on grammatical training. In all examples below, the orthography was modified to be phonemic and English names were replaced with Mongolian ones:

*[sic!] Dorj ene metal-iig 10 minut-iin tursh havtgai bol-tol davt-san. (p. 179)
D. DEM.PROX metal-ACC 10 minute-GEN during flat become-CVB.until hammer-PST
‘Dorj hammered the [this!] metal flat for 10 minutes.’

*[sic!] Dorj Tuyaa-g nücgen-eer=n’ 10 minut-iin dotor shalga-san. (p. 199)
D. T.-ACC naked-INS=3POSS 10 minute-GEN within examine-PST
‘Dorj examined Tuyaa-i naked-i in ten minutes.’

“tursh” ‘during/for’ in (1) was immediately accepted by all four informants, as was “dotor” ‘within’ in (2). In both cases, the event was understood to be completed (as is implied by the use of the perfect to perfective past form -san, the only difference being that the event with “tursh” took the entire 10 minutes for completion, while the event with “dotor” most likely lasted for less than 10 minutes. The reason this test doesn’t work might be that the English adverbials Shibagaki had in mind have no one-to-one correspondence in Mongolian. Similarly, Shibagaki assumed from previous studies that “another typical characteristic of a real resultative construction” is “that only one of the antonym pairs qualifies as a resultative predicate in a resultative sentence” (p. 181):

Dorj ene conh-iig ceverhen/ *[sic!] bohir bol-tol arch-san. (p. 181)
D. DEM.PROX window-ACC clean / dirty become-CVB.until wipe-PST
‘Dorj wiped this window clean / *dirty.’

Informants are fine with the variant with “bohir” ‘dirty’ if provided with a plausible context, e.g. some condition that prevents Dorj from noticing that he is wiping a clean window with a dirty cloth. Two informants suggested an alternative interpretation in which it was Dorj himself who got dirty, though, as this point differs over my informants, it would require further investigation.

In one set of cases, a mismatch between (possibly) acceptable Mongolian sentences and their actual meaning was caused by presupposing a universal linguistic structure, while ignoring well-documented features of Mongolian grammar. Here, Mongolian sentences with a direct object and a dative-marked recipient were equated with the English (“UG”?) Double Object Construction, while the examples “with the preposition ruu ‘to’” “represent the dative counterpart of the double object construction” (p. 215):

Dorj ene zahia-g Tuyaa-d / Tuyaa[-]ruu nücgen-eer=n’ ög-sön. (p. 215, 216)
‘Dorj gave Tuyaa this letter naked [=without envelope].’
/ ‘Dorj gave this letter to Tuyaa naked [=without envelope].’

Dorj Tuyaa-ruu nücgen [D/T] / nücgen-eer=ni [?T] / nücgen-eer [D/T] yar`-san.
‘Dorj spoke to Tuyaa naked.’

Virtually any English or Japanese language grammar of Khalkha Mongolian explains that “ruu” is subject to vowel harmony and irregular initial consonant dissimilation. It must thus be regarded as a case suffix (and of course neither as a prefix nor preposition). More crucially, -ruu expresses a more specific meaning, namely, directionality: ‘down towards’ > ‘towards’. It is thus not applicable to recipients. My informants are divided about whether (4) with -ruu is acceptable, with two rejecting and two basically accepting it. Whether considered well-formed or not, it does manage to convey the meaning that Dorj gave the letter to somebody else who subsequently handed it to Tuyaa. (5) rather means that Dorj PHONED Tuyaa naked. The semantic oddity and subsequent overall problematic acceptability of (4) does affect the suitability of these examples to determine which syntactic phrases depictives can relate to, even though they still represent oblique arguments, as intended by Shibagaki.

Other instances of questionable grammaticality judgments include the examples of the aspectlessness of small clauses in Mongolian (both variants of the sentence in p. 183, footnote 1 are acceptable, and neither contains a small clause), do-so replacement (which works just fine, at least for 36a-c on p. 204), coordination of depictive adjuncts (which appears not to work for examples like 39a on p. 207 containing bai-had=n’ without a significant break between the phrases that probably indicates reconsideration, while it seems to work with two instrumentals without reflexive-possessive marking in sentences like 45f. on p. 213 -- unconditionally accepted by 2 informants, while the other 2 were slightly unsure), and wh-extraction (which works fine as well).

I conclude that Shibagaki’s data on Mongolian is not reliable enough to be used for typological work without additional research. A more serious attempt to come to terms with problematic data might start with a corpus as the source of sentences presented to informants, and work with a larger number of informants, either both qualitatively and quantitatively or just qualitatively. Shibagaki could also have used visual stimuli, so that informants produce the sentences in question rather than just confirm them.

This being said, parts of Shibagaki’s analysis can certainly be defended, but how much of it is new? In Brosig 2009, found in Shibagaki’s bibliography but not quoted, I discussed bare adjectives and adjectives in -aar as depictives, while ADJ+baihad was a priori excluded (as they obviously don’t belong to the same prosodic unit as the main predicate, thus failing Schultze-Bernd and Himmelmann’s (2001: 77-78) definition of depictives). And they also take a different scope from actual depictives:

?[sic!] Dorj Tuyaa-g nücgen bai-h-d=aa / nücgen-eer=ee shalga-san, harin Baatar sogtuu bai-h-d=aa / sogtuu-gaar=aa teg-sen.
‘Dorj-i examined Tuyaa naked-i, but Baatar-j did so drunk-j.’ (p. 204)

Both variants were translated identically. However, with baihdaa, Dorj and Baatar examined Tuyaa within a longer period during which they were naked and drunk, respectively, while the use of the instrumental -aar implies that these states are exactly simultaneous with the main predication, that is, Dorj and Baatar got naked and drunk on purpose expressly to examine Tuyaa. (As this rarely coincides with real world experience, informants indeed considered the second variant a bit strange without context.) As in the case of the directive “ruu” discussed above, knowing something about the meaning of the sentences investigated (that, given different forms, is expected to be non-identical) would have furthered the investigation.

There are other instances where Brosig 2009 contradicts or supplements Shibagaki 2012, and discussing those might have been helpful. For instance, while it is not controversial that the notional subjects with bare adjective depictives that Shibagaki constructed ad hoc are ungrammatical, that doesn’t necessarily mean that such notional subjects are altogether impossible, e.g. “tergüün ihemseg yav-” head haughty go- ‘walk about haughtily’ was attested in my corpus. I am not certain how such an example would have influenced Shibagaki’s analysis, and I would have liked to know. Moreover, while Shibagaki would probably have been able to refute most of my rather brief and clumsy discussion on resultatives (quite parallel to what he did include into his pseudo-resultative section on Japanese), I still wonder whether some instances of the word class that has been termed “descriptive adverbs” in Mongolian studies (e.g. Sechenbaatar 2003: 166-167) might qualify as resultatives (and, in that case, as real ones, not being subordinate converbal clauses as those marked by -tal):

Hödölmör-iin baatr-iin gar-iig huga coh’-jee.
movement-GEN hero-GEN hand-ACC into.pieces hit-2HAND.PST
‘[Somebody] hit the hand of the hero of labour very severely / so that it broke.’

Finally, some editorial issues have to be mentioned: cross-referencing between chapters is poor, with a number of dead links (reference in 4.1 to 4.1 on p. 26, cross-reference to 3.3 instead of 3.4 on p. 69 and p. 89, reference to the non-existing footnote 62 on p. 221 instead of to chapter 4 footnote 1, etc.), and pages 83-86 are missing (at least in my copy). “Int[ended meaning]” is used inconsistently, a few examples (e.g., p. 208) are aligned with cut-and-paste translations from other examples, the Mongolian copula is written -bai instead of bai- (p. 209) and the verb teg ‘do so’ should be teg- (p. 203). There are slight translation mistakes such as demonstratives missing in the translations on p. 179 cited above and 187. The English overall is rather poor, though perfectly intelligible. While such mistakes are almost unavoidable, they are too numerous to have made it into print.

In summary, Shibagaki’s work sheds some new light on resultatives and depictives in Chinese, Japanese and Mongolian. However, for Korean and to a lesser degree Mongolian, it is regrettable that only part of the relevant data was discussed, leaving the picture incomplete. Moreover, the sections on Mongolian and Korean rely on problematic evidence, and a certain degree of carelessness with fitting evidence into his model can be observed in other parts as well. As the grammatical judgments in the chapters on Mongolian and Korean cannot be taken at face value, syntactic typologists and generativist theoreticians, surely among the target audience of this book, won’t be able to make much direct use of such data. Given that Shibagaki’s discussion does have the potential to inspire further research into any of the four languages analyzed, a very thoroughly revised version of this book might still make a valuable contribution to the syntactic typology of secondary predicates.

Brosig, Benjamin. 2009. Depictives and resultatives in modern Khalkh Mongolian. Hokkaidō gengo bunka kenkyū 7. 71-101.

Schultze-Bernd, Eva & Nikolaus Himmelmann. 2001. Depictive secondary predicates in cross-linguistic perspective. Linguistic typology 8. 59-131.

Sechenbaatar, Borjigin. 2003. The Chakhar dialect of Mongol: a morphological description. Helsinki: Finno-Ugrian society.
Benjamin Brosig is a doctoral candidate in general linguistics at Stockholm University with a master's degree in Mongolian studies and general linguistics, plus Japanese studies as a minor. His research interests range from aspectuality, evidentiality and other morpho-syntactic verbal categories over historical linguistics, dialect grammar and field linguistics to politeness, with main expertise in Mongolic. Along with a dissertation on aspect and evidentiality in Middle Mongol, Khalkha Mongolian and Khorchin Mongolian, current or recent research activities concern negation in Mongolic, the semantic field of temperature in Khalkha, and a documentation of Durvud Oirat (led by Yu. Tsendee).

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