Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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EDITOR: Grohmann, Kleanthes K. TITLE: Explorations of Phase Theory SUBTITLE: Interpretation at the Interfaces SERIES: Interface Explorations [IE] 17 PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter YEAR: 2009
Yosuke Sato, Department of English Language and Literature, National University of Singapore
The volume under review grew out of the InterPhases conference that was held at Casteliotissa Hall in Nicosia, Cyprus on May 18-20, 2006; see also Grohmann (2009a, b) for the other two volumes which also derived from this conference. The chapters collected in this volume variously address issues surrounding Phase Theory (Chomsky 2000 et seq.) and interpretation at the interface of the syntactic computation with the sound and meaning components.
The present volume consists of ten chapters, followed by the list of contributors and index. The opening chapter by Kleanthes Grohmann entitled ''Exploring Interfaces'' introduces core concepts within Phase Theory as laid out in Chomsky's recent writings and sketches out central questions that arise in this theory with regards to the nature and number of interface levels, the timing and nature of the operation Transfer, and the computational efficiency of the syntactic derivation. This chapter also contains a useful summary of the following chapters and of how they relate to the central theme of the volume: Phase Theory and interpretation at the interfaces.
The second chapter by Tobias Scheer (''Intermodular Argumentation and the Word-Spell-Out Mystery'') points out that Phase Theory opens a new possibility for intermodular argumentation, namely, that syntax acts as a reference point for competing phonological theories and vice versa. As one case study of this argumentation, he argues that Kaye's (1995) version of lexical phonology is intermodularly adequate since it provides selective spell-out, the edge of the spelled-out domain, and the Phase Impenetrability(-like) Condition. Scheer also notes that this argumentation crucially depends on the assumption that morphology and syntax have the same Spell-Out system, but this is far from obvious in light of what he calls the ''Word-Spell-Out Mystery''; the phonological effects of cyclic spell-out are abundant below words but not above words.
The third chapter by Martin Haiden (''On Bare Prosodic Structure and the Spell-Out of Features'') argues for a parallel model of phonology and syntax to solve the look-ahead problem posed by Classic Arabic medial gemination and other phenomena. According to his model, phonology does not apply after syntax but the two components apply in parallel in a single cycle. The interface representations are created recursively in both components and mediated by the transparent mapping principle to the effect that (PHON, SEM) pairs must remain unchanged throughout a derivation.
Hisao Tokizaki's chapter (''Spell Out before You Merge'') is concerned with a paradox in direction between the bottom-up Multiple Spell-Out model and the Left-to-Right top-down linearization. To resolve this paradox, he proposes that a lexical item is introduced in the syntax with a syntactic bracket and Spelled-Out to PF at the same time, ensuring the top-down nature of linearization, with the semantic features kept in the workspace until Merge constructs vP and CP phases, as is commonly assumed in Phase Theory. He further argues that syntactic brackets are real objects since they are mapped to silent deliberates that have definable phonological and parsing consequences at the phonological interface.
Dalina Kallulli's chapter (''On the Derivation of the Relation between Givenness and Deaccentuation: A Best-Case Model'') addresses the issue of the division of labor between the different components of grammar with a detailed case study of deaccentuation of given discourse material in English, Albanian, and Modern Greek. Drawing on the best case scenario laid out by Chomsky (2004), whereby the derivation of proceeds in parallel, she proposes that the givenness of an embedded CP must be expressed within the syntax by a feature of a functional head, which is instantiated either by clitic-like elements or deaccentuation.
Carlo Geraci's chapter (''Phase Theory, Linearization and Zig-Zag Movement'') provides evidence for what he calls Zig-Zag Movement in Italian Sign Language where a wh-phrase/negative word undergoes movement from the edge of the vP phase to the opposite edge of the CP phase. He shows that this type of movement should be prohibited under the Cyclic Linearization model of Fox and Pesetsky (2005), when combined with two independently motivated restrictions on movement: the ban against complement-to-specifier movement within the same phrase (Abels 2003) and the ban against movement from one specifier to another within the same phrase (Ko 2005). He proposes that this problem is resolved once we assume that elements that have unvalued features in the computation are unparsed for the purposes of Spell-Out and linearization.
In the chapter entitled ''Surviving Reconstruction'', Thomas Stroik and Michael Putnam discuss well-known reconstruction asymmetries with respect to Principle C. They provide empirical and conceptual problems (e.g. tucking in, processing complexities) with two recent analyses of these asymmetries (Fox's 2003 Late Merge and Chomsky's 2004 Pair Merge + Simpl) and show how these problems are naturally resolved under the version of minimalism they call Survive. The essential ingredient of this theory is that a syntactic object with an unchecked feature remains active in the Numeration to be accessible to syntactic computation. This Survive framework not only derives the reconstruction asymmetries without causing the problems with Fox and Chomsky but also allows one to maintain a strictly derivational theory of syntax that is free from look-ahead/look-back, tucking-in, Internal Merge, and Multiple Spell-Out/phases.
Anjum Saleemi's chapter (''On the Interface(s) between Syntax and Meaning'') suggests a linear/horizontal version of minimalism according to which the syntax-meaning interface constitutes one end of the derivation, with the Articulatory-Perceptual (A-P) System being connected to it by Spell-Out. He further argues for a view of syntax that encompasses pragmatic-illocutionary aspects of meaning as well as lexical/conceptual structures as an integral part of the Conceptual-Intentional (C-I) System within the CP region. According to his view, Phases are themselves interfaces that obey the conditions imposed from syntax and the C-I System. Saleemi argues that this reconceptualization of the grammatical architecture allows for a new account of several empirical domains, including right dislocation in Urdu(-Hindi), polarity items, and binding.
In his chapter ''Dynamic Economy of Derivation'', Takashi Toyoshima attempts to situate the derivational complexity of syntax within the theory of computational complexity developed in mathematics and information science. Specifically, he proposes a dynamic economy principle of minimum feature retention such that at a stage of the derivation, the operation is chosen that leaves the fewest number of uninterpretable features in the resulting stage of the same derivation. The idea behind this principle is that local one-step look-ahead is the very essence of the syntactic computation; what is avoided is the derivationally look-far-ahead. This principle resolves mis-generation problems with analyses that resort to static economy measures such as local economy, lexical subarrays, and the Preference for Move over Merge.
The final chapter by Dennis Ott (''The Conceptual Necessity of Phases: Some Remarks on the Minimalist Enterprise'') argues for the conceptual necessity of phases from the perspective of the C-I System. Given the Unconstrained-Merge vision of the syntactic derivation, it is solely conditions imposed from the C-I System that decide which structures are usable for conceptual organization. Ott's proposal is that those structures are phases, namely, CP, vP, and DP, and that these units have privileged status due to their propositional character (information/discourse semantics, thematic structure, and referentiality, respectively). According to this view, Ott concludes, the primary task of the theorists is to elucidate C-I properties to give substance to the notion of propositionality.
The present volume makes it abundantly clear that interface explorations have finally come to the forefront of the Minimalist Program thanks to the advent of Phase Theory. As stated in Scheer's chapter, this dynamic architecture leads theorists to serious examination of a wide variety of phonological and semantic issues that have not received the attention they deserve and concomitant reconceptualization of the computational component from a syntax-external perspective. I take this move as a welcome result given the recent minimalist conjecture (Chomsky 2004; see also Hauser et al. 2002) that the computation of human language boils down to the binary concatenative operation of Merge. In this regard, the present volume certainly serves as an excellent showcase for the state of the art in interface investigations. As for the other half of the concern of the present volume, Phase Theory, however, things are still up in the air. No agreement has been reached yet on what Phases are and what they are for within the syntax after a decade since Chomsky (2000) laid them out. Some (Haiden, Stroik and Putnam, and Toyoshima) reject the notion/use of Phase as a source of computational complexity (look-ahead, look-back, mis-generation); some others (Saleemi and Ott) try to motivate the necessity of Phases from interface conditions; the others (Scheer, Tokizaki, Geraci and Kallulli) simply adopt the theory though this choice does not seem directly relevant to their respective enterprises. One major reason for this state of affairs, I believe, is that every linguist working within Phase Theory has quite a different take on it without ever asking what Phase Theory can do and (perhaps more importantly) what Phase Theory cannot do. Toyoshima's attempt to frame the issue of the syntactic derivation within the mathematical theory of computational complexity and Stroik and Putnam's proposal for a fully local derivational theory in terms of Survive (see also Geraci's proposal mentioned above) sheds light on this issue, but it does not seem to be of central importance to minimalist syntacticians at this point.
Combining the two points made above, the current volume makes clear two directions of research one could pursue within the Minimalist Program. One is to elucidate the properties of the syntactic component from a domain-general perspective (along the lines of Chomsky's 2005 'Third-Factor''); the other is to investigate sound and meaning-related phenomena and understand how syntax should work to capture them from an external perspective. Either way, it seems safe to conclude that syntax as the traditional subdiscipline governing sentence and phrase construction has come to an end; it either falls within domain-invariant principles of mathematics/physics (cf. Biolinguistics; Chomsky 2005) or is relegated to external interfaces.
The InterPhases Conference was definitely the biggest conference on Phase Theory and Interfaces ever held, which brought together some 200 linguists in Nicosia to exchange ideas on various issues regarding these topics. As a participant of the conference myself, I am confident that the volume bears testimony to the exciting week back in May 2006. I recommend this volume to linguists and advanced graduate students who are interested in Phase Theory and linguistic interfaces.
Abels, Klaus (2003) Successive Cyclicity, Anti-Locality, and Adposition Stranding. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Connecticut, Storrs. Chomsky, Noam (2000) ''Minimalist Inquiries: The Framework.'' In Roger Martin, David Michaels & Juan Uriagereka (eds.) Step by Step: Essays on Minimalist Syntax in Honor of Howard Lasnik. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 89-156. Chomsky, Noam (2004) ''Beyond Explanatory Adequacy.'' In Adriana Belletti (ed.) Structures and Beyond: The Cartography of Syntactic Structures, Vol. 3. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 104-131. Chomsky, Noam (2005) ''Three Factors in Language Design.'' Linguistic Inquiry 36: 1-22. Fox, Danny (2003) ''On Logical Form.'' In Randall Hendrick (ed.) Minimalist Syntax. Oxford: Blackwell. 82-123. Fox, Danny & David Pesetsky (2005) ''Cyclic Linearization of Syntactic Structure.'' Theoretical Linguistics 31: 1-45. Grohmann, Kleanthes (2009a) Explorations of Phase Theory: Features and Arguments. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. Grohmann, Kleanthes (2009b) InterPhases: Phase-Theoretic Investigations of Linguistic Interfaces. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hauser, Mark D., Noam Chomsky & W. Tecumseh Fitch (2002) ''The Faculty of Language: What Is It, Who Has It, and How Did It Evolve?'' Science 298: 1569-1579. Kaye, Jonathan (1995) ''Derivations and Interfaces.'' In Jacques Durand & Francis Katamba (eds.) Frontiers of Phonology. London/New York: Longman. 289-332. Ko, Heejeong (2005) Syntactic Edges and Linearization. Ph.D. Dissertation. MIT.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Yosuke Sato received his Ph.D. in Linguistics at the University of Arizona
in May 2008. After serving as a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at the
University of British Columbia, he joined the Department of English
Language and Literature at the National University of Singapore/NUS as of
July 2009. His research interests revolve around syntax and its interface
with morphology, semantics, and phonology within the framework of
Generative Grammar through case studies from Indonesian, Javanese,
Japanese, and English (e.g. active voice morphology, sluicing, P-stranding,
the denotation of bare nominals, reduplication, nominal ellipsis, nuclear
sentence stress, contraction, psychological predicates). He is currently
working on a volume developed from his 2008 dissertation while teaching
Semantics and Pragmatics, Morphology and Syntax, and the Lexicon of English