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Review of  Language Use and Linguistic Structure

Reviewer: Maria Assunta Ciardullo
Book Title: Language Use and Linguistic Structure
Book Author: Joseph E. Emonds Marketa Janebova
Publisher: Department of English and American Studies, Palacky University, Olomouc
Linguistic Field(s): General Linguistics
Subject Language(s): Czech
Issue Number: 26.5055

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Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


“Language Use and Linguistic Structure” is a volume edited by Joseph Emonds and Markéta Janebová and contains the proceedings of the Olomouc Linguistics Colloquium, held at Palacký University in the Czech Republic in June 2013.

The book contains a table of contents, an alphabetical list of the authors, a page for acknowledgements, an introduction, four thematic sections and a final summary. The sections here developed focus on the verb phrase and clausal structure, whereas articles focusing on noun phrase structure have been collected in another volume.

The section that opens the entire collection is entitled “Grammar of the Left Periphery and Scope Relations”; it contains five articles that explore topics well summarized in the title of this part. “Yes-No questions, subjects, adverbs, and the left periphery: new evidence from Portuguese”, the first essay, proposes a syntactic study of Portuguese yes-no questions. Manuela Ambar proved that their structure is not declarative but follows the one typical of wh- questions and that intonation is not that distinctive for this kind of question but characterizes every type of clause.

“No such thing as “Parameterized Structural Deficiency” in the left periphery” is the second paper of this section and its authors, J.-Marc Authier and Liliane Haegeman, focus on the distribution of main clause phenomena (MCP). It is shown, through a comparison, that Prepositional Phrase (PP) preposing and infinitival Tense Phrase (TP) preposing in French have the same syntactic properties and distribution of English movements considered as typical MCP.

“Focus fronting and root phenomena in Spanish and English” explores the syntax of focus fronting and negative preposing in embedded contexts in English and Spanish. Starting from the assumptions of Emonds (1970, 2004) and Haegeman (2012) and, so, that negative preposing and topic/focus fronting are all root transformations in English, here the two authors demonstrate that cross-linguistic divergences can be used for analyzing Spanish focus fronting as movement on spec-TP than to spec-Complementizer Phrase (CP): this mirrors differences in how features are distributed to Tense (T) and Complementizer (C).

The fourth study “Italian polarity fragments as elliptical structures”, written by Emilio Servidio, deals with a class of Italian fragments where a phrase is followed by yes or no. Syntactic studies offer the vision by which fragments are derived via clitic left dislocation of the topic along with the deletion of a TP. What emerges from this study is that the deletion account of polarity fragments can be considered as an indirect evidence for a deletion account of responding particles, at least considering isolated responding particles as polarity fragments modulo topicalization.

The fifth and last paper of this first section, “Word order and scope in Hungarian finite embedded non-argument clause,” contrasts typical scope properties of different kinds of finite adjunct clauses in Hungarian and in English. The paper, starting from previous studies that showed that finite clauses interact with their selecting clauses in spite of the expected locality restrictions in a number of constructions, discusses high and low readings in temporal clauses, quantifier scope interaction, and binding data. Results showed that thinking of a univocal correspondence between time readings and long-distance dependencies is wrong. The interaction of embedded finite clauses with their main clauses is influenced by the type of construction, depending on the presence and the type of operators, etc.

The second section “Structural meanings of verbs and their complements” contains five essays, all dealing with verbs. The first was written by Dagmar Machovà and analyzes marginal modal elements in English, presenting the hypothesis that central modal verbs (can, must, should) are related to three properties: modal polyfunctionality, absence of agreement and operator properties. Marginal modals are divided into operator and non-operator elements. Operator elements show how the three properties are related among themselves whereas non-operator elements are threatened by polyfunctionality because it can lead to the creation of shorter non-agreeing structures such as wanna, gonna, gotta, etc. that show the deficiencies in the agreement paradigm.

The second article “Auxiliaries as dummies: a late vocabulary insertion approach” starts with Grimshaw’s (1997) idea that dummies, i.e. meaningless lexical items used to serve grammatical purposes, always have a meaningful counterpart. The paper stresses the idea that dummies are the use of meaningful words with their lexical content ignored. The analysis focuses on the auxiliary verbs be, have and do and on their syntactic and semantic use; the study is carried out in the Syntax First Alignment System, a heavily restricted Optimality theoretic grammar. This system is peculiar because it operates with linear ordering rather than with constituent structure. Ignoring semantic content, here, equals to overspecify in vocabulary insertion and it is shown that all English auxiliary verbs have null content unless they are related to events in order to have their meaning given by the discourse context.

The third article deals with a Romanian case. “On the inner aspects of predicates with differentially object marked internal arguments: the case of Romanian” presents a study dealing with differentially object marked and clitic doubled internal objects that act as sub-event identifiers of the predicate, providing the sentence with particular aspectual properties. These elements lead to a telic interpretation of the predicate, differently from bare plurals that interpret atelically the same predicate. Methodologically, this statement was supported by two tests, one concerning accomplishments/achievements and the other regarding activities. The telic aspectual reading of differentially object marked and clitic doubled internal objects on their predicate was observed to be a consequence of the semantics of the marker pe and of the clitic pronoun. Even though bare plurals may only acquire a property reading (< et >) because they denote delimited entities (Cfr. Dobrovie-Sorin and Beyssade 2010), pe marked direct object DPs may have an object-level reading (< e >) or a generalized quantifier reading (< < et > t >) because pe acts as a filter on the denotation of the Determiner Phrase (DP) it marks. Clitic doubled and differentially object marked DPs are, therefore, related to inner (lexical or situational) aspect which delimits the event.

The fourth article, “In and out of places, states, and activities: Russian verbal prefixes and Scales” explains the complexity of Russian verbal prefixes in relation to their position in the Verb Phrase (VP). The verb doesn’t change when combined to prefixes but the structure into which the prefix is put varies. The paper shows that the meaning of a prefix is predictable on the basis of the event structure of the verb it attaches to. Each verb provides a scale to which every prefix must adapt. So, the prefix selection depends on this scale, lexicalized or selected (semantically by the verb). The scale has many levels: spatial, temporal or a scale of change. The study, in particular, is focused on the analysis of ot-, that is incompatible with an upper closed scale, because, as a prefix, it requires an initial state, and of the prefix requiring the maximal point za-, that is incompatible with a lower closed scale. The study has demonstrated that every prefix may find an appropriate scale in a lexicalized scale or in the direct object, or the event itself can provide a scale. So, each syntactic configuration brings with it a predictable interpretation for a prefix inserted into it.

The last article of this section has the title “On the cross-linguistic predictability of functionally equivalent structures: decausativization in French and German as a test case for formal and functional grammars”. This paper investigates recent generative and functionalist theories concerning causal alternation and how they could work in a cross-linguistic perspective. The appearance of a reflexive in a target language is analyzed as well as the prediction of its presence starting from the type of formal marking of a translational equivalent in a source language. Generative studies do not allow for predictions explained before: the main reason is that crucial information is already implicit at the input level of the considered models and cannot be deduced from the formal apparatus. So, it is clear that, in this case, functionalist analyses do not work in determining accurate predictions on the formal marking of individual lexical items.

The third section, the most dense quantitatively, comprises nine papers and is entitled “Implicatures, connotation, and discourse”. The article that opens the section is “Creativity and Innovation in Word Formation by Japanese Young People” and its aim is to demonstrate the linguistic creativity of Japanese young people in word innovation used to fulfil their communicative needs (Cfr. Yonekawa 1996, 1998). The morphological processes investigated are compounding, blending, clipping, the creation of alphabetisms, derivation, syllable inversion and the formation of neologisms – used to make the meaning of words more intensive - and the key-issue was the link between people’s creativity and the possibility of making an interaction fun. This is definitely a way of strengthening the sense of belonging within the group of young people.

The second paper, “Logical and pragmatic meaning in the interpretation of connectives: scalar implicatures and ‘shallow’ processing”, starts from the prominent assertion that scalar implicatures like “but not both” in the unique interpretation of the conjunction or “A or B but not both” are generated automatically by default in the absence of context. This idea is contrasted by the contextualist one that states that scalar implicatures arise only when licensed by the context. The study was conducted through a sentence-picture verification task experiment, comparing the processing of two connectives in Hungarian: és (“and”) and vagy (“or”). The results contrast defaultism, which affirms that generalized conventional implicatures are created by default, and speaks in favor of contextualism. The results follow the guidelines of Relevance Theory and, so, a scalar implicature is generated by its relevance.

The next article, “Exhaustivity in focus: experimental evidence from Hungarian”, presents the results of two experiments dealing with pre-verbal focus in Hungarian. The first experiment contrasts responses given in long versus short time windows in a truth-value judgment task, while the second compares pre-verbal focus with other three types of focus. Results show that in pre-verbal focus exhaustivity is not entailed, and the study has a great value both methodologically and pragmatically.

Marie Krappmann is the author of the following article, “Linguistic strategies of offensive and defensive argumentation” and she studies the linguistic means of defensive and offensive argumentation. She takes the theory of Wohlrapp (2008) as her starting point and, considering the actions of asserting, criticizing and reasoning as a system of moves that can be used in dialogues. The thesis of Wohlrapp is verified in this study and what emerges is that argumentation strategies can be partially identified on the level of linguistic expression.

The following article, “The role of information structure in Czech possessive construction”, focuses the attention on internal and external possession in Czech. Possession, in Czech, is expressed through three elements: the possessor, the possessum and the predicate. The article underlines the idea that the emergence of specialized possessive constructions can be explained as a functional preference and seeks to verify that possessive constructions are related to different word order arrangements. External possession constructions provided in this study stress the fact that speakers prefer to employ the possessor in the topic and the possessum in the focus.

The sixth paper of the section, “The role of partitive construction in generating scalar implicatures”, carries out an experiment focusing on the influence of partitivity on the process of deriving scalar implicatures and, in particular, on the interpretation of utterances with the quantifier “neki” in Serbian. The study shows that scalar implicatures are not generated automatically and the most visible effect is caused by partitivity, especially in the use of neki. These findings evidently contradict those of Pouscoulous et al. (2007) for French and Banga et al. (2009) for Dutch. A further research topic suggested in this study is the fact that Serbian neki is not scalar by default, but it’s strengthened in the context.

The next two studies have to do with legal language and interactions happening in courtrooms. The first, “Tackling ‘Legalese’: how Linguistics can simplify legal language and increase access to justice”, is a study that aims at modifying jury instructions, often considered incomprehensible by jurors. In the USA, a research group of lawyers, linguists and judges has decided to reform Legalese. The study here described shows that comprehension was highly dependent on linguistic complexity (passive verbs were thought to be more difficult to understand). A following experiment carried out using Plain English increased comprehension. This study was highly interesting because it compared the effective comprehension of legal language in many American States.

As stated before, also the eighth study concerns legal context. “Pragmatic aspects of comment clauses in courtroom interaction” deals with the notion of comment and investigates many realizations of selected comment clauses in courtroom discourse. It was found that I-oriented comment clauses, more present than you-oriented markers, were used as stance-taking devices linked to epistemic stance, hedging and politeness strategies. The findings of this study will definitely help discourse analysis research that focuses on courtroom interaction.

“On the linguistic structure of evaluating meaning in Czech”, the last paper of this section, presents the results of a study that focuses on evaluating meaning in Czech, especially from a morphological point of view. The Construction Grammar Framework is used in order to focus on evaluative sentences and to describe the link among structure, meaning and evaluative expressions in language.

The fourth and last section, that has the title “Phonetics and Phonology” and contains four papers, dealing with the disciplines that give the name to the epistemological group of the book.

“Phonological structure and articulatory phonetic realization of syllabic liquids” is the first article and deals with syllabic liquids produced in Slovak. They can occur in stressed positions and with complex onsets. Their peculiarity is that they act, phonologically, as vowels; so, this paper aimed at showing how this is possible and why liquids come to be more marked as syllable nuclei than vowels. Findings of this research showed that the articulatory coordination of the vocalic liquids with the consonantal onsets eased the syllabicity of Slovak liquids; as far as concerns the syllabic question, no clear results were obtained. The second article presents the results of a pilot study, as the same title states.

“Pre-vocalic glottalization vs. Resyllabification in Regional Varieties of Czech (A pilot study)” analyses the vocalic factors that influences pre-vocalic glottalization in the Czech language. It is a pilot study and the first results are that females are more influenced by the presence of a recorder than males and that the research, in its development, should take into account many styles of elocution and not only reading speech.

The third study was conducted by a scholar of the University of Prague and has the title of “The Spanish High Front Vowel in Czech Bilinguals”. Its scientific purpose is to analyze the production of the Spanish high front vowel [i] in Czech learners of Spanish. Due to the phonetic similarity between the high front vowels in both languages, the expectations are that Czech speakers will pronounce the Spanish vowel like the Czech [ι] in the same context. The experiment described here tested ten female speakers from which the vowels [i] and [ι] were elicited. The first two formants were measured, converted into ERB and compared. The results showed that the difference in F1 between Czech and Spanish high front vowels were higher in the cases of style and context variation whereas there were lower F1 values of Spanish [i] in the text style. F2 are modified in a very small way and it is up to native speakers to establish if these variations are perceptible.

The last work of the fourth section and that closes the entire collection of proceedings is “Loanwords and foreign proper names in Czech: A phonologist’s view”. The study analyzes phonological aspects of orthographically non-adapted loanwords and foreign proper names on a non-normative basis. Specifically, it focuses on orthographically non-adapted Anglicisms in Czech: their linguistic status is ruled by phonological approximation (around 73%) and by other adaptation processes, even though they concern only 8% of the sample.


The volume that contains the papers presented at the Olomouc Linguistics Colloquium in 2013 is a well-structured and easy to read book. Even though papers concerning noun structure and verb phrase were presented throughout the conference, the editors made the right choice in collecting together – in this volume – only papers dealing with verb phrase and clausal structure. The ones regarding noun structure were, instead, collected in the monograph, called “Nominal Structures: All in Complex DPs”.

The paralinguistic apparatus is essential in order to guide comprehension of all the papers included in the book. The introduction, put at the beginning, and the summary, put on the last page, are very functional: the first textual element explains the reasons why specific papers have been put together, offers an overview of the essays presented and motivates their order and grouping within macro-categories. Many of the papers included in the book deal with Eastern European languages and this constitutes both a peculiarity and a prerequisite for future readers.

The first section focuses on the properties of overt or covert categories at the left periphery of clauses and the second is dedicated to the semantics of verbs and their grammatical modifiers, on the ways in which verbs behave when confronting the syntax/semantics interface. These first two sections are addressed to an audience specifically interested in syntactic studies; linguists interested in other fields of research may find these two thematic groups a bit too specific.

The third section presents papers dealing with the pragmatics of language use and with the social meanings of particular syntactic and lexical expressions. What’s interesting is that three papers (pp. 157-170; pp. 171-180 and pp. 181-194) apply experimental protocols in order to test their hypotheses and that, especially in the last papers of this part, a great importance is given to statistical significance.

The fourth section of the volume is made up of papers that concern Czech or Slovak phonetics and phonology. Again, this linguistic predilection for Eastern European languages can be a peculiarity for readers who want to deal with this kind of researches.

To sum up, “Language and Linguistic Structure” represents an highly specialized edited volume, especially dealing with syntax and with Eastern European languages. That’s why the intended audience should be particularly expert on these two scientific foci. The last two sections’ topics vary, in fact we can find morphology, lexicology, phonetics and phonology in it: so, their reading becomes more fluid, also for an average reader. Papers contained in the volume are coherent among themselves and within the thematic groups created by the editors.

“Language and Linguistic Structure” constitutes an exemplary collection of papers that fits well in the area of research in syntax and in languages spoken in East Europe and represents a good starting point for future research.


Banga, Arina, Ingeborg Heutinck, Sanne M. Berends, and Petra Hendriks. 2009. Some Implicatures Reveal Semantic Differences. In Linguistics in the Netherlands, edited by Bert Botma and Jacqueline von Kampen, 1-13, Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Dobrovie-Sorin, Carmen and Beyssade, Claire. 2012. Redefining Indefinites, Vol. 85 of Studies in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory. Dordrecht: Springer.

Emonds, Joseph. 1970. Root and Structure-Preserving Transformations. Unpublished Ph.D. diss., MIT, Cambridge, MA.

Emonds, Joseph. 2004. Unspecified categories as the Key to Root Constructions. In Peripheries: Syntactic edges and their effects, edited by David Adger, Cécile de Cat, and Georges Tsoulas, 75-121. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Grimshaw, Jane B. 1997. Projection, Heads and Optimality. In Linguistic Inquiry 28: 373: 422.

Haegeman, Liliane. 2012a. The Syntax of MCP: Deriving the Truncation Account. In Main Clause Phenomena: New Horizons, edited by Lobke Aelbrecht, Lilian Haegeman, and Rachel Nye, 113-134. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Haegeman, Liliane. 2012b. Adverbial Clauses, Main Clause Phenomena and the Composition of the Left Periphery. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pouscoulous, Nausicaa, Ira Noveck, Guy Politzer, and Anne Bastide. 2007. A developmental Investigation of Processing Costs in Implicature Production. In Language Acquisition 14 (4): 347-75.

Yonekawa, Akihiko. 1996. Gendai wakamono kotoba ko. Tokio: Maruzen.

Yonekawa, Akihiko. 1998. Wakamonogo o kagaku suru. Tokio: Meijishoin.

Wohlrapp, Harald. 2008. Der Begriff des Arguments: Über die Beziehungen zwischen Wissen, Forschen, Glauben, Sujektivität und Vernunft. Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann.
Maria Assunta Ciardullo is a Ph.D. student in Linguistics at the University of Calabria. Her Ph.D. project is inscribed within Forensic Linguistics and, specifically, deals with a lexical study conducted upon wiretappings and wiretap transcriptions. Her research interests include Forensic Linguistics, Forensic Phonetics, Lexicology, Lexicography and Sociolinguistics.