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Review of  The Morphosyntax of Albanian and Aromanian Varieties

Reviewer: Ionuț Geană
Book Title: The Morphosyntax of Albanian and Aromanian Varieties
Book Author: M. Rita Manzini Leonardo Savoia
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Morphology
Subject Language(s): Romani, Vlax
Romanian, Macedo-
Issue Number: 30.2949

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M. Rita Manzini and Leonardo Savoia’s “The Morphosyntax of Albanian and Aromanian Varieties” (Volume 133 of De Gruyter Mouton’s “Studies in Generative Grammar”) is intended for readers interested in the morphosyntax of these two varieties or languages, focusing on key notions such as case, agreement and complementation. The authors’ interest in these languages has to do with the sparse representation of such varieties in the literature, on the one hand, and the difficulty of getting access to such data, on the other. After the Introduction (Chapter 1), the volume is structured in four larger parts (Chapters 2 through 12) of approximately equal size, followed by References and a useful Index. While Chapters 8 and 12 are (essentially) new, all chapters in this volume are based on previous research carried out and published by the two authors, and, in their own words, “[i]n no case do they represent a merely edited version of those works” (p. 21). Before the Introduction, it would have been useful to have a list of abbreviations, although the abbreviations used throughout the book are well-known in the literature (for example, the first heading of the introduction is simply called EXT, which the reader, based on previous knowledge, can understand as short for Externalization).

The Introduction to this monograph (Chapter 1) sets its framework and focuses on such concepts as externalization, agreement, and variation and parameters, each of which constituting separate subchapters. It builds on generative/minimalist literature, most notably Chomsky (1995), Chomsky et al. (2018) a.o. Apart from establishing the key concepts of the monograph, the Introduction also sets the main directions to be dealt with in each part. Thus, Part I regards inflectional phenomena in the noun domain (with empirical focus on Albanian); Part II takes a close look at agreement within the DP and in adnominal modification; Part III deals with complementation, adopting the classical view that sentential embedding involves nominalization (following Rosembaum 1965); and Part IV, devoted to linguistic contact, deals with sentential case and agreement structures.

Chapter 2 (the first chapter of Part I, “Nominal inflections, person and case and their syntactic projection”) accounts for case categories in Albanian. Against the model of Distributional Morphology and the like, the two authors treat nominal inflections as substantive entries, in an attempt to explain, among other things, the oblique/plural syncretism in Albanian.

Chapter 3 looks at noun morphology and its interpretation, focusing on the so-called neuter in Italian and Albanian varieties. According to Manzini and Savoia, morphology is sensitive to such deeper patterns as the tripartition between mass singulars, count singulars and count plurals (following Chierchia 1998, 2010, and Borer 2005), and propose the existence of [aggregate], a syntactico-semantic foundation between mass nouns and plurals, to best represent syncretism. Interestingly, the two authors bring evidence that such traditional notions as class, number and case may merge in a single syntactic node (p. 74).

Chapter 4 accounts for differential object marking (DOM) and person case constraint (PCC) in Geg Albanian and Arbëresh (Albanian variety/varieties spoken in Italy). This chapter’s common theme is the person split of first/second vs third person, responsible for both DOM (associated with only nouns and third person pronouns) and PCC. This chapter includes two appendixes on inverse agreement (where the authors identify a third kind of phenomenon attested in Algonquian languages, other than DOM and PCC) and clitic doubling.

Part II “L[in]k[e]rs, possessors and agreement in the DP” focuses on a restricted set of environments, namely adjectives and genitives/possessives as adnominal modifiers. Chapter 5 looks at linkers (categorized as determiners, as they also appear as demonstratives/articles) in Aromanian in comparison with Albanian. Given its systematic bilingualism, Aromanian (in the varieties studied hereunder) displays alignment phenomena (Gumperz and Wilson 1971) with Albanian. In some instances, Aromanian is different from both Albanian (with which it is in contact) and Romanian (its closest relative), for example in the agreements of the linker with the genitive.

Chapter 6 starts with briefly comparing the Aromanian data from the previous chapter against data from standard Romanian, with focus on the person split and agreeing possessives. Just like the other chapters, the authors stress the minimalist principle of projection of syntax from the lexicon, as the data scrutinized in this chapter clearly demonstrate that the syntactic structure of a noun is projected by its morphological organization. Oblique case is treated as a lexicalization of the part-whole or possessee-possessor relation. Aromanian (alongside Romanian and Albanian) possessive structures are to be interpreted as lexical DPs in third person and as specialized possessive forms in first and second person (whose complex internal structure include an initial linker, the first/second person proper noun and an inflectional element).

Chapter 7 continues the analysis of oblique case, with focus on Punjabi. From this point of view, this chapter is different from the other ones, as it does not treat strict phenomena related to either Albanian or Aromanian (as per the title of the monograph). Nevertheless, the authors admit to “a detour into Eastern Indo-European” (p. 178) languages as Indo-Aryan Punjabi (treating the ergative as a specialized oblique) or Kurdish (the all-purpose oblique, namely the genitive/dative). This theoretical chapter refines the information from the previous chapters and proves useful in describing the non-finite complementation in Chapter 10.

Chapter 8 opens Part III “Complementation: Particles, Complementizers, Prepositions”. Building on the analysis of linkers in Chapter 5, the authors deem the Albanian subjunctive particle ‘tə’ and the homophonous plural and oblique linker to be the same lexical entry (hence, Albanian subjunctives are headed not by a mood particle or complementizer, but by a linker – a D category). The analysis is extended to infinitival languages (e.g., Italian), so both Albanian and Italian license free variables in EPP position: in Italian – the absence of agreement properties on infinitival inflection; in Albanian – the use of the ‘tə’ linker (as a specialized morphological element).

Chapter 9 outlines the finite complementation (which in Romance, as well as in other Indo-European languages, involves a relativization strategy, based on the homophony of ‘that’-type complementizers and the ‘wh’ pronouns) in the Aromanian varieties spoken in Albania. The framework theory of this part (Part III of this monograph) is the proposal that relative pronouns (complementizers) introduce finite sentences in Romance and other languages, given that relativization is a strategy to nominalize sentences. Investigating the microvariation patterns in the distribution of the subjunctive particles (interpreted by the two authors as linkers), the conclusion is that such microvariation does not favour the refinement of functional hierarchies.

Chapter 10 deals with non-finite complementation in Aromanian and Albanian. Unlike standard Romanian, Aromanian has kept a so-called long infinitive (with the pan-Romance ‘-re’ inflection) – which embeds all classical situations of raising and control as in other Romance, on the one hand. The authors take a look at the prepositional introducers for such non-finite forms, incorporating them into the Agree Avoidance strategies postulated in the previous chapter. Albanian, on the other hand, has a so-called ‘paskajore’ infinitive, preceded by an element homophonous with the instrumental preposition ‘mɛ’ (‘with’), both of which are interpreted as the same lexical entry. It is to be noted that such morphological infinitives are not necessarily in complementary distribution with the subjunctive (or the other way around). The supine is also accounted for, namely the use of specialized participle form introduced by various prepositions. At this point of the analysis, Chapter 7 is very relevant, as the ‘paskajore’/supine are best characterized “as stative, property-like forms of the verbs” (p. 295).

Finally, Part IV of this monograph looks at linguistic contact. Both Arbëresh and Aromanian are minority languages spoken in contact with genealogically unrelated languages (Italian and Albanian, in this book). Chapter 11 accounts for specific phenomena such as borrowings, code-mixing and convergence in the contact of Italo-Albanian (Arbëresh) with Italo-Romance (Calabrian, Lucanian). Separate sections are dedicated to the treatment of lexicon, complementation, VP and DP structure, and phonology. In line with the general idea of this volume, the two authors put forth the idea of unifying morphology and syntax, putting together borrowings and code-mixing, as supported by their analysis.

Chapter 12, the last one in this volume, looks at the Arbëresh variety of Ginestra, focusing on causatives, case, passivization and agreement. Causative constructions in this variety show linguistic variation and change due to contact. As contact favours the alignment of the morphosyntactic devices (of an Albanian variety with an Italo-Romance variety, in this particular case), case and passivization patterns are aligned, with sometimes surprising outcomes that are not to be found in either input languages (for example, the agreement pattern characterizing the variety of Ginestra is based on the person split first/second vs third, which neither Albanian nor Italo-Romance has).


The volume briefly reviewed here is a state-of-the-art, theoretically sound well-written monograph. It treats two varieties that are little discussed in the literature, namely Albanian (including the dialects spoken in Southern Italy) and the Aromanian spoken in Southern Albania. Such terms as ‘language’, ‘dialect’, or ‘variety’ are used with a very broad meaning, to which I very much agree, as the focus is (and should be) on data. Due to its wide range of analyses from a minimalist/generative perspective, this book is very useful not only to Romance and Balkan linguists, but also to specialists in theoretical linguistics. As a matter of fact, a great deal of pages are dedicated to scrutinizing theoretical aspects of the syntactic analysis in general and one chapter goes beyond the Romance/Balkan linguistics, dealing with Eastern Indo-European. This monograph is highly valuable to the linguistic community and serves as a model of what can be done with minority languages, in general, and with Eastern Romance, in particular (unfortunately, Eastern Romance is highly understudied (with the exception of standard Romanian) from a formal perspective, and this monograph can stand as a very good example for linguists specializing in this field).

This volume is graphically exceptional, being easy to read and follow, despite some typos (for example, “one can defined an opposition” instead of “one can define an opposition” on p. 20, “only of we accept” instead of “only if we accept” on p. 32) or misaligned/missing glosses (for instance, example ‘6b’ on p. 133 or example ‘9a’ on p. 135). Although each chapter ends with a generous section dedicated to conclusions, some general conclusions to the entire book would have been appropriate. The bibliography is up to date and is well cited across the volume. The index is also very helpful, and it also stands as an informal list of abbreviations (should one not be aware of all the abbreviations used throughout the monograph). Another suggestion would be to have numbered subchapters and subsections in a continuous manner, instead of restarting from one in each chapter (although I do agree that continuously numbering the examples would have become too hard to follow, due to the huge amount of rightfully used data throughout the volume).

While the book is separated into four major (thematic) parts, the twelve chapters can both be read as a continuous analysis (and the two authors make references to the other chapters), and be understood as independent studies. The connections between the chapters are easy to follow, with the apparent exception of Chapter 7, which looks ‘exotic’, but does make a point to the theoretical analysis from the following chapters, especially Chapter 10.

The title (and subtitle) to this monograph is self-explanatory, although it is not to be understood in a very traditional manner. More precisely, it is not a mere grammar of the Albanian and Aromanian varieties discussed therein, but rather a theoretical account on case, agreement and complementation based on the morphosyntax of the two varieties. Therefore, although the title might suggest it fits into a rather small subset of linguistics, it has in fact a much broader coverage in theoretical linguistics.

To sum up, M. Rita Manzini and Leonardo Savoia’s “The Morphosyntax of Albanian and Aromanian Varieties” is a state-of-the-art monograph, serving also as a trendsetter in the analysis of contact languages (accounting for such issues as morphosyntax, lexicon, bilingualism), in general, and Eastern Romance, in particular. It goes without saying, based on all of the above, that this volume is intended for specialists in theoretical linguistics (with various subfields) working in a generative/minimalist framework.
Dr. Ionuț Geană is a Romanian lecturer at Arizona State University and also a researcher of the Department of Dialectology at the Romanian Academy's Institute of Linguistics in Bucharest. His research interests include the morphosyntax of Eastern Romance (with focus on Istro-Romanian and Romanian varieties), Romanian phonetics and phonology and teaching Romanian as a foreign language.

Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9781501514326
Pages: 378
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