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Review of  Issues in Slavic Syntax and Semantics

Reviewer: Natalia Fitzgibbons
Book Title: Issues in Slavic Syntax and Semantics
Book Author: Anastasia Smirnova Matthew Curtis
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Linguistic Field(s): Semantics
Language Family(ies): Slavic Subgroup
Issue Number: 22.2885

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EDITORS: Anastasia Smirnova and Matthew Curtis
TITLE: Issues in Slavic Syntax and Semantics
PUBLISHER: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
YEAR: 2008

Natalia V. Fitzgibbons, Department of Classics, Modern Languages and
Linguistics, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada


This volume grew out of 3rd and 4th Graduate Colloquia on Slavic Linguistics at
Ohio State University in 2006 and contains seven papers in various areas of
Slavic syntax and semantics. The editors, Anastasia Smirnova and Matthew Curtis,
are Ph.D. students in the Linguistics and Slavic and East European Languages and
Literature Departments at Ohio State University, respectively.

1. Paweƚ Rutkowski's paper investigates the noun-adjective (N-A) classifying
pattern in Polish from a diachronic syntactic prospective. He agrees with
Brajerski (1959, 1963) that the N-A pattern was adopted in Old Polish from
Latin, but proposes that this adoption proceeded via the following route of
structural change: the Old Polish appositive structure with deletion under
identity in (a) got reanalyzed as a single determiner phrase (DP) in Modern
Polish at around the middle of 15th century (b):

(a) [DP [DP [NP N] [DP [NP A N]] -> (b) [DP [CLASSP N [NP A t]]]

The author connects this reanalysis to activation of the functional projection
'classifier phrase' (ClassP) in Modern Polish; the head noun raises to the head
of ClassP for feature checking, which results in the N-A word order. The author
also examines the influence of the N-A pattern on the Lithuanian DP.

2. Boštjan Dvořák and Ilse Zimmerman explore Slovenian embedded imperatives, as
in the following example:

Prosi, da posadite palmo.
ask.PRES.3SG that plant.IMP.2PL palm.ACC
'She asks you to plant the palm.'

They begin by providing general information on Slovenian embedded imperatives,
such as their geographical distribution, morphological characteristics and
embedding types.

The authors then assume the sentence structure in Wratil (2005), where CP stands
for 'complementizer phrase', TP stands for 'tense phrase', PolP stands for
'polarity phrase', and vP and VP stand for 'verb phrase': CP (MoodP) (TP) PolP
vP* VP. They also assume that imperative meaning is associated with an empty
functional category which resides either in the complementizer head C (in root
imperatives) or in MoodP (in the case of embedded imperatives). The imperative
verb undergoes movement to these positions for feature checking purposes. Thus,
in root clauses the imperative is a sentence mood but in embedded clauses it is
a verbal mood supplementing the optative paradigm. The authors also discuss the
interpretation of embedded imperative verbs and their pro subjects.

3. Oxana Skorniakova takes on the question of the nature of the subject of
Russian impersonal sentences and argues that it is an expletive. She goes on to
propose that in colloquial Russian, this expletive is sometimes overtly realized
as 'ono' 'it', as in the example below:

Tak ono i vyš-l-o.
so it.NEUT turn.out.PASS.NEUT
'And so it turned out.'

The author shows that 'ono' passes several subjecthood tests (agreement,
reflexivization, raising, and replacement) and concludes that it must be a
pronominal element.

4. Agnieszka Łazorczyk discusses the process of deriving imperfective predicates
from perfective ones, or secondary imperfectivization in Slavic, from the
semantic point of view. She argues against analyzing secondary
imperfectivization as a property of viewpoint aspect and instead proposes to
analyze it as a process that resolves a clash between Aktionsart and viewpoint
aspect. On the basis of data from Old Church Slavonic and Modern Bulgarian, she
argues that secondary imperfective is an atelicizer device that removes
incompatibility between imperfective viewpoint aspect and telicity.

5. Anastasia Smirnova explains in detail how the temporal interpretation of
subjunctive complements in Bulgarian is derived, showing that the temporal
location of the embedded subjunctive event is an inference from the semantic
type of the embedding verb and the tense of the embedding verb.

6. Verdana Mihaliček examines the morphological and syntactic properties of
phrases realizing INSTRUMENT and ACCOMPANIMENT roles in Serbo-Croatian and
argues that Serbo-Croatian should be added to the long list of languages for
which Lakoff and Johnson's (1980) Companion Metaphor does not hold.

Companion Metaphor: With few exceptions, this principle holds in all languages
of the world: the word or grammatical device that indicates ACCOMPANIMENT also
indicates INSTRUMENTALITY (1980: 135).

The author shows that for the two roles, there are three markers in
Serbo-Croatian: INSTR(umental) case, 's ' + INSTR case, and 'uz' + INSTR case,
and for different kinds of events different markers are preferred. Namely, where
both 's' + INSTR and INSTR can be used, INSTR is preferred, and where 'uz' and
INSTR can be used, they are preferred to marking with 's'. The author goes on to
offer functional explanations for these preferences.

7. Galina Dukova-Zheleva investigates polar questions with focus in Bulgarian.
She argues that the analysis in Romero and Han (2001) captures only the polar
questions with neutral interpretation in Bulgarian, but not questions with
focus, which have an answer set that is not generated by Romero and Han.


Paweƚ Rutkowski's paper is original and interesting because it draws together
synchronic, diachronic and language contact considerations to explain a
phenomenon that is rare in Slavic languages. This makes the paper an important
contribution, even though the analysis is a bit stipulative.

Boštjan Dvořák and Ilse Zimmerman explore a phenomenon that is very rare
crosslinguistically and receives little discussion in the literature. They
provide essential information that anyone working on embedded imperatives in
Slovenian will be looking for.

Oxana Skorniakova's claim that 'ono' in the examples in question is an overt
expletive is interesting because it bears, among other things, on Bošković's
(2010) crosslinguistic generalization that article-less languages lack
(uncontroversial) overt expletives. However, it would be too soon to consider it
established that 'ono' is an overt expletive. The author provides evidence
showing that 'ono' is the subject in the sentences under discussion, but it is
not the same as providing evidence that it is an expletive. For example, the
author observes that 'ono' binds a reflexive in the following sentence (the
gloss and translation are the author's):

ONO konečno opravdae-t SEBJA esli ty kupiš' dom seijčas,
it.NEUT of course pay.3SG.PRES self if you buy house now

a potom prodaš' ego dorože.
but later sell it expensive
'Of course, it will be worth it if you buy a house now and sell it later for more.'

This example is very surprising if ONO is indeed an expletive and SEBJA is
indeed a reflexive that needs to be bound, as in the Russian sentence 'Maša
uvažaet sebja' (Maša respects herself). Strictly speaking, expletives are not
expected to bind anaphors. Expletives receive no interpretation, and the essence
of binding is to determine reference; binding deals with interpretation (for
discussion, see Chomsky 1995, for example).

The Russian examples in the paper are drawn mainly from classical literature; it
would be interesting to do a corpus search to have an estimate of how 'ono' in
modern colloquial Russian compares to 'ono' in that literature.

Agnieszka Łazorczyk's treatment of secondary imperfectivization as a semantic
repair strategy is an interesting and novel solution. As a reader who enjoyed
this paper, I just have one wish: it would have been helpful for non-Slavic
linguists reading this paper if the author started with examples illustrating
Slavic imperfective, perfective, and secondary imperfectivization before diving
right into the discussion of details.

Anastasia Smirnova's analysis is very thorough and well supported by data, which
makes this paper useful for anyone working on embedded tenses in Slavic.

Verdana Mihaliček's paper stands out in this volume as the only paper written
from the functional point of view. It presents interesting data and an
insightful discussion of this data; a couple errors that should have been
corrected by proofreading do not inhibit understanding. The author shows very
convincingly that the Companion Metaphor does not cover all realizations of
INSTRUMENT and ACCOMPANIMENT in Serbo-Croatian because different kinds of
instruments and accompaniments have different preferred realizations (and it is
not clear how exactly to define INSTRUMENT and ACCOMPANIMENT in the first place).

Galina Dukova-Zheleva's paper was not ready for publication: the reader will
notice multiple errors that should have been corrected by editing and proofreading.

The book is primarily intended for scholars working on Slavic syntax and
semantics; those not working on this language group will find some of the papers
difficult to follow because familiarity with Slavic languages is presupposed and
glosses or important examples are sometimes lacking. On the whole, although not
all the papers are of the same high quality and depth of content (which is
natural for a collection of papers from graduate colloquia), the book impresses
the reader by the diversity of topics and languages and the look -- the cover
and the text itself are beautiful.


Bošković, Ž. 2010. On NPs and Clauses. Ms., UCONN

Brajerski, T. 1959. Wyjaśnienie prof. Brajerskiego 'Język Polski' 39: 222-231.

Brajerski, T. 1963. O szyku zaimka dzierżawczego w funkcji przydawki. T.
Milewski, J. Safarewicz, and F. Sƚawski (eds.), Studia linguistic in honorem
Thaddaei Lehr-Spƚawiński. Warsaw: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 347-352.

Chomsky N. 1995. The Minimalist Program. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Lakoff, G. and M. Johnson. 1980. Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press.

Romero, M. and C.-H. Han. 2001. On certain epistemic implicatures in yes/ no
questions. In R. van Rooy and M. Stokhof (eds.), Proceedings of the Thirteenth
Amsterdam Colloquium. Amsterdam: ILLC/ Department of Philosophy, University of
Amsterdam, 168-173.

Wratil, M. 2005. Die Syntax des Imperativs. Eine strukturelle Analyse zum
Westgermanischen und Romanischen. Studia grammatika 62. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.

Natalia Fitzgibbons is a limited-term assistant professor at Concordia University, teaching a variety of undergraduate courses. Her research interests include syntax, semantics, syntax-semantics interface, and Russian linguistics.

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