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Review of  Structuring Sense, Volume 2

Reviewer: Eugenia Romanova
Book Title: Structuring Sense, Volume 2
Book Author: Hagit Borer
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Morphology
Philosophy of Language
Cognitive Science
Subject Language(s): Catalan-Valencian-Balear
Issue Number: 16.2184

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Date: Tue, 5 Jul 2005 16:39:28 +0200
From: Eugenia Romanova
Subject: Structuring Sense, Volume 2: The Normal Course of Events

AUTHOR: Borer, Hagit
TITLE: Structuring Sense, Volume 2
SUBTITLE: The Normal Course of Events
PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press
YEAR: 2005

Eugenia Romanova, Department of Linguistics, University of Tromso,


This is the second volume of the Exo-Skeletal Trilogy by Hagit Borer,
The Normal Course of Events. The other two volumes are: volume I, In
Name Only, published in the same year by the same publisher, and
volume III, Taking Form, in preparation. The book includes three parts
with a total of 11 chapters.

Part I. Setting course.
Chapter 1. Exo-Skeletal explanations. A Recap.
In this chapter the author summarizes the system she laid out in
Volume I and introduces the theoretical equipment she is going to use
in Volume II. The generalization underlying this work is that properties
of functional items define all aspects of the computation, whereby by
functional items the author refers to both functional vocabulary
(including all grammatical formatives and affixation) and to functional
structure. Grammatical formatives can be independent ones (f-
morphs), for example 'the' and 'will', and (phonologically abstract)
head features such as , for past tense. Listemes, constituting the
encyclopedia, a list of all arbitrary pairings of sound and meaning, are
devoid of any syntactic properties. Functional heads are open values
with a category label. Here the author (henceforth, HB) introduces a
mechanism of range assignment, crucial for the system. Open values
are assigned range by a variety of means: directly, by the Specifier-
Head agreement (by f-morphs in the Spec), and indirectly, by abstract
head features:

1) [DP every.d [#P every.# [dog]]]

In (1), the listeme 'dog' is merged with the functional structure that
includes a quantificational phrase #P and the determiner phrase DP,
and the quantifier 'every' assigns range to the open values within both
functional projections.
The theoretical outline above is a gist of the exo-skeletal approach: all
the aspects of computation are defined listeme-externally, by the
properties of functional items with which listemes merge. Conversely,
in endo-skeletal approaches the aspects of computation are defined
listeme-internally, by the inherent properties of lexical items. The
detailed comparison of the two systems is given in Chapter 2. One
more issue has to be added. It is not always the case that the
functional structure underlies the interpretation of lexical items; the
latter can have inherent properties and then they are idioms under the
present views. However, even the stored information is structured:

2) TROUSERS = [pi3+div]

In (2) pi(Greek letter)3(subscript) stands for the phonological index
/trauser/, and div(subscript, meaning 'divided') stands for a piece
of functional structure which must be assigned range by the plural
inflection (cf. vol. I). The degree of specification in idioms allows a
gradation. In (2) an open value (div) to be projected and an
obligatory range assigner (plural marker) to this open value are
specified. In 'cross a bridge', div is specified, but range to be
assigned to it, is not. In 'kick the bucket', not only is the open value
specified for 'the bucket' (div), but so is an obligatory range
assigner to it ('the'), which forces the projection of #(subscript)
and d(subscript, meaning 'determiner'). The importance of idioms
becomes obvious in Part III.

Chapter 2. Why Events?
The chapter shows how and where the Exo-Skeletal approach has
advantages over the Endo-Skeletal approaches. The issues touched
upon in the course of the discussion are: variable behavior verbs
(cross-linguistically), aktionsart, and UTAH (Baker (1988)). How is the
present approach superior? HB argues that the verb 'drop', for
example, can be embedded under any syntactic structure, where the
functional structure associated with the arguments determines their
interpretation, rather than any information associated with 'drop'. The
proponents of Endo-Skeletal approaches would have to admit
that 'drop' either has several lexical entries (transitive and intransitive)
or is associated with different semantic roles it has to assign (UTAH).
However, according to the author, the verb itself cannot define what
arguments will be projected, either external or internal -- originator or
subject-of-quantity, as she labels argument roles. In the following
chapters she elaborates on the functional projections that host the
arguments, for not only is the external argument severed from the
verb (Kratzer (1994)), but so is the internal argument.

Part II. The Projection of Arguments.
Chapter 3. Structuring Telicity.
In this chapter HB translates telicity from purely semantic
representations into syntactic structures. The tools needed for this
operation are: a) internal arguments with some specific properties
(Verkuyl (1993)), b) the notion of homogeneity and the notions of
divisibility and cumulativity (Krifka (1992, 1998)). From the previous
chapter we already know that telicity is not an inherent property of a
verb, but depends on many factors, the presence of the internal
argument being one, it is logical to expect that this chapter will present
us with a structure responsible for the telic interpretation of the event.
So it does. The telicity-inducing piece of (functional) structure is the
aspectual projection, ASPq(subscript). The projection contains an
open value, #, where '#' stands for 'quantity'. In English-like
languages in most cases the range to this open value is assigned by
the internal argument DP which, as we learnt in the previous chapter,
is a subject-of-quantity. As the internal argument is projected only in
two configurations, transitive and unaccusative, the ASPq is absent
from unergatives and non-quantity transitives, for the open range
# cannot be assigned range here. In addition, ASPq is a site
where accusative case gets assigned to the subject-of-quantity. In
unaccusatives, 'the case is not available by assumption, the s-o-q DP
must move to receive nominative case, presumably in [Spec, TP]'
(Specifier of Tense Phrase).

Chapter 4. (A)structuring Atelicity.
Here the famous Finnish paradigm comes into the picture: accusative
objects yielding a telic interpretation, partitive objects atelic
interpretation of events. Having shown the wrongness of approaches
trying to explain the case alternation by weakness vs. strongness of
DPs (de Hoop (1992), van Hout (1992, 1996), Borer (1994)), the
author offers an alternative. Atelic structures do not have a quantity
projection, ASPq, the one hosting a subject-of-quantity and assigning
accusative to it. Instead, they project a shell functional projection FP,
in the specifier of which partitive is checked. Impersonal constructions
in Italian, Spanish and Hebrew support this hypothesis.

Chapter 5. Interpreting Telicity.
The chapter is mostly devoted to a critique of the semantics literature
on telicity. The author clearly shows that a) events cannot be mapped
onto objects ('an atelic event does not have quantifiable sub-events
that are distinct from the whole'); b) Verkuyl's system is contradictory
(the feature [+ADD TO] is on the lexical verb, whereas the feature
[+SQA] (Specified quantity of A) is on the determiner, a functional
element; c) aspectual ambiguity of 'push' ('push the cart' vs 'push a
button') cannot be lexically encoded and the verb is aspectually
interpreted according to the world knowledge; d) the interpretation of
the verbs unspecified for boundedness in Finnish (Kiparsky (1998))
depends on the case of their object; e) scalar approaches (Hay,
Kennedy and Levin (1999) and Kennedy and Levin (2000)) also
compare disfavorably to the present theory, due to the high role of
context in deciding upon the telicity of 'lengthen' and 'empty' (so,
telicity is not encoded in the lexical meaning of the adjectives giving
rise to the corresponding verbs).

Chapter 6. Direct Range Assignment and The Slavic Paradigm.
This chapter introduces the Slavic paradigm of structuring telicity. It is
achieved via prefixation on the verb: prefixes are the phonological
spell-out of head features in the specifier of ASPq that directly assigns
range to # within ASPq. However, prefixes, being quantificational
in nature (Filip (1999, 2000)) perform a double role. As there are no
determiners in most Slavic languages and as an object DP must be in
the specifier of ASPq, whenever the latter is projected, the open value
d inside the nominal domain is assigned range by the prefix as
well. Thus, non-quantity DPs are barred in [Spec, ASPq]. This and the
following chapters will receive my special attention in the critical
evaluation part of the review.

Chapter 7. Direct Range Assignment: Telicity without Verkuyl's
The reason for rejecting Verkuyl's generalization for Slavic is the
presence of intransitive perfectives in the languages, such as
semelfactives, reflexive verbs and the verbs with superlexical prefixes
(cf. Romanova (2003), (2004), Svenonius (2004)). As prefixes are
direct ranges assigners to [ASPq #], the presence of the DP in
ASPq for this purpose is unnecessary in Slavic. However, telicity
without Verkuyl's generalization is also achievable in English, with
adverbs of quantification ('twice', 'once') or particles and prepositions.

Chapter 8. How Fine-Grained?
In this chapter Hagit Borer argues against event decomposition. She
points out that a) expressions like 'float under the bridge' are not
decomposable, they can be modified by both 'in an hour' and 'for an
hour'; b) not all telic events have an end-point; c) there are no causal
relations in resultative constructions; d) 'babies' is ok as the subject of
the 'simple' state in 'babies are asleep', but disallowed as the subject
of the resultant state in resultative constructions (*'he sang babies
asleep'). Therefore she rejects the Small Clause analysis of resultative
constructions (cf. Dehe et al. (2002) and references cited there) in
favor of a Complex-Predicate approach (cf. Zeller (2001)): 'hammer-
flat' in 'hammer the metal flat'. A big part of the chapter is devoted to
the speculation about predicate modification (by 'for x time'/'in x time')
and anti-telicity effects (reflexive dative in Hebrew and nominalizer '-
ing' in English).

Part III. Locatives and Event Structure.
Chapter 9. The Existential Road: Unergatives and Transitives.
This chapter, like the other chapters in part III, deals with the topmost
projection discussed in Borer's system: EP (Event Phrase) (not to be
confused with Travis's EP (Travis (1994, 2000)). EP is projected
above TP (Tense Phrase) for a number of reasons (the author
demonstrates the presence of the event argument even in statives; in
addition T never binds the event argument). There are several
possibilities for binding the event argument represented by the open
value E(subscript, meaning 'event') merging as the head of EP:
the range to this open value can be assigned by a) a referential DP,
having the originator argument role; b) an expletive; c) an existentially
closed DP through the specifier-head agreement; d) by a locative.
However, the account for the paradigm in Hebrew and Italian in
examples (1)-(5), p. 255, is not yet clear. The paradigm presents the
following problems: a) Why are weak postverbal subjects possible with
unaccusatives? b) Why aren't strong postverbal subjects possible? c)
Why doesn't the same hold of unergatives? And the author herself
adds a question: why locatives? First, it is a well-known fact that
locatives have an existential force (Freeze (1992)). Second, bare DPs
are licit when they can be located in space (Dobrovie-Sorin and Laca
(1996)). Third, in French existential preverbal subjects can occur only
in the presence of locative expressions. As for the weak postverbal
arguments in Hebrew, they are subject to the 'slavified' behavior of the
locative clitic, which directly assigns range to the E and indirectly,
via specifier-head agreement, to a relevant open value inside the DP
(this DP comes into agreement with the lower copy of V-loc -- the verb
with the locative clitic, which must raise to EP).

Chapter 10. Slavification and Unaccusatives.
From this chapter we learn more about quasi-functional items, like
locative clitics in Hebrew, and how they are related to Slavic prefixes.
Hebrew locative clitics are really like Slavic prefixes, in that they can
merge with [ASPq #] and assign range to it. Then they move with
the verb to E and assign range also to E. If they merge with T,
they fail to assign range to [ASPq #], but still can do so to E.
However, Hebrew locative clitics have one distinction from Slavic
prefixes: the former are not quantificational in nature, so they cannot
assign range to [DP #]. Therefore, a DP in [Spec, ASPq] does not
have to be strong. In unergative structures there is no functional
specifier that could hold the postverbal DP and keep it from
agreement with locative (=existential operator), therefore weak
postverbal subjects in unergatives are banned. The question remains
about achievements with non-quantity object DPs ('discovered gold'
and 'found rare coins'). The answers are: a) a covert locative is
present in the structure; b) achievements are idioms. The author
develops the latter idea some more in the chapter. We find out that
not all achievements allow their objects to be non-quantity -- which
gives further support to the idiom hypothesis. At the same time,
achievements mostly behave like accomplishments: as was said
above, their object DPs must be quantity and they can be progressive.
All in all, taking into account examples in (53)-(56), pp. 331-332, the
author concludes that there is no separate event type 'achievements'.
They are just cases in which the projection of ASPq is obligatory
(unlike in regular accomplishments-activities). This already makes
achievements idiomatic: it is specified what open value is going to
project ('finish'). In 'discover' or 'notice' which can take non-quantity
DP objects, the specification is even higher: it is specified what is
going to assign range to [ASPq #], and this is a covert locative.

Chapter 11. Forward Oh! Some concluding remarks.
The concluding chapter of this work makes the following points: a)
there is no inter-language variation that couldn't be attested within the
same language, the variation being attributed to formal properties of
grammatical formatives; b) the exo-skeletal approach overgenerates,
but this overgeneration can be curtailed by the existence of
idioms, 'cases in which some grammatical formative is specified to
occur with a phonological index, and meaning is assigned to the
complex constituent as a whole.' Idioms are a concession, the author
admits, however 'it is to be hoped that future research will shed some
light on them' and then 'an exo-skeletal approach can be completely


The book is written in a clear language and has a very clear layout.
Each chapter begins with a 'recap' of the conclusions made and the
discussions conducted in the previous chapters. The questions asked
inspire curiosity and a detective spirit in the reader, and the author
confidently leads him/her to the answers, step by step, with no (big)
digressions from the main path. The author also dares ask questions
unanswerable at the moment, and has the courage to offer directions
towards the solutions to 'future researchers'. The review and the
critique of the relevant literature is fairly exhaustive. Not a single major
work on the topic has escaped HB's attention. It also creates a feeling
of one scientific continuum -- the present analysis hasn't sprung up
from nowhere, it has grown from the well fertilized soil.

If it were a work of fiction, I would say that the metaphor chosen by the
author is so apt that now it can break free of the author's will and start
developing on its own. It will certainly influence generations of
researchers. Importantly, the empirical data and the analysis offered in
the work in most cases do not contradict each other. However, at this
point I would like to switch over to some critical remarks, especially
concerning the Slavic languages. I had a number of questions while
reading the book, both big and small, technical and empirical. Here,
for the lack of space, I will restrict myself to three broad questions.

1. Slavic paradigm.
Some mistaken assumptions have been made about Slavic. I suspect
the reason is that all the prefixes are treated in the same way
(although the distinction between them is cited from Svenonius (2003)
on page 195). Not all of them are quantificational and even
quantificational prefixes are not a homogeneous group. For instance,
na-, widely discussed in the work, always requires a partitive genitive
on its mass and bare plural objects, which already hints at the
absence of #P inside the DP, thus making it impossible for the prefix to
assign range to [DP #]. According to the author, such structures
must be excluded in the presence of a quantificational prefix. In
addition, HB notes: 'in the presence of telic structures, partitive case
can never occur'. But the Russian partitive does, not only with na-
verbs, but also with the verbs with purely perfectivizing prefixes or with
prefixless perfectives ('kupit' chaju' buy.P tea.PART'). The system
proposed by HB also predicts the impossibility of strong quantifiers
with perfectives, but they can co-occur: 'On s'jel vse jabloki.' he ate.P
all apples.ACC' (the reason for this claim is that the prefix na- has
been analyzed in the greatest detail and it does disallow strong
quantifiers with the objects of the verb). In pursuing the reasoning in
favor of atelicity as the lack of syntactic quantity structure, the author
repeats the following point but never really explains it: 'the primary
and the secondary imperfectives are by necessity not a uniform
semantic class... the secondary imperfective inflection has a
progressive function', so it is a species of outer aspect in the sense of
Verkuyl (1972), whereas the primary imperfectives are species of the
inner aspect. The empirical data do not support this view. Both the
primary imperfective and the secondary imperfective have a) a
progressive function; b) a habitual function.

2. Achievements.
The question about achievements is their idiomatic nature. Intuitively,
idioms are language-specific. Achievements that allow non-quantity
DP objects in English share similar properties cross-linguistically.
3). He found gold.

4). Hän löytyi kultaa. he found gold.PART.

5). On nashël zoloto. he found.P gold.ACC

According to HB's analysis, the possibility of a non-quantity object in
(3) is accounted for by a covert locative that assigns range to the
open value inside EP. The question about Finnish is: how can a covert
locative help the partitive marked object avoid aspect-related effects?
The reading of the VP is still bounded. The partitive here stands
for 'some gold'. The question about Russian: assume a covert locative
is also present in Russian. How can the head features of the prefix
avoid range assigning to [DP #], for here there is no quantity
interpretation of 'gold' -- this DP is vague between a weak and a
strong reading.

3. What comes first?
The question that has been with me throughout the whole process of
reading is 'what comes first?'. However, I think the author herself is
asking it -- also in the book. How do we know that some functional
head does not project? How do we tell the difference between its not
being projected and its not being assigned range? If we know that the
shell FP projects instead of ASPq, we know that the nominal will be
partitive. On the other hand, the presence of existential pro indicates
that the structure cannot be unaccusative (p. 120). Does the verbal
structure determine the nominal structure or does the nominal
structure determine the verbal structure? Does the projection of ASPq
forces the merger of the subject-of-quantity or does the s-o-q forces
ASPq to project (p. 228)? Do we first know that it is an achievement
and the ASPq is obligatory or does the presence of ASPq identify the
event type? etc.

At the end, I will just point out the typos I noticed in the foreign
p. 210, ex.(52) -- missing umlauts in the Finnish examples,
p. 138 ex.(24, d) -- a missing letter in the Finnish example (äiti),
p. 173 ex.(25, a) -- a plural instead of singular marker in the Polish
example (must be 'artykul'),
p. 188 footnote 4 -- there is no such a stem as 'krac' in Russian
p. 189, ex.(15, a) -- must be 'a' instead of 'o' in 'vyprashivat'';
(15, b) -- the form given as imperfective does not exist; the form given
as perfective is actually imperfective,
p.195 ex. (24, b) -- the infinitival marker is just a softness sign, not 'i'.


Baker, Mark. 1988. Incorporation. Chicago: University of Chicago

Borer, Hagit. 1994. The projection of arguments. University of
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Benedicto and Jeff Runner. Amherst: GLSA, University of

Borer, Hagit. 2005. Structuring Sense, volume I. In Name Only. Oxford
University Press

Dehe, Nicole, Ray Jackendoff, Andrew McIntyre and Silke Urban
(2002, eds.): Verb-Particle Constructions. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter

de Hoop, Helen. 1992. Case Configuration and Noun Phrase
Interpretation, (Groningen Dissertations in Linguistics). Groningen:
University of Groningen (Published by Garland, New York, 1997)

Dobrovie-Sorin, Carmen and Brenda Laca. 1996. Generic Bare NPs,
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Filip, Hana. 1999. Aspect, situation type and nominal reference.
Garland, New York

Filip, Hana. 2000. The Quantization Puzzle In Tenny, Carol,
Pustejovsky, James (eds.) Events as Grammatical Objects, pp. 39-96.
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Freeze, Ray. 1992. Existentials and other locatives, Language 68, pp.

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Tanya and Devon L. Strolovich (eds.). The Proceedings of the Ninth
Conference on Semantics and Linguistic Theory, pp. 127-44. Santa
Cruz: CLC Publications

Kennedy, Christopher and Beth Levin. 2000. Telicity corresponds to
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Nov. 2000

Kiparsky, Paul. 1998. Partitive case and aspect, in Greuder, William
and Miriam Butt (eds.) The Projection of Arguments, pp. 265-307.
Stanford: CSLI

Kratzer, Angelika. 1996. Severing the external argument from the
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the Lexicon, pp. 109-37. Dordrecht: Kluwer

Krifka, Manfred. 1992. Thematic relations as links between nominal
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Study of Language and Information

Krifka, Manfred. 1998. The origins of telicity, in (ed.) Rothstein,
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Nordlyd 32, No 2, pp. 255-278

Svenonius, Peter. 2003. The morphosyntax of Slavic prefixes, paper
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Svenonius, Peter. 2004. Slavic Prefixes and Morphology : An
Introduction to the Nordlyd volume. Nordlyd 32, No 2, pp. 177-204

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van Hout, Angeliek. 1992. Linking and projection based on event
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Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins


Eugenia Romanova is in her last year of PhD studies at the University
of Tromso, Norway. In her dissertation she connects prefixation and
argument projection in Russian, specifically focusing on a)
quantificational effects the former has on the latter, which can be seen
from case alternation on direct objects (accusative vs partitive
genitive); b) versatile behavior of motion verbs, where directed motion
verbs represent typical unaccusative structures and non-directed
motion verbs typical unergative structures. The two groups of motion
verbs help to show the structural complexity of prefix-verb-object
conglomerates and the relationships between events and nominals, in
tackling the question "What gets quantified?" She developed an
interest in particle verbs in Germanic as a by-product of the main
work, whereas the interest in the Finnish direct object case system
was the trigger for starting the dissertation.

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