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Review of  Typology of Iterative Constructions

Reviewer: Carmen Conti
Book Title: Typology of Iterative Constructions
Book Author: Viktor S. Khrakovskij
Publisher: Lincom GmbH
Linguistic Field(s): Semantics
Issue Number: 17.393

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Date: Thu, 02 Feb 2006 14:35:36 -0600
From: Carmen Conti Jimenez
Subject: Typology of iterative constructions

EDITOR: Khrakovskij, Viktor S.
TITLE: Typology of iterative constructions
SERIES: Lincom Studies in Theoretical Linguistics
YEAR: 1997

Carmen Conti Jiménez, Department of Spanish, Universidad de Jaén

[Although this book was published nearly ten years ago, we agreed to
solicit a review for it when we received it late last year because of its
enduring intrerest. The reviewer is in no way responsible for the
delay! -- Eds.]


This book is divided into three parts.
Part 1, which consists of the theoretical aspects of the investigation on
iterative constructions, focuses on the semantic classification of
situational plurality.
Part 2 is divided into four subparts describing situational plurality in
several languages:
part A analyses languages with specialized grammatical means to
express multiplicative, distributive, and iterative (in particular, Aleut,
Evenki, Itelmen, Chamalal, Klamath, Asiatic Eskimo, and Nivkh);
part B focuses on the analysis of languages with grammatical means
to express the iterative (Ewe, Turkic languages, Lithuanian, Russian
and other Slavic languages, Hausa, Modern Literary Arabic, English,
and Chukchee);
part C studies those languages where tense plus iterative adverbials
express the iterative (French, German, Modern Literary East
Armenian, Hindi and Urdu, and Japanese); and
part D is dedicated to the employment of adverbials as iterative
expressions (as occurs in Indonesian, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and
Lastly, part 3 is dedicated to the study of alternative interpretations of
the plurality (in particular, of plurality and verbal quantification). In
addition to the bibliographical references, the book contains several
indexes listing authors, subjects, and languages.

This collective monograph, which has been prepared by the
Language Workshop of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of
Linguistics, focuses on the study of situational plurality across
languages. (Reference to ''Author'' below is to the collective
authorship.) In particular, the aim of the book is to reveal the system of
the sub-meanings of situational plurality, in particular, the indefinite
plurality of situations. One of the most relevant theoretical
assumptions of the book, which is treated in detail in Chapter 1, is
that situational plurality can be coded by all possible means (which
seem to conform a functional/semantic field consisting of lexical,
grammatical, and contextual factors, according to Khrakvsky), but
does not form an integral system. Besides, it is assumed that
situational plurality is favored by certain semantic and grammatical
conditions. For instance, it is argued that certain semantic classes of
verbs (denoting non-homogeneous processes), some adverbials (like
adverbials of cyclicity, interval, etc.), the imperfective aspect, the
participation of plural actants, and extra-clause factors (such as
compound sentences with double conjunctions, converbs, etc.)
facilitate the plural interpretation of the situation.

According to the author, the verbs most freely combining with the
meanings of plurality are those denoting non-homogeneous
(terminative) processes (e. g. 'to build'), whilst temporary states and
homogeneous processes are less natural to express plural actions.
On the opposite, verbs denoting permanent properties and relations
do not combine with the meanings of plurality (like verbs denoting the
properties of objects or types of objects, e. g. 'this elevator takes five
persons', and stable mental or emotional states, like ''speak'', ''hate
(music)'', ''respect'', etc.).

Chapter 1 also offers a classification of semantic types of situational
plurality. This classification, which constitutes one of the theoretical
bases of the book, is systematically employed in Part 2. The author
describes the typology of situational plurality according to two
(i) the way in which the plural situations take place on time
(a) a plurality of situations occurs at one period of time;
(b) each of the repeated situations belonging to the plurality exists at a
separate period of time, and
(ii) the identity amongst the actants of the situation,
(a) identical sets of actants take part in each of the repeated situations
belonging to the plurality,
(b) the sets of actants taking part in each of the repeated situations
are not completely identical.
The combination of these attributes gives rise to the following types of
situational pluralities, according to the author:
multiplicative (combining attributes ia, iia) (e. g. 'The boy tapped at the
window for several minutes'),
distributive (terminal) (with attributes ia, iib) (e. g. 'In a week's time the
fox carried away all the neighbor's chicks one by one'), and
iterative (non-terminal) (with attributes ib, iia) (e. g. 'The boy visits his
granny every year', 'the patient coughs at night').

The author also examines the coding of multiplicative, distributive and
iterative verbs in the languages of the sample (Part 2). Regarding
multiplicative and semelfactive verbs, two ways of coding are
proposed: lexical forms and grammatical means. According to the
author, multiplicative verbs are universally onomatopoeic (like
Arabic ''qa'qa'a'' 'crackle'). On the other hand, grammatical
semelfactives can be formed by adding affixes to lexical
multiplicatives, and vice versa (e. g. ''tunkidi'' 'push once', tunki-
tunkidi 'push many times', in Chamalal; in Uzbek ''vov'' 'woof', ''vov
qili'' 'bark once', ''vov-vov-qil'' 'bark many times'). It is also noticed that
quite often multiplicative verbs express a multidirectional motion, such
as ''ners-u-durs anel'' 'come in and go out' in Armenian, or ''gnal
gal'' 'walk to and from'. These verbs are called alternatives.
Alternatives may be coded grammatically by means of verb derivation
or by adverbial expressions.

The distributive meaning may be marked by means of several types of
plural markers, according to the author. The markers may hold both
on the verb (the plurality of situations) and on the noun phrase (the
plurality of the individuals), as in Russian (verb prefix+plural noun);
just on the verb, like in Eskimo (by a special verb suffix); or just on
noun phrases, as in Vietnamese (i.e. noun reduplication). In Indo-
European languages, like German, French, there are means like 'one
by one', 'each one', etc. From a cross-linguistic perspective,
distributives are usually verbs of specific physical action and movement
in space. From a morphological perspective, distributive verbs may be
either non-derivative (lexical, e. g. ''distribute'', ''hand'', etc.) or
derivative (reduplication, affixation). Distribution may be also
expressed by means of reciprocals (like in Turkic languages). The
author also points out that even completed action can express
distribution (mostly, a distributive object, rather than the subject).

The iterative meaning is expressed by lexical, word-formational and
grammatical means. Among the lexical means, the most important role
belongs to adverbials of cyclicity (like ''every minute'', ''annually'', etc.),
interval (like ''seldom'', ''very seldom'', ''sometimes'', etc.) and
habituality (like ''usually'' and ''habitually''). In addition to adverbials,
there are other means of expressing iterativity, like reduplication,
iterative verb suffixes, analytical aspect constructions and forms of
unreal moods, amongst others. The author also distinguishes between
two different semantic types of intervals in iterative situations: intervals
that are larger than normal, on the one hand, and intervals that are
shorter or smaller than normal. The former type gives rise to what is
called a discontinuative meaning, whilst the latter is referred to as
frequentative. The coding of both meanings is basically based on
verbal markers and adverbials (like ''from time to time'', ''often'', etc.).


This book is an invaluable contribution to the cross-linguistic study of
situational plurality. The most important contribution of the book is the
attempt of establishing a set of semantic and formal criteria both to
classify situational plurality across languages and to relate these
semantic contents with grammatical coding. In sum, this book satisfies
the methodological premises of modern typology, such as the
combination of descriptive data and theory. Here, I would like to
suggest some comments.

Comments on Part 1

Part 1 would have required a more general state of affairs,
considering works on plural events and aspect within both formal
semantics and lexical-semantics (Henk J. Verkuyl, James Pustejovsky,
Beth Levin Hovav, etc.).

Sometimes, the notion of situational plurality is confusing. In effect, the
label ''situation'' seems to refer to several grammatical and semantic
units, like verb, predicate, and event. It might be useful the
employment of different labels to differ at least between plural
predicates (more related to Aktionsart or lexical aspect) and plural
events (more related to the number of actions and the number of

On the other hand, I would have expected at least a brief explanation
on certain assertions. For instance, the author says that ''temporary
states and homogeneous processes are less natural to express plural
actions'', but there is not a theoretical or an empirical argumentation to
demonstrate it. In another part, the author claims that multiplicative verbs
are universally onomatopoeic, but I wonder if it might be just the
opposite, that is, that onomatopoeic verbs tend to be multiplicative.

On page 13, it is said: ''the verb has no grammatical category which
would play the role as the category of number in nouns by regularly
expressing the meanings of the singularity vs. the plurality of
situations''. A recent work by Corbett (2000) has demonstrated that
there are indeed languages with this category.

On page 18, it is said: ''the most representative characteristic of
distribution is that the number of situations making up a plurality is
equal to the number of individual representatives of the combined
actant'', but, as was argued in Langendoen (1978), distribution does
not always involve a one-by-one relation between the number of
individuals and the number of events (for instance, in a sentence
like ''His classmates had to bake a cake for the party'', it is not only
true a situation in which each classmate had to bake one cake, but
also a situation where several sets of two or more than two
classmates baked each one a cake).

Khrakvsky claims that another important feature of distribution is that
situations repeated during a period of time can in reality occur either
in succession, i. e. in different moments of the same period, or
simultaneously. But it seems to me that this faculty is also possible in
the collective reading. For instance, a sentence like ''John and Mary
wrote this book'' is true in a situation in which John wrote part of the
book during a period of time x and Mary did it during a period of time

Lastly, I would like to make some comments on the examples in Part 1.
The examples are not always glossed morpheme by morpheme, and
then it is difficult to contrast the English translation with the analysis of
the original language. As a consequence, the reader has to assume
that the analysis of the example is correct.

Comments on Part 2

I have just a few comments on Part 2. First, I have noticed that the
languages in Part 2 are not always treated in the same way.
Regarding bibliographical sources, for instance, there are
considerable asymmetries between Slavic languages and other Indo-
European languages treated in the book, such as English, French,
and German. I suspect that iterative constructions have been studied
in detail in those languages. In relation to Chinese, it is not said what
is meant by the term Chinese, that is, if it refers to Mandarin Chinese,
Jinyu Chinese, etc.


Corbett, G. G. (2000) ''Number''. Cambridge: Cambridge University

Langendoen, D. T. (1978) The Logic of Reciprocity. ''Linguistic
Inquiry'' 9:2, 177-197.

Carmen Conti is assistant professor of the department of Spanish at
the University of Jaén (Spain). She is the author of a book on
semantic roles from a cross-linguistic viewpoint (Ediciones de la
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid). Nowadays, her research is
focused on lexical and morphological ditransitivity across languages.