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Review of  Aspects of the Theory of Clitics

Reviewer: Peter M. Arkadiev
Book Title: Aspects of the Theory of Clitics
Book Author: Stephen R. Anderson
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Morphology
Language Family(ies): Germanic
Issue Number: 17.2193

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AUTHOR: Anderson, Stephen R.
TITLE: Aspects of the Theory of Clitics
SERIES: Oxford Studies in Theoretical Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press
YEAR: 2005
ISBN: 019927990X

Peter M. Arkadiev, PhD, Institute of Slavic Studies, Russian Academy of
Sciences, Moscow


The book under review is a result of a more than a decade's research, some
of which has already been disclosed to the linguistic audience as articles
(in particular Anderson 1993, 2000). Anderson's new book is probably his
second most important book after the famous 'A-Morphous Morphology' (1992),
and will certainly rouse no less discussion than the latter. It contains
probably the most comprehensive survey of phenomena and problems associated
with the notion of 'clitic' up to date, and argues for a unified and
coherent formal theory of the relevant phenomena, which, in author's
opinion, help to solve these problems.

The core idea of Anderson's approach to clitics can be summarized as
follows: 'clitics' are prosodically deficient elements introduced into
syntactic domains by rules akin to those introducing morphological material
into words, and assimilated to prosodically non-deficient material by
general phonological rules. Thus the component of grammar clitics are dealt
with in is morphology, notably phrase-level morphology rather than
word-level morphology (this position is maintained from Anderson 1992), and
not syntax nor phonology, although both of these play an important role in
cliticization phenomena. Anderson's approach is cast in an
Optimality-Theoretic (OT) framework, at least he himself considers it to be
so, because actually the theory presented in the book departs from the
classical OT tradition in several important respects, some of which seem to
be somewhat more substantial than Anderson's explicitly stated reluctance
to use standard OT tableaux.

The scope of the book is very broad, and deals not only with almost every
important kind of cliticization phenomenon and descriptive and theoretical
problems it may pose, but also with more general issues, such as the role
and place of the morphological component in the architecture of grammar,
the tension between rule-based and constraint-based approaches to
morphology, the level of complexity of clause structure and the question of
whether the functional content of the clause should be represented as
separate projecting heads in the syntax or rather as rich feature structure
of a fairly limited number of syntactic nodes. Some problems not directly
linked to clitics are also reviewed, especially the so-called Verb Second,
the relation between argument structure, agreement, and 'polysynthesis',
and noun incorporation. The range of languages whose data is discussed in
the book is also impressive.

The Introduction briefly presents the reader to the major problems
associated with the notion of 'clitic', i.e. the very definition of what a
clitic is, and where in the grammar these peculiar elements should be
tackled with, and outlines the main theoretical claims of the book.

Chapter 2 ('What is a Clitic?') is devoted to the rigorous definition of
clitics and to the general typology of clitics. Anderson critically reviews
the classical theory of Arnold Zwicky (1977), which states that clitics are
linguistic elements intermediate between independent words and bound
affixes and provides a three-way typology of such elements ('special
clitics' vs. 'simple clitics' vs. 'bound words'), and suggests that (i) it
is misleading to relate clitics to full-fledged words by phonological
rules, and consequently (ii) that Zwicky's notion of 'bound word' is
unnecessary. Anderson informally defines clitics as linguistic elements
which (a) lack autonomous accent, and (b) are phonologically subordinated
to another word via a general mechanism called 'Stray Adjunction'. Such
elements may be characterized by some kind of peculiar syntactic behavior,
and those which show such behavior are 'special clitics', and those which
do not are 'simple clitics'. Simple clitics are exemplified by determiners
and case-markers in a Wakashan language Kwakw'ala (Kwakiutl), which are
adjoined to the immediately preceding word. Another case study briefly
presents the well-known problems with auxiliary reduction in English. Then
Anderson turns to a more formal definition of clitics, and suggests the
following typology:

Phonological clitic: A linguistic element whose phonological form is
deficient in that it lacks prosodic structure at the level of the
(Prosodic) Word (p. 23).

Morphosyntactic clitic: A linguistic element whose position with respect to
the other elements of the phrase or clause follows a distinct set of
principles, separate from those of the independently motivated syntax of
free elements in the language (p. 31).

Importantly, morphosyntactic clitics are usually phonological clitics as
well, but that is by no means necessary (e.g., Italian 3rd person plural
pronominal clitic ''loro'' is stressed but behaves exactly like the
unstressed elements ''la'', ''li'' etc.).

Finally, the distinction between affixes and clitics is discussed. The
properties of these two kinds of linguistic elements examined by Zwicky and
Pullum (1983) are shown to follow from the assumption that they are
introduced and manipulated at different levels of grammar, i.e. lexical and
post-lexical phonology and morphology, respectively.

Chapter 3 ('The Phonology of Cliticization') is devoted to the development
of an adequate theory of phonological clitics, which would account both for
their appearance and positioning. Anderson's theory of phonological clitics
is based on a well articulated prosodic structure, which includes the
prosodic hierarchy (1) and the requirements in (2):

(1) Syllable < Foot < P(rosodic) Word < P(rosodic) Phrase < Int(onational)

(2a) Full Interpretation: In order to be well-formed at Phonological Form
(PF), phonetic content has to be incorporated into prosodic structure.

(2b) Layeredness: No category dominates a higher-level category.

(2c) Headedness: Every category directly dominates (at least) one element
no more than one level below it on the Prosodic Hierarchy.

On these assumptions, Anderson proposes a four-way typology of phonological
clitics, based on the level of the Prosodic Hierarchy the clitic is
adjoined to its host at and on whether the host projects its own PWord
level. Then he develops an OT-style system of violable constraints which
determine the way Stray Adjunction (the general mechanism responsible for
incorporating the prosodically deficient material into the prosodic
structure) operates in a given language. This system consists at least of
the following constraints (or constraint types):

Exhaustivity(Ci): Every element of category Ci is exhaustively composed of
elements of category Ci-1.

NonRecursive(Ci): No element of category Ci directly dominates another
instance of Ci.

Prosodic Faithfulness: Prosodic structure in the input should be preserved
in the output.

How different rankings of these constraints determine the way cliticization
works is exemplified on the data of different Italian dialects.

Further, Anderson develops an account of how prosodic and syntactic
structures are aligned, and shows, inter alia, how such an important
parameter as the positioning of the clitic with respect to its host may be
accounted for in this way. Then he turns to a detailed discussion of
English auxiliary reduction, and shows quite convincingly that this
phenomenon can be described and explained in terms of phonological
cliticization only, without recourse to syntactic operations assumed by
most previous analyses, e.g. Bresnan 1978.

In Chapter 4 ('Special Clitics and their Grammar') Anderson outlines the
range of problems connected with 'special' or 'morphosyntactic' clitics,
the most important of which is their positioning within a phrase or a
clause. First of all, Anderson justifies the very status of special clitics
as a linguistic category, and then presents a typology of these clitics (p.

A clitic is located
a. within the DOMAIN of some syntactic constituent (head or phrase);
b. by reference to the FIRST vs. LAST (syntactic or prosodic) daughter
constituent of that domain; and
c. PRECEDING or FOLLOWING this anchor point.

Anderson proceeds arguing that special clitics bear important similarities
with affixes, such as their ability to express morphosyntactic or semantic
features, common restrictions on their positioning in their respective
domains, possibility of non-concatenative exponents of both affixes and
clitics. Anderson suggests that special clitics are best analyzed as
phrasal affixes, i.e. phonological elements introduced into phrases (and
not into words) and expressing the morphosyntactic features of these
phrases. Some concrete examples of such elements are explored in detail:
the English possessive, Polynesian definiteness markers and Kwakw'ala
pronominal clitics and determiners.

Chapter 5 ('Theories of Special Clitics') is a review of the most
influential approaches to the 'second-position' phenomenon. The main
problem is what kind of element may precede a second-position clitic.
Anderson discusses and refutes both purely phonological and purely
syntactic accounts of special clitic positioning, and concludes, partly
following Bošković (2000, 2001) than both syntactic and phonological
mechanisms are responsible for the phenomena in question.

In Chapter 6 ('Optimal Theory of Clitic Positioning') Anderson develops his
own account of clitic placement, based on his assumption that special
clitics are phrasal affixes. First of all, he shows that a rule-based
theory of Anderson 1992 is less adequate than a constraint-based account
couched in terms of 'Stratal OT' (Kiparsky 2000). Anderson starts with
developing an account of 'classical' word-level affixation, and then
extends it to the level of syntactic phrases. Here the principal role is
played by the constraints NonInitial(e,D), which requires that the element
''e'' be non initial in a specified domain ''D'', and LeftMost(e,D), which
requires that ''e'' must occupy the closest possible position to the
beginning of its domain. Also important is the Integrity(C) constraint,
which prevents certain type of constituents (e.g. words) from being
interrupted by phonological material. Anderson discusses data from various
Slavic and Romance languages and shows how different rankings of the
relevant constraints account for the distribution and positioning of
clitics in these languages. Next he turns to three cases of what was
assumed in the literature to be 'endoclitics' (word internal clitics), i.e.
pronominal clitics in Pashto, European Portuguese and Udi (North-East
Caucasian), and shows that only the latter presents an uncontroversial
example of the violation of Integrity(Word) constraint. Lastly, Anderson
discusses a complex case of Tagalog special clitics, showing how the
distinction between ''grammatical'' and ''derivational'' elements may be
extended to clitics.

Chapter 7 ('Verb Second as Alignment') discusses the possibility to extend
the analysis of second position clitics to the well known phenomenon of
verb-second (V2). Anderson presents a detailed analysis of data from
Icelandic, Kashmiri, Breton, and Surmiran Rumantsch, and shows that V2 and
second position clitics can indeed be handled by similar constraints, i.e.
NonInitinal(V,D) and LeftMost(V,D), but nevertheless this similarity is not
as profound as Jacob Wackernagel claimed in his famous paper (1892). The
crucial difference between clitics and (finite) verbs lies in the mechanism
by which they appear in the second position: the former are introduced
there by post-lexical phonological rules, whereas the latter arrive there
by means of syntactic displacement. Moreover, Anderson shows that V2
phenomena in Germanic, Kashmiri and Breton, on the one hand, and those in
Rumantsch, on the other, result from fairly different processes and cannot
be handled by identical constraints. Thus, the V2 languages themselves do
not form a homogenous class.

In Chapter 8 ('Pronominal Clitics') Anderson discusses pronominal clitics
with respect to their relation to agreement and argument structure, paying
the greatest attention to different restrictions on cooccurrence of clitics
and coreferential phrases (the so called 'clitic doubling'). He first
presents a three-way typology of agreement systems, i.e. (i) where
morphological agreement simply registers certain properties of an argument,
and does not supplant the overt expression of the latter, e.g. subject
agreement in French; (ii) where overt agreement on the verb and full
argument phrases are in complementary distribution, e.g. in Carib language
Pemon (Venezuela), or where noun phrases are adjuncts rather than arguments
(cf. Baker's (1995) analysis of Mohawk); (iii) where agreement and argument
noun phrases are compatible, but the latter may be freely omitted, e.g. in
Georgian. In order to handle such cases, Anderson proposes to regard the
case of simple 'registration' of an argument on the verb as involving
copying of some relevant morphosyntactic features from the argument onto
the Morphosyntactic Representation of the verb. The case of Mohawk and
other similar phenomena discussed by Baker, on Anderson's view involve not
only copying of features but also coindexation of argument positions with
the verb's Morphosyntactic Representation. Under these assumptions the fact
that in the so called 'polysynthetic' languages (under Baker's definition
of the term) full noun phrases cannot appear in argument positions is
accounted for in rather simple Binding-theoretical terms, without recourse
to Baker's stipulation that agreement markers absorb structural Case.
Finally, agreement in pro-drop languages such as Georgian or Italian is
described as involving obligatory copying of features coupled with optional
coindexing, while that of Pemon as consisting in obligatory coindexing but
optional copying. Turning to pronominal clitics, among which he discusses
not only well known object clitics, but also more 'exotic' subject clitics
(data again comes from Rumantsch and some North Italian dialects), Anderson
argues that they present an instance of phrase-level agreement, which is
subject to the same mechanisms and constraints as genuinely morphological

Chapter 9 ('Clause Structure and the Grammar of Incorporation') at first
glance seems to be somewhat out of place in a book devoted to clitics.
However, as Anderson notes, ''the choice between syntactic and lexical
analyses of this construction and the framework developed in this book for
the description of special clitics both bear on a set of central issues in
the theory of grammar: the nature and scope of 'Head Movement' and the role
of abstract functional categories in clause structure''. Anderson critically
reviews the syntactic movement approach to noun incorporation (Sadock 1986,
Baker 1988) and shows that (i) this approach falls short of several
important phenomena, such as idiosyncratic semantic and phonological
properties of noun incorporation, and that (ii) lexical approach can neatly
account for those phenomena which used to lie in the core of the syntactic
approach, i.e. the fact that the incorporated nominal usually fills a
particular semantic role of the verb. Anderson uses the ''Restrict''
operation of Chung and Ladusaw (2004), which unifies the semantics of the
noun with that of the verb without necessarily saturating the relevant
argument position. This mechanisms accounts for the 'doubling' of
incorporated nouns and for the semantico-pragmatic restrictions on such
'doubling'. Also, Anderson presents a discussion of the relations between
incorporation and agreement, which are crucial for Baker, and shows that
the syntactic movement analysis is not necessary to explain the fact that
agreement with the incorporated noun is dispreferred in such languages as
Mohawk. Similarly, he discusses the denominal verb formation in West
Greenlandic, analyzed as an instance of syntactic rather than lexical
operation by Sadock, and argues for a lexical account of this phenomenon.
The conclusion Anderson reaches is rather far-fetching, i.e. that since the
incorporation structures can be dealt with in the lexicon, the very
motivation for the mechanism of Head Movement becomes shaky, as well as for
the contemporary view of clause structure as involving lots of abstract
functional projections.


Anderson's book is undoubtedly one of the most important and valuable
contributions to the study of clitics. His core argument — that
cliticization is a special type of morphological process subject to
specific syntactic and phonological constraints — is indeed well motivated
and thoroughly articulated. Perhaps the greatest advantage of this book is
that Anderson achieves a very good balance between a data-oriented
empirical approach to phenomena he discusses, covering almost every
important aspect of cliticization and providing detailed analysis of data
from a huge array of languages, and a rigidly articulated theoretical
account of these data. Such convergence between theory and descriptive
typology is not too often found in linguists' works, and this makes
Anderson's book valuable not only as a study of particular phenomena, but
also as an example of how linguistics should be done.

Interesting and thought-provoking contributions are, however, usually not
flawless, and Anderson's book is no exception. I would like to point out
two important shortcomings of this book. The first one is its somewhat too
broad coverage; specifically, the last chapter, devoted to noun
incorporation, seems to be out of place here, not only because its topic is
very loosely related to the book's main topic, but also because Anderson's
discussion of noun incorporation is clearly too brief and his main
conclusion perhaps too hasty. Evidently, he has more to say about noun
incorporation, and indeed more has to be said than is said in the last
chapter. In my opinion, the book would have only profited from the omission
of the last chapter, especially if instead of dealing with a subject
unnecessary or at least clearly subsidiary in a book on clitics, Anderson
had provided the reader with a concluding chapter summarizing his main
arguments and ideas.

The second critical point I have to make concerns the discussion of clitics
itself. One cannot blame Anderson for theoretical or methodological
inaccuracy, but certainly not every important conceptual problem is
adequately discussed in his book, and this may seriously undermine his
arguments. Anderson advocates a morphological, more precisely, a
realizational approach to clitics, coupled with an OT-style system of
constraints. However, he is not explicit enough about how these two
components are actually going to operate and co-operate. Anderson assumes a
stratal architecture of the constraint system, which separates lexical
morphology and phonology dealing with affixal morphology from post-lexical
ones, where clitics are handled. Even more so, he distinguishes several
levels at which clitics may appear, cf. his discussion of Tagalog in
Chapter 6, where 'derivational' clitics are introduced in a way similar to
contentful words, while 'inflectional' clitics arise via application of
realizational rules. This may look very convincing and reasonable, but how
to implement such an analysis into the formal OT architecture is not so
evident. So, Anderson's remark in the Introduction that the reason for not
including a single OT tableau into his book is that ''most of the constraint
interactions proposed here are quite straightforward'' and his invitation to
the reader to construct the lacking tableaux ''as an exercise'' sound much
less encouraging after the book is read than in the beginning.

Despite the aforementioned problems, I must acknowledge again that
Anderson's new book is a very valuable and really enlightening contribution
to the study of clitics — and indeed, to the study of morphology and its
relations with other components of grammar. It should be carefully studied
by everyone who consider themselves a specialist in morphology, and if it
happens that this book raises more questions than it provides answers, then
the greater its value is.


Anderson, Stephen R. (1992) A-Morphous Morphology. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.

Anderson, Stephen R. (1993) Wackernagel's revenge: Clitics, morphology and
the syntax of second position. In Language 69, p. 68-98.

Anderson, Stephen R. (2000) Towards an optimal account of second position
phenomena. In J. Dekkers, F. van der Leeuw, and J. van de Weijer (eds.)
Optimality Theory: Phonology, Syntax and Acquisition, p. 302-333. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.

Baker, Mark (1995) The Polysynthesis Parameter. Oxford: Oxford University

Bošković, Željko (2000) Second position cliticisation: Syntax and/or
phonology? In F. Beukema, and M. van den Dikken (eds.) Clitic Phenomena in
European Languages, p. 71-119. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Bošković, Željko (2001) On the Nature of the Syntax-Phonology Interface.
Oxford: Elsevier.

Bresnan, Joan (1978) Contraction and the Transformational Cycle.
Bloomington: Indiana University Linguistics Club.

Chung, Sandra and William Ladusaw (2004) Restriction and Saturation.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Kiparsky, Paul (2000) Opacity and cyclicity. In The Linguistic Review 17,
p. 351-367.

Sadock, Jerrold (1986) Some notes on noun incorporation. In Language 62, p.

Wackernagel, Jacob (1892) Über ein Gesetz der indogermanischen
Wortstellung. In Indogermanische Forschungen 1, p. 333-436.

Zwicky, Arnold (1977) On Clitics. Bloomington: Indiana University
Linguistics Club.

Zwicky, Arnold, and Geoffrey Pullum (1983) Cliticization vs. inflection:
English n't. In Language 59, p. 502-513.

Peter M. Arkadiev, PhD in linguistics (2006), is a research fellow at the
Department of typology and comparative linguistics of the Institute of
Slavic studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow. His main
interest are linguistic typology with focus on event and argument structure
and its formal realization, and theoretical approaches to morphology. He
works mainly on Lithuanian, Adyghe and Japanese.

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