15.3497, Review: Syntax: Belletti (2004)

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LINGUIST List: Vol-15-3497. Wed Dec 15 2004. ISSN: 1068 - 4875.

Subject: 15.3497, Review: Syntax: Belletti (2004)                                                                                                                                                                                 

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1)
Date: 14-Dec-2004
From: Sandra Paoli < sandrathefreespirit at yahoo.co.uk >
Subject: Structures and Beyond: Volume 3: The Cartography of Syntactic Structures 
 

	
-------------------------Message 1 ---------------------------------- 
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 2004 01:13:02
From: Sandra Paoli < sandrathefreespirit at yahoo.co.uk >
Subject: Structures and Beyond: Volume 3: The Cartography of Syntactic Structures 
 

EDITOR: Adriana Belletti 
TITLE: Structures and Beyond 
SUBTITLE: The Cartography of Syntactic Structures, Volume 3 
SERIES: Oxford Studies in Comparative Syntax 
PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press 
YEAR: 2004
Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/15/15-2273.html


Sandra Paoli, Department of Italian, University of Cambridge, UK

OVERVIEW

This collection of papers results from a workshop held at the University 
of Siena in the Autumn of 1999, which addressed the links and relations 
between the so-called cartographic approach (the minute investigation of 
the make-up of functional categories, aimed at providing the linguist with 
an extremely fine-grained tool to capture the great language variation 
witnessed) and the most recent innovations within the Minimalist Program, 
the Antisymmetric approach as well as the facts brought to light by both 
acquisition and neuro-psycholinguistic research.

The papers deal with a range of topics and issues that are at first sight 
unrelated: language acquisition, language pathology, language internal 
mechanisms and operations as well as interpretability conditions. 
Underlying them all, an investigation into fundamental aspects of the 
theory of language: a research into the computational system per se and 
its interaction with both linguistic (semantic interface) and extra-
linguistic (cognitive) domains.

Belletti identifies three main groups of contributions: those addressing 
the mechanics of the computational system in both Minimalist and 
Antisymmetric terms (Chomsky, Kayne, Starke), those operating within the 
Cartographic approach (Cinque, Rizzi, Chierchia), and finally those 
investigating the interaction of brain and language (Caramazza & Shapiro, 
Mehler & Nespor).

Chomsky's contribution proposes some innovative changes to the Minimalist 
Program. He addresses both the internal structure of projections and the 
operations allowed by the system. The main points of his contribution are 
i) the elimination of the traditional distinction between Specifier and 
Head: in line with the 'bare phrase' structure, elements are heads and 
features are checked via a Head-to-Head (a probe and a goal, the latter 
contained in the head's complement) relation; ii) movement is re-evaluated 
as the 'internal' version of Merge, thus not an 'imperfection' of language 
as previously assumed; iii) the introduction of the distinction between 
weak and strong phases applying to the categories of vP and CP but not TP.

Much in line with this approach is Starke's article, which focuses on the 
[Spec, Head] relation: this is seen as unnecessary, and should be replaced 
by the [Head, Complement] relation. The notion of Specifier is, in itself, 
redundant, and causes gratuitous complexity in the computational system: 
by ridding the system of it, a 'more homogenous state of affairs' (Starke, 
266) is gained. Other properties naturally derive from the elimination of 
Specifiers, in particular the system is left with the operation Merge, and 
the presence of an identificational tool for the new time just created, a 
sequence of functional projections.

The chapter by Kayne is an interesting combination of the Minimalist 
notions of probe and internal Merge and the derivations typical of the 
Antisymmetry approach, such as remnant movement. Focusing on the French 
preposition 'à' that appears in causative and double object constructions, 
Kayne concludes that it is indeed a preposition, but that it does not form 
a constituent with the following DP. The analysis is then extended to the 
case of prepositional complementisers and the following IP: the structure 
is derived by having the whole IP raising into the Specifier position of 
the complementiser projection.

Cinque's chapter exploits and further investigates the adverb hierarchy 
identified in his (1999) book and applies it to the so-called 
Restructuring constructions in Italian. Claiming that restructuring verbs 
are 'functional verbs', in other words the overt realisation of those 
functional heads whose Specifiers are filled by adverbs, Cinque argues 
that the clause in which they occur is a single clause, and not two as 
previously assumed. The investigation, in turn, provides further support 
for his (1999) structure, as well as an effective example of its 
application.

Locality is the focus or Rizzi's contribution, understood as the 
restriction that core linguistic relations must be satisfied in the 
smallest domain possible. Elaborating on his (1990) formulation of 
Relativised Minimality, Rizzi proposes a typology of positions within the 
left periphery, refining its (1997) split-CP proposal, which 
differentiates between argumental, modificational and quantificational 
elements. A binary +/- value for these features is adopted, which 
specifies wh-elements, quantifiers, focalised phrases as well as 
topicalised phrases. These score a value negative for all the above 
features, a specification which captures their different behaviour.

Chierchia turns to the interaction between syntax and pragmatics, 
considering Scalar Implicatures and polarity phenomena. Because of their 
similarity, the two phenomena seem to governed by uniform principles; at 
the same time they are also very different with respect to the influence 
locality has on them, suggesting that they are, in essence, two very 
different things. By invoking a phrase-by-phrase computing of implicatures 
along side with truth conditions, and not a sequential process that sees 
the latter being computed before the former, Chierchia is able to 
reconcile the two opposing characteristics.

Evidence from aphasic patients is the starting point of Caramazza and 
Shapiro's article. The series of experiment that they report show how, at 
the phonological level, the difference between verbs and nouns seems to be 
a primitive one, encoded in the cognitive module specific to language. 
This could be reflected both in the way information is stored in the brain 
but also in the way it is computed at the morphosyntactic level, where 
verbs and nouns are clearly treated differently.

Mehler and Nespor address the important issue of the setting of parameters 
in language acquisition, more specifically, how children can make sense of 
the inconsistent input they are exposed to since birth. The evidence put 
forward suggests that on the basis of the specific rhythm class their 
first language belongs to, children seem to be able to derive the 
phonological structure they will eventually use as well as information on 
mean word length. Furthermore, rhythm seems to play an essential role in 
the acquisition of both grammar and lexicon.

CRITICAL EVALUATION

This varied collection of papers is an invaluable contribution to 
linguistic knowledge, drawing on very different and current issues in 
linguistic theory. Furthermore, it also addresses a very important issue 
that has not been tackled before: the contrast between the cartographic 
approach and Minimalism. There is a clear conceptual distance in attitude 
towards syntactic structure between the so-called cartographic approach 
and the aims of the Minimalist Program. The validity and extent of this 
distance can be evaluated by the reader in this collection of papers.

The minute analysis of functional projections and their subsequent 
decomposition into a myriad of semantically and syntactically distinct 
positions clashes prima facie with the Minimalist tendency to reduce 
syntactic structure to the bare minimum. Both are, nevertheless, concerned 
with expressing syntactic information in a way that allows it to be 
interpretable at the interface and give raise to appropriate semantic 
interpretations. This is the fundamental aim behind identifying numerous 
positions within the structure that accommodate elements distinct from one 
another both syntactically and semantically, and behind the various 
checking mechanisms that ensure that only features carrying a 
[+interpretable] specification make it to the interface. Thus there is a 
one-to-one connection between interpretable features in Minimalism and 
functional projections in the cartographic approach.

A difference which does not seem so easily reconcilable is the proposal by 
Chomsky and Starke to eliminate the traditional distinction between 
Specifiers and Heads and the relation between them, on which Principles 
and Parameters has heavily relied. Within the cartographic approach the 
[Spec, Head] relation is at the basis of agreement processes, and the 
categorial distinction between Specifiers and Heads is exploited in 
deriving different types of movement. Starke provides a practical 
application of the new system, showing how ridding it of the notion of 
Specifier can considerably simplify the structure. Agreement relations are 
captured through binding occurring between head and complement. Given the 
novelty of this idea, its further application to the phenomena that have 
been explained exploiting the notion of Specifier is necessary in order to 
be able to evaluate its strength as well its impact on the cartographic 
approach.

The very interesting result obtained in Caramazza and Shapiro's article, 
i.e. that the distinction between verbs and nouns seems to be a primitive 
one, encoded in the cognitive module, pose a challenge for current 
morphology theories such as Halle and Marantz's Distributed Morphology 
(DM). DM treats the distinction between verbs and nouns as the result of 
the action of the computational system, not as an intrinsic property that 
the elements carry with them when they are introduced in the syntactic 
structure. At this level, they are all undistinguished neutral roots. The 
evidence brought forward by psycholinguistic research is the linguist's 
window on the way the brain functions, and its contribution must be 
reflected in the theory of language being developed. Further research is 
clearly needed to see the extent to which DM needs to change to 
accommodate such insights.

In conclusion, the papers in this collection offer points of reflection on 
the theoretical system, as well as bringing forward interesting data. They 
are not aimed in particular at the student first approaching Linguistics, 
as they require familiarity with a variety of theoretical as well as 
empirical issues. They nevertheless offer an invaluable example of these 
different approaches at work, which will certainly inspire students and 
more experienced linguists alike.

REFERENCES

Cinque, Guglielmo (1999) Adverbs and Functional Heads. Oxford University 
Press. 

Halle, Morris and Alex Marantz (1993) 'Distributed Morphology'. In Kenneth 
Hale and Samuel Jay Keyser (eds) The View from Building 20. MIT Press. 

Rizzi, Luigi (1990) Relativized Minimality. MIT Press. 

Rizzi, Luigi (1997) 'The fine Structure of the Left Periphery'. In Liliane 
Haegeman (ed) Elements of Grammar. Kluwer. pp. 281-337 

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Sandra Paoli is a researcher at the University of Cambridge, UK. Her 
interests lie within Romance linguistics, Italian dialectology in 
particular.





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