[Lingtyp] "clitics": recent historical origins

Adam James Ross Tallman ajrtallman at utexas.edu
Wed Dec 8 11:10:02 UTC 2021

Hello all,

Partially following up on the previous discussion, I've become more
interested in explaining *why *we appear to be in so much disagreement
about terminological issues. It's not as if any linguists are purposely
trying to obfuscate things - so how did we end up where we are?

Going back to the more recent origins of our understanding of clitics, I
can't help but think that it is partially derivative from Chomsky's
'Remarks on Nominalization'. I get this interpretation from the following
passage from Zwicky's classic paper *On clitics*

"For generative grammarians these difficulties [of distinguishing between
syntax and morphology as levels] were obscured for some years, since the
traditional domain of morphology was assumed to be apportioned between
syntax and phonology. With a return to the traditional position that
morphological structure and syntactic structure obey different principles
by and large, as do morphophnemics and phonology proper, has come the
realization that there are borderline bases. So in Aronoff (1976:3-4),
where it is proposed that inflection is a 'syntactic' metter while
derivation is a matter of word formation rules belonging to the lexicon, we
find a brief discussion of clitics..."

Then when we go back to Aronoff's *Word Formation in Generative Grammar*,
we can see the shift seems to have come from Chomsky's 'remarks on
nominalization' and and perhaps Kiparsky

"More particularly it presupposes the lexicalist hypothesis of Chomsky
(1970) and at least in spirit, if not the letter, of Kiparsky's views with
regard to phonological abstractness discussed in Kiparsky (1973)" (xi)

So it seems that clitics emerge as things that don't quite fit the Extended
Standard Theory that emerged after *Remarks. *If that's true then trying to
'define' clitics outside of this context might seem confusing, or even
pointless (why are we defining these objects in this fashion rather than as
interesting residuals that don't quite fit our theoretical framework?).

I think the recent historical origins of the problem of clitics makes me
wonder whether we all come to these discussions with hidden assumptions
about the architecture of grammar in general. Since I don't buy into many
of the premises of Chomsky's *Remarks *(or at least I don't think I do
after having read the work) I've questioned whether I should have any views
about clitics at all.

Of course, I wasn't alive back then, so it would be interesting to know
what others think of my historical exegesis (especially professor Zwicky).



Adam J.R. Tallman
Post-doctoral Researcher
Friedrich Schiller Universität
Department of English Studies
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