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Review of  Particle Verbs in English

Reviewer: Tully J. Thibeau
Book Title: Particle Verbs in English
Book Author: Nicole Dehé
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics
Subject Language(s): English
Language Family(ies): Germanic
New English
Issue Number: 14.1078

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Date: Sat, 05 Apr 2003 22:27:55 -0800
From: Tully J Thibeau
Subject: Particle Verbs in English: Syntax, Information Structure and Intonation

Dehé, Nicole (2002) Particle Verbs in English: Syntax, Information
Structure and Intonation, John Benjamins Publishing Company,
Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 59.

Tully J. Thibeau, University of Montana - Missoula

At issue is that construction in English involving a verb, a
preposition functioning as a particle, and a direct object (i.e., a
transitive particle verb, or PV). A PV's distinguishing feature is its
potential to alternate the linear order of a particle and object: The
particle immediately follows a verb or an object when the object is a
fully-fledged Determiner Phrase (DP), but, if the object is a personal
pronoun, then the particle must follow the pronominal, unless the
pronominal receives contrastive focus. As just intimated, an important
point is the property Focus, part of a clause's Information Structure
(IS) that is unpredictable and not presumable, "typically new
information [that] cannot be taken for granted" (p. 105). The book's
most central point is related to Focus, addressing effects of IS on a
uniform underlying syntactic structure for PVs: a Focus feature enters
the derivation according to the minimalist framework, but not by
projecting a phrasal structure (it is not a formal feature) but by
being assigned to one phrasal projection (three Focus domains, minimal,
non-minimal, and maximal, match three projections, direct object DP,
verb phrase, or VP, and Subject-Agreement Phrase, or AgrSP,
respectively). Each chapter pertains to this central point (one basic
phrase structure for alternate derivations that are not optional but
derived from Focus), concluded to be a structure with continuous order
(verb-particle-object) after consideration and rejection of other PV
analyses recommending basic structures for continuous and discontinuous
verb and particle. Finally, an added point of discussion posits that
this uniform syntactic structure underlies all classifications of
English PVs.

The first chapter takes up PV classes. A helpful introduction informs
us that PVs characterize Germanic languages, that they attract
attention of linguists in varying specializations, and that subsequent
chapters address alternations between continuous and discontinuous verb
and particle. Then, Dehé presents three standard PV categories
(compositional, idiomatic and aspectual), a system of classification
exemplified in Emonds 1985 and Jackendoff 2002: The first class,
compositional PVs, derive meaning from literal interpretations of verb
and particle, as in 'throw out.' Contrarily, idiomatic PVs derive no
meaning from interpreting verb or particle literally, as in 'turn down'
(reject). Aspectual PVs involve particles that function telically as
described in Brinton 1985, that is, by furnishing verbs with an
endpoint, resembling notions that have been referred to as
delimitedness (Tenny:1994) or boundedness (Jackendoff:1990). The system
is intuitively appealing, but does not capture telicity effects often
present in all three types. This three-way classification is contrasted
it with Ishikawa 1999, categorizing classes via interpretation of
particle and verb and PV's selection of arguments, producing three
different categories that would reclassify members in the former
system. The former system is favored for its affinity with empirical
data reported later). A two-way system, such as Aarts 1989 or Wurmbrand
1998 (where each class entails unlike syntactic structures), receives
brief mention (but detailed in Chapter Two) and immediate rejection
because PVs behave alike in syntactic environments like nominalization.
The introduction prepares one for the ensuing chapters by providing
sufficient background for following the course of development.

The second chapter systematically reviews literature on generative
analyses. Dehé lists five types: traditional, small clause (SC),
extended VP (EVPA), functional category, and other. Traditional types
receive brief attention and are set aside for their incongruity with
the minimalist operation Merge, a strictly binary branching structure-
building procedure. Because they view PV as a complex head in
continuous order and derive discontinuous order via head plus two
complements with ternary branches, traditional analyses suit Dehé's
content and purpose poorly. Yet, such analyses require our attention
for their account of modification of discontinuous particles by
'right,' a basis for the SC analysis, too. However, such modification
is used against this analysis: Directing criticism at Kayne 1985,
popularizing SC analyses, Dehé argues that 'right' modification,
nominalization, and operations like wh-extraction from DP do not
distinguish them as the only correct one since such evidence also
agrees with EVPA. Technical points (adjunction, for one) are considered
problematic, and rightly so, for this and other SC analyses, like Den
Dikken 1995, Gueron 1990, Hoekstra 1988, and Svenonius 1996, but it is
rejected primarily because PVs do not simulate SCs (We found him
foolish/ We found that he was foolish v. I put the clown down/*I put
that the clown was down). Rejecting SC analyses on grounds that PV
patterns unlike SC seems inadequate: Some constructions construed as
SCs avoid the pattern noted by Dehé (I made him an associate /*I made
that he is an associate).

The favored EVPA follows Larson's 1988 VP-shell where functional
projections dominate VP, forming sites for displaced VP-internal
elements. The support in its favor does not so much involve different
evidence used in SC analyses but interprets it as displaying a
restricted use of SC's discontinuous order in syntactic environments,
mainly coordination. In coordinate structures (turn the radio off and
the TV on), we see in EVPA's displaced constituents that well-
formedness need not refer to underlying discontinuous order. Yet EVPAs
explain coordination using either word order as basic, depending on how
constituents move, and are never clear about what motivates movements
setting apart basic and derived order. Thus, EVPAs in Harley and Noyer
1998 or Nicol 2002 seem inadequate. Johnson's 1991 propose object-
raising serves as impetus for the EVPA most favorably received in
Chapter 2 and developed in Chapter 5 (analyzing data collected Chapter
3 and 4): Koizumi 1993 exemplifies the approach well but suffers from
defects in the other EVPAs, namely no motive for necessitating derived

The principal defect in this chapter is its rationale for rejecting SC
analyses, which conform with the data equally as well as EVPAs, in
spite of the empirical data inclined to the latter. Regardless, the
last two analytical types, not as prevalent as the previous two, are
determined to be insufficient: Functional category analyses in Dehé
2000 and Solà 1996 conceive particles as functional heads raised to a
Telicity head, but not all particles function to telicize, so it is
rejected; other analyses involve Aarts 1989 and Wurmbrand 2000,
proposing two basic PV structures, one that can coordinate and one that
cannot, rejected due to complications of ternary branching and
secondary predication ascribed to some particles, but the ultimate
reason must be that they are contrary to a uniform PV phrasal

The third chapter ascertains a neutral order for all PV classes.
Factors believed to govern alternating order reduce to one, IS.
Svenonius 1996 refers to phrasal heaviness as conditioning clause-final
DP, but, for Dehé, heaviness may be only a processing constraint or
reflect that modifications making DP heavy also augment its news value
(NV), a matter of IS. NV's role is examined in Erades 1961, where DPs
bearing NV appear clause-final (continuous PV) but DPs bearing none
follow verbs (discontinuous PV). Erades adds that, in the latter
position, particles function as predicates and, in the former, as
adverbs, a point not raised here, one that resounds an SC analysis.
Dehé, following Olsen 2000, views clause-final particle more as an
adverb in compositional PVs, and empirical data reported here seem to
bear that point out. Before presenting the data, two other sources
supporting continuous order should be noted: First, degree modifier
'right' suggests that clause-final particles behave as adverbial
prepositions allowing such modification, and nominalized PVs require
continuous order, implying a restricted clause-final particle; second,
processing constraints, like Hawkins' 1994 Early Immediate Constituent
(EIC) Principle (read: locate complex constituent toward clause-final
position) entail continuity, so deducing basic discontinuity on the
premise that it could not exist if it were not basic (as Hawkins does)
is counterintuitive, and presuming IS as the condition for alternate
order respects EIC by defining complexity as NV.

A problem with Dehé's analysis emerges in consideration of pronouns,
assumed to be coreferential, causing discontinuous order, but the
indefinite pronoun 'one' appears in both orders (Diesing &
Jelinek:1994). This assumption that PV objects need be definite
pervades experimental findings reported here. Subjects were presented
six permutations of verb, particle and definite DP and asked to arrange
them in a grammatical order; they preferred continuous over
discontinuous order. This is not surprising, given that no context
surrounds any array, rendering DPs as NV constituents. Yet, among
items, subjects showed preference for discontinuous order in
compositional PVs over idiomatic and aspectual PVs, intimating that the
classification has validity and that particles in compositional PVs
pattern with prepositional adverbs.

The fourth chapter discerns a motive for choosing one order over the
other. Since IS is deemed the most central factor by reducing others to
it, content is directed at surveying IS, examining its interaction with
intonation, and reporting data that advance the previous chapters'
claims. A survey begins the discussion, clearly addressing ideas such
as Theme/Rheme, Given/New, and Topic/Comment, constructs believed to
organize clauses with respect to their contexts. Adopting a Focus-
Background Structure (FBS) as illustrated in Steedman 2000, Dehé
establishes concatenations of IS and a tonal template that will place
pitch accent on focused material. A relation exists between Focus and
NV, recognized as early as 1909 by Behagel, who noted interaction of NV
and complexity. Krifka 1998 lends the analysis vital support insomuch
that it proposes all VP-internal constituents raise except for focused
ones, responsible for scrambling (alternating PV order is not
scrambling, though). IS's role in scrambling is elaborated in Steube
2000, where checking formal features is completely VP-internal
and raising from it is motivated by semantic feature Focus: New
information receives +F marking and remains in situ and is realized in
clause-final position, recognized in Krifka 1998.

This useful survey precedes an intricate one on intonation,
concentrating on pitch accent. This survey concerns matching up the
concept of focus domain from the prior survey with the concept of
intonational phrase, a structure mapped onto the surface of a syntactic
derivation, providing phrases and clauses with tonal contour and pitch
prominence. The section is very dense, demanding close attention,
justifiably since it is devoted to the interface that links phonetic
performance with a formal object, unclearly culminating in a Sentence
Accent Assignment Rule (SAAR) from Gussenhoven 1984, stating that
arguments of a predicate located in the focus domain receive accent.
Dehé conducts two experiments demonstrating clause-final PV
constituents receive pitch accent and extended syllable duration when
the context suits the NV of object DP (the design involves only
definite DPs, matching either NV context, continuous order, or no NV
context, discontinuous order). One may desire to know possible results
of nondefinite DPs in unmatched contexts and wonder why a neutral order
exists but normal stress or context must not.

The fifth chapter revises Dehé 2000, where alternating order involve
objects marked +F raising out of VP, deriving the discontinuous from
the continuous. The crucial difference in the revision is that object
raising is understood to be overt, so PV alternations arise from
stranding particles in VP to meet a Condition on Focus Domains, based
on SAAR. Fundamental to this analysis is overt object raising posited
in Koizumi 1993, elaborated in Lasnik 1999. Koizumi's was a favored
analysis in Chapter 2, where PV as complex head excorporated verb and
particle while object stood between, but it did not specify why
excorporation ensued. However, Dehé's revised analysis provides a
clearer motivation for this operation, namely it is costly but
necessary (and hence not optional) for meeting the condition stating
that a particle binds its +F feature when it does not match F-features
for PV objects (Condition on Focus Domain). Thus, DPs with no NV
(entailing pronouns) are marked -F, causing a mismatch in the focus
domain of VP and thus motivating PV excorporation, the motive for non-
optional discontinuous order.

Grounds for assuming a complex VP head are central to the analysis. If
particles bind +F features and receive pitch accent, then why do
simplex VP heads with contrastive focus raising from VP retain accent
if nothing binds +F?

Relying on Keyser and Roeper's 1992 Abstract Clitic Hypothesis (ACH),
Dehé proposes an unrealized affix binds +F in simplex verb cases, but
this affix is phonetically realized in a PV. This portion of the
analysis hinges on Ishikawa's 1999 view of verb heads (V) as having two
domains, a lower domain where only morphological rules apply to V
(tense affix) and an upper domain where morphological and syntactic
operations (excorporation) apply to V. The account explains facts about
prefixation (re-), suffixation (-ed) and excorporation, centralized on
abstract clitic affix (particles excorporate, affixes cannot, and verbs
are tensed instead of particles). If particles obey ACH, and clitics
are functional categories, then the revised analysis (other than its
non-optional alternating orders) is not radiacally different from Dehé
2000 (particle as functional category) and approaches an analysis where
a particle is a functional SC head, raising to a functional category
VP-sister (Thibeau:1999), deriving a continuous order. The simple
advantage of the revised analysis is that it avoids SC discontinuity,
putatively proved lacking in Chapter 2 and complicated by the data
reported earlier.

In a section that thoroughly tests the structure analyzed in Chapter 5,
Dehé qualifies the completeness of her analysis by saying it has
concentrated on full DPs only. But in fact it has concentrated on
definite full DPs only. One might expect some elaboration on potential
findings for quantified DPs in PVs, which have been exhibited to
influence acquisition (Van Hout:1997), but the concluding Chapter 6
entertains other implications, like relating PVs to dative shift verbs
and applying the proposed English PV structure to PVs in other Germanic
languages (constructive avenues for future research).

Dehé's book is a welcome addition to the recently growing literature on
PVs, including variety of data yet balanced with precise theoretical
examination, splendidly organized for easy reading and altogether a
worthwhile endeavor for all interested in a discussion on interfaces
between language systems, especially for linguists specializing in PV
and related constructions found in English and across languages.

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Behagel, O. (1909) Beziehungen zwischen Umfang und Reihenfolge von
Satzgliedern. Indogermanische Forschungen, 25, 110-142.

Brinton, L. (1985) Verb Particles in English: Aspect or Aktionsart?
Studia Linguistica, 39, 157-168.

Dehé, N. (2000) English particle verbs: Particles as functional
categories. In H. Janssen (Ed.), Verbal Projections (pp. 105-121).
Tübingen: Max Niemeyer.

Diesing, M., and E. Jelinek (1994) Distributing Arguments.
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Dikken, M. den (1995) Partilces: On the Syntax of Verb-Particle,
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Emonds, J. E. (1985) A Unified Theory of Syntactic Categories.
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Erades, P. (1961) Points of Modern English Syntax XL. English Studies,
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Guéron, J. (1990) Particles, prepositions, and verbs. In J. Mascaró &
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Gussenhoven, C. (1999) On the Limits of Focus Projection in English.
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Harley, H. & Noyer, R. (1998) Mixed Nominalizations, Short Verb
Movements and Object Shift in English. NELS, 28, 143-157.

Hawkins, J. A. (1994) A Performance Theory of Order and Constituency.
Cambridge: Cambridge Univeristy Press.

Hoekstra, T. (1988) Small Clause Results. Lingua, 74, 101-139.

Ishikawa, K. (1999) English Verb-Particle Constructions and a
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Jackendoff, R. (1990) Semantic Structures. Cambridge, MA: The MIT

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Johnson, K. (1991) Object Positions. Natural Language and Linguistic
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ABOUT THE REVIEWER Tully J. Thibeau divides his interest in verb-preposition combinations between generative models accounting for constructions such as the PV and empirical research on the development of verb and preposition collocations in adult English language learners. His most current career goals include firmly establishing a research program in studying second language knowledge of the English PV in particular, with a specific objective of following trends in pedagogical grammar that direct a learner's attentional resources at problematic forms (like the English PV) to help natural internalization of the principles governing their systematicity via classroom instruction.