AUTHOR: Gast, Volker TITLE: The Grammar of Identity SUBTITLE: Intensifiers and reflexives in Germanic languages SERIES: Routledge Studies in Germanic Linguistics PUBLISHER: Routledge (Taylor and Francis) YEAR: 2006
Christopher D. Sapp, Department of Modern Languages, University of Mississippi
This book is a revised version of Volker Gast's 2003 Ph.D. dissertation entitled The Grammar of Identity -- Intensifiers and Reflexives as Expressions of an Identity Function. Whereas the dissertation presents primarily English data supported by evidence from other languages, in this book Gast has opted to concentrate on offering a comprehensive survey of SELF-forms in the Germanic languages. The primary goal of this study is to account for the fact that Germanic SELF-forms function both as reflexives ('John criticized himself') and as intensifiers ('The president himself made the decision'). Gast demonstrates in the book that both uses of SELF express an 'identity function'.
Chapter 1, 'Introduction', begins with an overview of SELF-forms in twelve Germanic languages. Next, Gast outlines his analysis of the identity function, which allows SELF to be an intensifier when interacting with information structure but a reflexive when interacting with binding. Following that, the three types of intensifiers are presented: head-adjacent SELF, head-distant exclusive SELF, and head-distant inclusive SELF. (These will be illustrated below.) Finally, Gast gives an overview of previous diachronic and synchronic analyses of the relationship between intensifiers and reflexives.
Chapters 2 through 6 are devoted to intensifiers. Chapter 2 presents 'The distribution and morphology of head-adjacent SELF'. The canonical position of this intensifier is right-adjoined to the Determiner Phrase or Noun Phrase (DP), as in 'the president himself', which is the only possibility in historical and contemporary stages of the West Germanic languages. Gothic and the Scandinavian languages additionally allow the intensifier to be preposed or left-adjoined to the DP: e.g. Swedish has both 'presidenten själv' and 'själve presidenten' for 'the president himself'. After disproving several proposed combinatorial restrictions of head-adjacent SELF, Gast concludes that the only restriction is that the intensified DP must be in the propositional background.
In Chapter 3, Gast demonstrates that his analysis of SELF as an identity function (ID) can account for the semantics of head-adjacent intensifiers. He argues that this identity function invokes contextually relevant alternatives to the intensified DP and contrasts with them. Thus (1a) is interpreted as (1b), where ID(the president) contrasts with alternative relations represented by OTH(the president), for example 'wife of the president' or 'spokesman of the president'.
(1) a. The president [himself] will open the meeting. b. ID(the president) will open the meeting. (Gast's ex. (12a-b), p. 41)
Chapter 4, 'The syntax of head-distant intensifiers', argues based on word order that exclusive and inclusive SELF have different derivations. Head-distant exclusive SELF indicates that the subject acts exclusively of alternative subjects; it is thus synonymous with 'alone' or 'by herself/himself' (2a). Conversely, head-distant inclusive SELF (2b) requires that alternative subjects be included in the interpretation, and it can be paraphrased by 'also' or 'too'.
(2) a. [...] not relying on an assistant but doing it himself. b. If the baby's grandmother is young and has young children herself ... (Gast's ex. (14b-c), p. 6)
The discussion begins with the distributional properties of head-distant SELF in German. There, both inclusive and exclusive SELF appear between the subject and all other arguments, preceding manner adverbs but following modal adverbs. However, inclusive SELF precedes temporal and spatial adverbs but exclusive SELF follows them. Based on this, Gast concludes that exclusive SELF is generated inside the Verb Phrase (specifically vP) and remains in situ when the subject raises. Inclusive SELF also originates in vP but moves with the subject to a higher position (namely TP), above the node representing tense. In English, exclusive SELF occurs after objects but before temporal/spatial adverbs (3a), indicating that they are within vP as in German. Inclusive SELF occurs either immediately following an auxiliary verb (3b) or clause-finally (3c).
(3) a. Maybe he'll tell you about it himself some time. (ex. (46b), p. 81) b. [...] who has himself been the subject of some speculation [...] (ex. (50), p. 82) c. [...] a leader they know has been through the fire himself, [...] (ex. (51), p. 82)
The fact that distribution of inclusive SELF in English is like that of German only with auxiliary verbs is accounted for by the fact that auxiliary verbs are the only verbs in English that undergo V-to-T movement. Gast derives the clause-final position of inclusive SELF by 'heavy shift'. As further evidence that exclusive but not inclusive SELF remains in the vP, both English and German allow only exclusive SELF to participate in VP-topicalization ('and do it himself he did') and deverbal derivation ('self-made').
Chapter 5 discusses the 'Combinatorial properties of head-distant intensifiers'. It has been argued that there are a number of restrictions on DPs that can be intensified by head-distant SELF. Gast discusses these restrictions and dismisses them in turn, demonstrating that they represent mere tendencies and not rules. As with head-adjacent SELF, he concludes that the only restrictions on head-distant SELF involve information structure.
Chapter 6, 'The interpretation of head-distant intensifiers', relates the word-order differences between exclusive and inclusive SELF, discussed in Chapter 4, to the semantic distinctions between the two. Under Gast's hypothesis that exclusive SELF is in vP, it is c-commanded by T (the tense node), which for Gast is the locus of the existential quantifier. Thus the event is under the scope of the existential quantifier, and the contrasting alternative subjects result in alternative propositions of the same event. The sentence 'John will mow the lawn himself' is interpreted as: 'As far as John is concerned, there is an event e such that e is an event of mowing the lawn, and e has been performed by the x identical to John, and e may have been performed by some x different from John.' On the other hand, inclusive SELF is above T, and thus both the identity function and the alternative subjects c-command the existential quantifier. This means that each alternative subject introduces an additional existentially-bound event. In the sentence 'John is himself a drinker', the alternative event is 'As far as John is concerned, there is a fact e such that e is the fact that someone other than John is a drinker.' That is, both John and the other individuals included in the context are drinkers.
The final two chapters turn to the reflexive function of SELF. In Chapter 7, 'Reflexivity and the identity function', Gast demonstrates that in reflexive contexts the identity function interacts with syntax rather than information structure. He begins with a presentation of the typology of reflexives, followed by a lengthy discussion of previous accounts of reflexives, from Chomsky's classic Binding Theory through Kiparsky's (2002) Optimality-theoretic account. Unlike Reinhart and Reuland (1993 i.a.), who propose that languages like Dutch have two types of reflexives-- SE-anaphors ('zich') and SELF-anaphors ('zichself')-- Gast proposes that there are two types of predicates with respect to reflexivity. In 'typically self-directed predicates' like 'to wash', Dutch uses the simple anaphor 'zich', e.g. 'Jan wast zich' 'Jan washes (himself)'. However, in 'typically other-directed predicates' such as 'to hate', Dutch requires the complex anaphor: 'Jan haat zichself' 'Jan hates himself'. Gast analyzes 'zichself' as the reflexive 'zich' plus 'zelf', the identity function, required because 'to hate' is typically directed at an individual other than the subject. The choice of reflexive is accounted for by Gast under Optimality Theory, with binding, predicate type, and morphology interacting with each other.
Chapter 8, 'The grammar of reflexivity in Germanic languages', extends the analysis of Dutch to the other languages of the family. The Scandinavian languages behave similarly to Dutch, with a simplex anaphor (e.g. Norwegian 'seg') in typically self-directed predicates and the compound with SELF (e.g. Norwegian 'seg selv') required in typically other-directed predicates that are reflexive. Thus as in Dutch, the constraint that simplex anaphors cannot be bound by subjects in other-directed predicates is ranked higher than the constraint that anaphors be morphologically simple. In German, however, where the simplex 'sich' is used with both types of reflexive, the morphological economy constraint is ranked higher, thus the complex 'sich selbst' is not obligatory with other-directed predicates. The English system is accounted for by two diachronic changes: first, SELF incorporated into the pronoun, and second, typically self-directed predicates ceased to require a reflexive.
In The Grammar of Identity, Gast has made three significant accomplishments. First of all, he convincingly unifies the intensive and reflexive functions of SELF, which is the ultimate goal of the book. The analysis of SELF as an identity function dispenses with the need to assume that there are two different meanings of SELF or that one function developed diachronically out of the other. Rather, Gast's 'identity function' allows there to be one SELF, which results in two different interpretations depending on the component of grammar in which it is interpreted.
Secondly, Gast provides a detailed description of intensifiers in Germanic, as well as a well-argued analysis of them. Gast's syntactic analyses of the three types of intensifiers is supported not only by word-order facts, but also by their semantic interpretations, making his account particularly convincing.
Thirdly, although relying heavily on Kiparsky (2002), Gast provides an elegant analysis of the two types of reflexives in Germanic. The insight in his modification of Kiparsky's account is that the difference in meaning between the simplex and complex anaphor derives from the identity function of SELF. Moreover, he demonstrates that a few basic constraints account for all of the Germanic data, with the variation within the family stemming from different rankings of those constraints.
There are, however, a few minor problems with the book. Although generally very well edited, there is occasional influence from the author's native German, resulting in sometimes awkward wording. Moreover, the glosses do not always clearly render the meaning of the example: in some German examples, word order distinguishes between exclusive and inclusive SELF, but the English gloss is ambiguous between the two readings. An additional problem is that, while most chapters have a final summary, sub-chapters do not. This often forces the reader to re-scan the section to find its main point, sometimes buried in the middle of the section. Finally, the book could have benefited from a concluding chapter.
These shortcomings, while diminishing the book's readability somewhat, do not at all detract from its significant contributions to linguistics. The Grammar of Identity is valuable for its thorough morphological, syntactic, and semantic description of SELF in English and the other Germanic languages, its insightful analysis of intensifiers, and its addition to the ongoing debate on the syntax of reflexives.
Kiparsky, Paul. 2002. Disjoint reference and the typology of pronouns. More than Words -- A Festschrift for Dieter Wunderlich, ed. by Ingrid Kaufmann and Barbara Stiebels, 179-226. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.
Reinart, Tanya and Eric Reuland. 1993. Reflexivity. Linguistic Inquiry 24.657-720.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Christopher D. Sapp is an instructor at the University of Mississippi, where he teaches German, German linguistics, and general linguistics. His areas of research include the diachronic morphology and syntax of the Germanic languages.