Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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Date: Fri, 22 Aug 2003 13:17:52 +0200 From: Georges Rebuschi Subject: Representation Theory
Williams, Edwin (2003) Representation Theory, MIT Press, Current Studies in Linguistics.
Georges Rebuschi, ILPGA, Sorbonne Nouvelle (Université de Paris III)
Both the VP Internal Subject Hypothesis and Larsonian shells, in which a small "v" takes the agentive NP as its specifier and a VP as its structural complement, illustrate the asymmetric c-command of the Theme by the Agent; the functional layers above (whether IP, AgrSP or TP), display the same asymmetry; finally, whether only one Wh-Phrase moves to the left periphery or several do, the "subject" wh- P will also asymmetrically c-command the oblique one. In the author's view, such shape preservation cannot be coincidental, and stipulating "equidistance" without even defining "distance" to evade the fact that intersecting dependencies are created by the movements of the arguments from within VP/vP to IP is at best missing what Williams takes to be the central fact about natural language sentences, namely, that they should not be described as one structure, but as a series of structures which, in the unmarked cases, entertain this shape preservation or isomorphism, dubbed "representation". _Representation Theory_ (RT) is thus a programmatic book that endeavours to develop a new grammatical model, in which each level -- Theta Structure or TS, Case Structure: CS, Surface Structure: SS, Focus Structure :FS, etc.) "represents" the preceding one, distortions between them being governed by one of several factors: - the independent requirements of the representing structure itself (e.g. Hungarian FS requires that the focused phrase precede the finite verb, independently of its theta-role and case); - "blocking" (cf. Williams 1997): any more specific structure blocks or bleeds less specific ones; - another functional factor, which amounts to saying that if a mismatch between levels Ln and Ln+1 renders the next mapping, from Ln+1 to Ln+2, isomorphic, it is tolerated. Note besides that intra-level movement is possible, thereby allowing the word order at Ln-1 to differ from that at Ln+1 without any misrepresentation happening.
Chapter 1, 'Economy as Shape Conservation,' first illustrates the basic tenets of RT and its way of dealing with distortions in the domain of derivational morphology and compounding. Bracketing paradoxes (cf. the ambiguity of (1a), vs. its absence in (1b) below) are functionally determined: "[x[y z]] means [[x y] z] only if [x[y z]] is not generable", which is precisely not the case when a relative clause does the job, as in (1b).
(1) a a beautiful dancer b a person who dances beautifully
Next, the domain of theta/case relations is examined, and Exceptional Case Marking is analyzed as another type of bracketing paradox, since the non-isomorphic Case Structure (CS) [[believe Mary] to be alive] is the "most isomorphic structure that satisfies the strictures of [that] level" wrt. the TS [believe [Mary to be alive]]. Finally, Holmberg's Generalization (the fact that, in Scandinavian languages, object shift must be accompanied by verb movement) is argued to be more satisfactorily accounted for by "a constraint on mapping one representation into another, than as a constraint on the coordinated movements, within a single tree, of the items it pertains to" or by massive remnant movement.
Chapter 2, 'Topic and Focus in RT,' introduces further levels: FS, SS, and Quantification Structure or QS (which also takes care of Topics): SS "represents" QS, and FS "represents" SS. Heavy NP Shift (traditionally viewed as rightward movement of the object NP over a PP) is analyzed as an instance of (short) scrambling, i.e. a mismatch between CS and SS, which is "tolerated because of the SS,FS match". Comparing the following sentences, Williams note that (2c) is only felicitous in a corrective context, a question taken up in more detail in chapter 9.
(2) a John gave to Mary [all the money in the SATCHEL] b John gave [all the money in the SATCHEL] to Mary c *John gave to MARY [all the money in the satchel]
Once QS has been introduced in the model, a fundamental dimension of cross-linguistic variation is provided, because conflicts that arise between the requirements of the various levels may be resolved differently. Thus, Williams proposes that, in German, isomorphism between SS and QS ranks higher than isomorphism between SS and CS, whilst the reverse holds for English, whence the existence of more cases of scopal ambiguities in the latter than in the former. Hungarian and Spanish focusing word order is also tackled, and so is Russian word order with quirky subjects.
In Chapter 3, 'Embedding' is dealt with. According to the general architecture of RT, the Level Embedding Conjecture says that each clause type is embedded at the very level at which it is defined. Thus, clause union at TS results in serial verb structures, clause union at CS, in infinitive complementation; indirect questions governed by bridge-verbs are only embedded at SS, the level at which wh-movement is hypothesized to take place; finally, since non-bridge-verbs like 'exclaim' resist wh-extraction from their complement, they must only be embedded at FS. (In German, V2 sentences are also defined at FS, whereas V-final ones are defined at SS). The author also argues that his model offers a natural derivation of a generalized version of the Ban on Improper Movement, and introduces a further level, Predication Structure/PS, intermediary between CS and SS, thereby simultaneously accounting for ("structural") nominative assignment/checking in English (at CS) vs. quirky/inherent subject-marking in Icelandic (at TS) and for the distinct levels at which control and predication subjects must be defined in Russian.
Chapter 4, 'Anaphora,' develops a typology of anaphoric elements by assigning different anaphors to different RT- structures or levels: tight co-arguments are defined at TS, and long-distance anaphors, only at SS. Well-known cases, such as the opposition between Dutch 'zich' and 'zichzelf', or Reinhart and Reuland's findings concerning the "logophoric" use of reflexives in English are dealt with in this spirit: just as embedding takes place at the level at which the embedded structure is defined, so are anaphors submitted to various locality conditions, depending on the level for which they are defined. Locality and the type of antecedent needed (theta, A, or A') are thus closely correlated.
Chapter 5, entitled 'A/A'/A"/A''',' associates locality and (type of) target as examined in the preceding one with reconstruction. It is shown that the A/A' distinction must be relativized or generalized both with respect to movement proper (wh-movement, defined at one level) and with respect to scrambling (a case of misrepresentation between two levels); moreover, reconstruction effects are shown to follow from the architecture of the model.
In chapter 6, 'Superiority and Movement,' what is standardly analyzed as multiple Wh-movement is argued to be a case of "real" movement for the first Wh-Phrase, which has wide scope, but sheer scrambling for the following one(s) -- this scrambling being due to the strong D-linking flavour of multiple Wh- sentences: a distinction must consequently be established between wh-dependencies, which are established at PS, and Wh-movement proper, which occurs at SS).
Chapter 7, 'X-bar Theory and Clause Structure,' proposes a series of axioms that fix the number of juncture-types of X- bar theory (C-adjunction is allowed). Cinque's (1998) functional heads' hierarchy is adopted, but, crucially, those heads need not project: if they are realized by affixes/features, they simply percolate down to the next (lexical) head, with which they thereby lexicalize a subsequence of that functional structure. Besides, a process of "Reassociation" is defined, which allows a sort of morphological restructuring such that the two sequences [[X>Y]>T] and [X>[Y>T]] (where the caret denotes the head- complement relation) are stipulated to be equivalent. Williams then endeavours to demonstrate that the Head Movement Constraint and Relativized Minimality are sheer effects of his specific approach to X-bar structure.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Georges Rebuschi is professor of general linguistics at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. His main interests are syntactic parametrization, and the syntax/semantics interface. He published a collection devoted to Basque linguistics in 1997, and co-edited a book on the Grammar of focus in 1999. He is currently working on the syntactic typology, and correlated variable semantics, of left-dislocated (or left- hanging), free relative clauses.