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Review of  Romance Linguistics: Theory and acquisition

Reviewer: Isabelle R. Ra
Book Title: Romance Linguistics: Theory and acquisition
Book Author: Ana Teresa Pérez-Leroux Yves Roberge
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Issue Number: 15.298

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Pérez-Leroux, Ana Teresa and Yves Roberge, ed. (2003) Romance
Linguisticsy" Theory and Acquisition: Selected Papers from the 32nd
Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages (LSRL), John Benjamins
Publishing Company, Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 244.

Announced at

Isabelle Lemée, Dublin City University, Ireland


This volume contains a selection of 21 papers given at the Thirty-
Second Linguistic Symposium on the Romance Languages, held at the
University of Toronto in April 2002. The volume is divided into two
parts. Part One deals with linguistic theory and Part Two contains
essays on the first, second and bilingual acquisition of Romance
languages with papers arranged alphabetically in each part. Linguists
as well as those interested in the theory and acquisition of
morphology, phonology, semantics and syntax will find a range of
specialised research discussed within this volume.

PART ONE: THEORY (14 articles) The first theme developed in this part
is that of specific properties of Romance at the syntax/semantics
interface. In 'Operator Asymmetries in Romanian. Syntax and/or
Phonology', Alboiu shows that in Romanian, WH-operators are
obligatorily associated with the left-peripheral structural position,
while focus operators can surface either pre-verbally or in-situ. She
suggests that while 'chain formation is involved with both types of
operators, the asymmetry can be captured as an instance of trigger
location: narrow syntax with WH-operators but the phonological
component with focus operators' (p17).

The following four articles focus on French. Authier & Reed's
'Quantifier scope and the structure of 'Faire-PAR' provides a
structural analysis of the 'Faire-par' construction. This paper
stresses the fact that there are a number of semantic and syntactic
constraints which distinguish this construction from its 'Faire-à'

In 'Events, States and the French Imparfait', Labelle deals with
narrative sequences of events in French. She proposes that the
imperfect tense in French should be considered to introduce a
predication on a temporal referent of discourse. Hence 'the narrative
rhetorical rule follows from the aspectual nature of the
eventualities, and is not a consequence of the use of a particular
tense' (p179).

Lahousse's 'NP-Subject inversion in French and (preposed) adverbs'
shows that only adverbs which signal the presence of covert stage
topic license NP-Subject inversion in French main clauses. She also
states that 'inverted word order in this context only differs from the
canonical word order with respect to the position of the subject'

Vinet's 'French clitics and object splits' is a case study in
microvariation. She concentrates on the clitic or deficient 'ça' in
a moribund Swiss French spoken largely up until the beginning of the
20th century. The article states that the boundedness properties of an
event are determined by the lexical properties of the verb in
combination with the referential properties of the argument 'ça'.

In 'Selective and unselective manner operators', Gutiérrez-Rexach &
Howe focus on discourse connectives or markers in Spanish such as the
form 'DE+Quantifier+ FORMAS/MANERAS/MORDOS'. They show the
significance of determiner variation and how it triggers
quantificational variability. They make the claim that these operators
should be analysed as adverbs of quantification with a 'systematic
contrasting behaviour at the syntax/semantics interface' (p132).

The second theme developed in this section focuses on morphosyntactic
issues involving agreement, licensing and case: Lima-Salles
investigates 'Infinitive clauses as substitutes for subjunctive
clauses in Brazilian Portuguese (BP)'. She suggests that 'PARA'
infinitives encode 'irrealis' modality in the complementation system
of BP and that cross-linguistic variation is encoded in the properties
of functional heads. She further stresses the differences in the
complementation system of Brazilian and European Portuguese.

Castro & Costa's 'Weak forms as Xo: Prenominal possessives and
preverbal adverbs in European Portuguese' also deals with
Italian. They review Cardinaletti and Starke's hypothesis according to
which tripartite classification of pronominal forms is
transcategorical. They conclude that when analysing European
Portuguese data, it is important to assume that weak forms may also
display various similarities with the behaviour of heads.

In the very specialised 'Person licensing and the derivation of
Person- Case Constraint effects', Bejar & Rezac carry out a
contrastive study using primarily French and Icelandic, and referring
to Basque, Breton and Bantu as well. They establish that the
Person-Case Constraint is a consequence of the Person-Licensing
Constraint coupled with independently motivated derivational

Cuervo's 'A control-vs-raison theory of dative experiencers'
analysizes Romance 'SEEM+experiencer' constructions. She suggests that
availability of dative subjects and the contrasts between raising and
control is at the core of cross-linguistic variation. The analysis is
extended to account for the unavailibility of reflexives in
'SEEM+experiencer' constructions. She deals with Spanish, Italian,
Icelandic, French and English.

The last theme is comprised of essays on Romance morphophonology:
Montreuil's 'Weight and Opacity in Surmiran' is a 'revisiting' of
previously established facts about the prosody of contemporary central
Romansch. He wishes to reanalyse 'the role of weight constraints in
defining the proper distribution of glides and obstruents in Surmiran
rimes, and the opacity created by the interaction of obstruentization
with other segmental regularities notably schwa epenthesis' (p209).
This reanalysis is cast in the Optimality Theory framework.

Baker & Wiltshire's 'An OT Treatment of Palatal Fortition in
Argentinian Spanish' is analysis of front high vocoids, showing that
Optimality Theory can account for the chain-shift situation in
Argentinian Spanish without positing levels of derivation. 'It does so
by appealing to speakers' need to maximize meaningful contrasts while
minimizing differences between allophones of the same cohort' (p45).
Within the Optimality Theory framework, language production is thus
viewed as directly going from mental representations to output.

The next two articles deal with diachronic issues. Hirschbühler &
Labelle's 'Residual Tobler-Mussafia in French Dialects' focuses on
imperatives in French dialects based on the study done by Cummins &
Roberge on the position of object clitics in 21 Romance dialects in
Southern France and Northern Italy. In this article, they show the
workings of a NONINITIAL constraint resulting in a residual Tobler-
Mussafia effect, that is that 'clitics, which were not affixes, were
positioned not according to verb morphology, but according to the
syntactic position or environment of the verb' (p150).

In 'On the evolution of the short high vowels of Latin into Romance',
Calabrese suggests a theoretical explanation for some aspect of the
historical evolution of the Latin vowel system. She underlines the
existence of a binary subset of features as well as of the possibility
of the value of a feature switching to its opposite. The evolution of
the Latin vocalic system into the vocalic system of Southern Lucanian
and Sardinian involves simply the loss of length oppositions and
preservation of the quality of the Classical Latin Vowels.

PART TWO: ACQUISITION (7 articles) As clearly stated by the editors,
this section can be divided into two parts. The first one deals with
the acquisition of functional structures: Prévost's ongoing study
'On the nature of Root Infinitives (RIs) in adult L2 French' considers
several hypotheses about the knowledge of functional categories in 4
adult English-speakers learning French in Laval, and the presence of
these categories in the underlying representation of RIs. The results
show that adults tend to use non-finite markers as default finite
markers, differing from child learners, in that the RIs produced by
young learners have non-finite properties.

In 'Null subjects and the setting of subject agreement parameters in
child French', Plunkett discusses data from European and Canadian
varieties in which the majority of null subjects occur with
morphologically finite verbs. The study shows that the gradually
increasing use of overt pronominal subjects in child French is linked
to the acquisition of agreement, which involves the successive setting
of Person and Number parameters on Tense, these parameters being set
one by one.

Berger-Morales's 'Supporting the Separate Systems Hypothesis' is a
case study in bilingual acquisition of Italian and German. While
examining root infinitives and participial constructions, they show
that bilingual children maintain a separate grammar for each language
from the start of acquisition, thus mirroring the development observed
in monolingual children.

Avram & Coene's 'Why is it difficult to reach agreement?' concentrates
on determiner and auxiliary drop in early monolingual and bilingual
development in child Romanian. They underline the fact that agreement
requires a heavy computational load because its features get valued
only at the end of the derivational process. They also show that the
persisting errors at later stages are related to gender, and assume
that agreement in the nominal domain acts together with lexical
learning as a gradual process.

In 'Spanish L1/L2 crossroads', Liceras examines the acquisition of the
initial state, 'here', and ultimate attainment 'there' by both adults
and children. The subjects were French and English learners of
Spanish, as well as native-speakers of Spanish. The difference between
adults and children can be accounted for by the 'bottom-up and
top-down' procedures adopted by children and adults respectively, the
former leading to parameter setting and a native-like competence, the
latter leading to local learning and non-native competence.

The second part comprises two contributions which deal with
phonological and semantic development: In 'Analogy as a Learning tool
in Second Language Acquisition', Bullock & Lord investigate the
analogical processes used to produce stress patterns on real and
invented forms in Spanish by 52 native-speakers of English and 14
native-speakers of Spanish. Results obtained through the use of Anova
show that learners make analogies to English words when similar words
in Spanish are unavailable, thus emphasising the fact that this is a
gradual process in the acquisition of L2 lexicon.

'Acquiring the syntax of BEAUCOUP at a distance as a bilingual child'
is an experimental study undertaken by Hulk, Peets & Cornips. They
deal with the bilingual acquisition of the French quantifier BEAUCOUP
at a distance by 22 bilingual French/Dutch children. Results show that
only when children accept that BEAUCOUP can appear at a distance in
the (adverbial) preverbal position, do 'they start worrying about the
other characteristic of the quantification at a distance-construction
involving syntactic and semantic properties of the object' (p315). The
study also shows that although bilingual children show a similar
development to that of monolingual children, they do so at a slower


This volume is not for those without background knowledge in the
fields addressed. It contains very insightful articles on issues of
the highest interest to phoneticians, morphologists, syntacticians,
and cognitive linguists. They touch upon a wide range of Romance
languages and are a good representation of the recent years' focus on
the question of a relationship between abstract linguistic structures
and issues in performance captured in empirical terms.

The articles presented in this volume all reveal a high standard of
methodology and usually well-structured. The majority are very well
supported by precise examples, and have a well-developed research
plan. However in the second section on Acquisition, some of the
research is based on small sample size, making reliability
questionable in some instances.

A different arrangement of the articles in the volume would have made
it more accessible to non-specialists. The papers may for example have
been organised around the three themes that emerged in Part One, or
perhaps from less-specialised to more specialised research.

Finally, some articles should have been proof-read with more care. For
instance on page 47, ''occurred'' appears with only one ''r''. Or on
page 69, one can read ''Varron'', then ''Varro'' in the following
paragraph. Furthermore acronyms are not always given in full which
makes the understanding of some articles sometimes unnecessarily
Isabelle Lemée is a lecturer of French Language at Dublin City
University (Republic of Ireland) and currently teaches courses on
Spoken Language. Her research interests include Second Language
Acquisition, Sociolinguistics and Language Variation.