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Review of  Linguistic Variation Yearbook

Reviewer: Kleanthes K. Grohmann
Book Title: Linguistic Variation Yearbook
Book Author: Pierre Pica
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Typology
Issue Number: 15.2131

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Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2004 13:05:28 +0200
From: Kleanthes Grohmann
Subject: Linguistic Variation Yearbook, Volume 2

EDITORS: Pica, Pierre; Rooryck, Johan
TITLE: Linguistic Variation Yearbook
SUBTITLE: Volume 2, 2002
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2003

Kleanthes K. Grohmann, Department of English Studies, University of Cyprus


LVYB 2 is the second installment of what looks like a very exciting and
welcome addition to annual periodicals on the theoretical market, the
Linguistic Variation Yearbook. The aim and scope of LVYB, according to
the inside cover blurb and the website is ''the study of the nature and
scope of linguistic variation from the point of view of a Minimalist
program.'' Having read (and reviewed) the first two issues, it is my
impression that LVYB achieves this goal rather well. The specific
theoretical take on variation gives LVYB its edge over comparable
periodicals (and it is competition-free in the yearbook market) -- both
those dealing with linguistic change and variation from a non-
theoretical or broader, typological perspective and those more
theoretically inclined ones dealing with natural language as a whole.
Moreover, the indefinite article preceding ''Minimalist program''
suggests, at least in theory, a wider range of theoretical perspectives
than *the* Minimalist program (Chomsky 1995 and subsequent work). In
fact, this also holds in practice as can be witnessed by at least the
first contribution to this issue (and one more in LVYB 1 as I pointed
out in my book notice forthcoming in Language; see also my EVALUATION
below for more comments).

The LVYB-editors, Pierre Pica and Johan Rooryck, kick the second issue
off with their brief ''Introduction'' (1-3), in which they mainly provide
a brief synopsis of the articles included here. The volume is rounded
off by a useful ''Subject Index'' (305-307). With further regard to
usefulness, each article is preceded by an abstract (often quite
comprehensive) and keywords (up to eleven items). In between we find
eight contributions of varying length and high quality.

Introducing *a* minimalist approach to ''Markedness, Antisymmetry and
Complexity of Constructions'' (5-30), Peter W. Culicover and Andrzej
Nowak sketch the beginnings of an ambitious project. The authors aim at
no less than providing an approach to ''the interactions between
language change, language acquisition, markedness, and computational
complexity of mappings between grammatical representations'' (5). The
most salient ingredient of their proposal is markedness understood as
degree of transparency in the mapping between syntactic and conceptual

Heidi Harley considers the relation between ''Possession and the Double
Object Construction'' (31-70) and comes to the conclusion that an
''alternative projection''-style analysis (roughly of the sorts argued
for by Pesetsky 1995) be preferred to a ''transform'' approach such as
Larson (1988). The specific analysis she presents decomposes the
double-object verb into two heads identified as a CAUSE and a
prepositional head, respectively. V_CAUSE is the predicate that selects
the external argument, P_HAVE is the well-known prepositional component
of the verb 'have', supported here with an investigation as promised in
the title.

Wh-question formation and its relation to focus in American Sign
Language (ASL) is the topic of Carol Neidlle's ''Language across
Modalities: ASL Focus and Question Constructions'' (71-98). There is an
apparent optionality of wh-movement in ASL: wh-phrases may move to
SpecCP (which is situated at the right periphery of the clause) or
remain in situ. Neidle's analysis for this state of affairs involves
two functional projections outside IP. First, there is an FP which
hosts focused phrases, but also 'if'-, 'when'- and relative clauses. A
wh-phrase, inherently focused, targets this position first to check its
focus feature. Second, FP is dominated by CP, the usual host for wh-
phrases, so fronted wh-elements end up here. In-situ wh-phrases are
non-focused and lack of movement is accounted for in terms of
Relativized Minimality.

Ileana Paul provides ''An Explanation of Extraction Asymmetries in
Malagasy'' (99-122), namely the fact that objects cannot move out of VP
-- or rather, from within the light verb phrase vP. Paul employs the
notion of a ''phase'' (Chomsky 1998, 1999) according to which a
linguistic expression must first move to the edge of a phase head (= to
one of its specifiers) in order to move on, for example, to then
undergo wh-movement. Now v is a phase head and if the possibility for
the Malagasy object to move to an outer specifier of v is ruled out,
there will never be extraction proper of objects. By arguing that
objects are licensed in situ, Paul restricts the in situ-only
occurrence of objects and impossibility of extraction. The analysis is
extended to other languages with similar extraction patterns (discussed
here: Tagalog, Indonesian).

Alain Rouveret asks: ''How are Resumptive Pronouns Linked to the
Periphery?'' (123-184). Concentrating on relative clauses (mainly in
Welsh and Irish), the answer he reaches is through Agree (Chomsky 2001)
in resumptive relatives and through Agree followed by Move in gap
relatives. Agree is the long-distance checking relation between a
relative C head and the relativized element, which bears an
uninterpretable [Rel]-feature. This movement/ resumption divide is
further accounted for by, to quote from the abstract, ''[a] sharpening
of the notion of 'phase''' -- which means in this case that ''[i]n Welsh
relatives, the resumptive strategy is not available when the
relativization site is an argument position belonging to the highest
CP-phase or accessible at that phase'' (144). This results in a
difference of strategies in short- and long-distance relativization for
both subjects and objects.

Cristina Schmitt and Alan Munn are concerned with ''The Syntax and
Semantics of Bare Arguments in Brazilian Portuguese'' (185-216). Both
English and Brazilian Portuguese (BrP) allow bare plurals -- but in BrP
bare singulars are also licensed. Also, the syntactic and semantic
restrictions holding of bare plurals across Romance languages don't
apply to BrP. These three (cross-linguistic) facts are not accounted
for in terms of present syntactic proposals (such as Longobardi 1994)
or even semantic parametrization (as could be implemented according to
Chierchia 1998), but on the sole basis of morpho-syntactic properties.
The obviously desirable result is that all syntactic variation can be
expressed as such.

Myriam Uribe-Etxebarria investigates ''In situ Questions and Masked
Movement'' (217-257). Unlike under Neidle's account, for example, in-
situ wh-questions (at least across Romance dialects) are not what they
seem. Uribe-Etxebarria argues that all wh-questions involve movement of
the wh-element, and the landing site is invariably SpecCP (although the
exact nature of CP may vary, but it is some operator-position in the
left periphery). Apparent in-situ questions involve two movement steps:
first movement of the wh-phrase to SpecCP, the remnant movement of the
IP to a higher position. (For alternative analyses for French, see e.g.
Chang 1997, Boskovic 1998 [not 1997!], Cheng & Rooryck 2000, Boeckx
2001, Butler & Mathieu 2004.) Apart from a detailed argumentation and
discussion (primarily for Spanish, but extended to varying degrees to
Bellunese, French, Portuguese), one theoretical result achieved here is
that covert movement operations can be excluded from the grammar (cf.
Groat & O'Neil 1996, Kayne 1998).

An account of ''Variation in P-Phrasing in Bengali'' (259-303) is Hubert
Truckenbrodt's goal. His ''minimalist'' analysis is one couched in
Optimality Theory (OT; Prince & Smolensky 1993). The phenomenon
expressed in the title -- where p-phrasing in Bengali is informed by
either tones of the intonational system or segmental spreading
phenomena (Hayes & Lahiri 1991) -- is accounted for by free ranking of
the relevant constraints involved (cf. Ito & Mester 1997) and allows
new insights into the relation between syntactic and phonological
phrases. This can be expressed through output-to-output faithfulness
between (internal) phonological phrase boundaries and syntactic (=
maximal) phrase boundaries when they occur in isolation. Variation in
more complex forms is derived from simpler forms of this OO-
faithfulness constraint, following a suggestion of Elenbaas (1999).


As an editorial critique -- the only one, in fact -- I would like to
mention that some of us look closely at references and the style of
listing in the bibliographies is not always coherent. It would be nice
to avoid some easily avoidable slips in the future.

It is impossible within the scope of this review to address and
critically evaluate all contributions to LVYB 2 -- primarily because
the topics studied in these papers are rarely connected. (As a
yearbook, this property, among others, sets it apart from most edited
volumes with contributions circling around a particular topic.) One
aspect in which they are, or should be, connected, however, concerns
part of the aim and scope defined for LVYB as mentioned above already.

The ''point of view of a Minimalist program'' is, of course, ambiguous.
One's initial interpretation might possibly relate the points of view
expressed in each contribution to LVYB to *the* Minimalist [P]rogram,
i.e. the new turn in generative syntax that started with Chomsky's
earliest minimalist papers collectively published as Chomsky (1995),
the host of scholars who followed these ideas and expanded the program,
and the latest installments vis-à-vis the phase-based framework
(Chomsky 1998, 1999, 2001). But this is apparently not the reading

For example, the ''minimalist'' theory Culicover and Nowak pursue looks
like a derivation of 'constructions' (Goldberg 1995) from 'conceptual
structure' (Jackendoff 1990), where 'complexity' is understood as in
e.g. Hawkins (1994) or Culicover (1999) and 'antisymmetry' (Kayne 1994)
is just an epiphenomenon -- no (real) mention of *the* Minimalist

The obvious absence of the syntactic minimalism in one's (or my)
initial interpretation in Truckenbrodt's article can also be mentioned.
While his study on phonological phrasing has obvious consequences for
syntactic theory and minimalism in particular, Optimality ain't
minimalist. At least not for me. And this paper was the least (if at
all) syntacticky one -- but again, this doesn't mean much (primarily
because of its intrinsic interest to syntacticians).

Both papers have their place in a periodical that aims at investigating
linguistic variation from a *theoretical* perspective (which is more
focused than some variation journals out there, but less specific than,
possibly a particular form of, minimalism).

The minimalism espoused in the other papers varies also. What is
striking is that Rouveret's implementation involves tools that Chomsky
(1999) introduced which could have been used by Paul as well -- and
since she cites Chomsky (1999) I'm puzzled that she doesn't. I'm
thinking, for example, of note 10 in which she cites several works that
might help her justify lack of ex-situ movement of the object in
Malagasy. Accusative-checking through Agree, concomitant with the
postulation that v only has one EPP-feature (a program sketched more
concretely in Chomsky 2001), would probably have done the trick --
which, interestingly, is implicit in Paul's suggestion without putting
her thumb on the source.

It is my firm belief that LVYB might well play an integral role in
future research shedding light on both linguistic theory and explaining
variation. The contributions to the first issue set a high standard
which carries over to the second issue, confirming this belief so far.
Maybe a future editorial can shed some light on the ''point of view of a
Minimalist program'' that partly defines the scope of variation to be
presented in LVYB. Alternatively, the editors can inform potential
contributors in which way they would like to see ''a Minimalist program''
expressed in the articles, so as to create some common thread among the
articles published. This said, a lot of linguistic variation and
''organization of the language faculty'' (also from the aim & scope
blurb) exists which could not have possibly been addressed in two
issues. So I for one am very excited about future volumes.

There is, of course, another way to interpret the stated aims and scope
(which beyond the half-sentence I keep referring to consists of three
paragraphs). LVYB can, and possibly should, be seen as a new platform
for researchers interested in linguistic variation to develop new
theoretical approaches with consequences for more than one (narrowly
defined) part of the grammar. ''Minimalist'' in this sense would then
refer to a wider enterprise that goes beyond the work of Noam Chomsky
and linguists who work within that framework. In other words, taking a
wider minimalist-cognitive perspective (how ever to be defined
concretely) might finally give people working within the so-called
''Chomskyan paradigm'' a break to always defend themselves and cast
doubts on their own achievements and at the same time opens the door to
a whole new world of research.

As a note to the publisher, the quality of the first two volumes and
the gap that LVYB obviously aims to fill could be taken as a sign that
there might be more to get out of the aim & scope than an annual
yearbook. My mixing of terminology throughout (journal, periodical,
yearbook) already suggests that as far as I am concerned I would love
to see LVYB turn into a full-fledged journal with at least two or three
issues a year. It's a commitment that both publisher and editors would
have to make, but I'm sure many readers will agree that it would be
worthwhile once they lay their hands on LVYB. And if the previous
paragraph makes any sense, the need for a theoretical journal for
linguistic variation from the point of view of a minimalist program
becomes not stronger, but simply indispensable.


Boeckx, C. 2003. French Wh-in-situ Interrogatives as (C)overt Clefts.
Ms., Harvard University.

Boskovic, Z. 1998. LF Movement and the Minimalist Program. In P.
Tamanji & K. Kusumoto, eds. Proceedings of NELS 28. University of
Massachusetts, Amherst: GLSA, 43-51.

Butler, J. & E. Mathieu. 2004. The Syntax and Semantics of Split
Constructions: A Comparative Study. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Chang, L. 1997. Wh-in situ Phenomena in French. MA thesis, University
of British Columbia.

Cheng, L. & J. Rooryck. 2000. Licensing Wh-in-situ. Syntax 3, 1-19.

Chomsky, N. 1995. The Minimalist Program. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Chomsky, N. 1998. Minimalist Inquiries: The Framework. MIT Occasional
Papers in Linguistics 15. Appeared in R. Martin, D. Michaels & J.
Uriagereka, eds. 2000. Step by Step: Minimalist Essays in Honor of
Howard Lasnik. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 89-155.

Chomsky, N. 1999. Derivation by Phase. MIT Occasional Papers in
Linguistics 18. Appeared in M. Kenstowicz, ed. 2001. Ken Hale. A Life
in Language. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1-52.

Chomsky, N. 2001. Beyond Explanatory Adequacy. MIT Occasional Papers in
Linguistics 20, 1-28. To appear in A. Belletti, ed. Structures and
Beyond. The Cartography of Syntactic Structures, Vol. 3. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.

Culicover, P.W. 1999. Syntactic Nuts. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Elenbaas, N. 1999. A Unified Account of Binary and Ternary Stress:
Considerations from Sentani and Finnish. PhD thesis, Universiteit

Goldberg, A. 1995. Constructions: A Construction Grammar Approach to
Argument Structure. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Groat, E. & J. O'Neil. 1996. Spell Out at the LF Interface. In W.
Abraham, S.D. Epstein, H. Thráinsson & C. J.-W. Zwart, eds. Minimal
Ideas. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 113-139.

Hawkins, J. 1994. A Performance Theory of Order and Constituency.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hayes, B. & A. Lahiri. 1991. Bengali Intonational Phonology. Natural
Language and Linguistic Theory 9, 47-96.

Ito, J. & A. Mester. 1997. Correspondence and Compositionality: The Ga-
Gyo Variation in Japanese Phonology. In I. Roca, ed. Derivations and
Constraints in Phonology. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 419-462.

Jackendoff, R. 1990. Semantic Structures. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Kayne, R. S. 1994. The Antisymmetry of Syntax. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT

Kayne, R. S. 1998. Overt vs. Covert Movement. Syntax 1, 128-191.

Larson, R. K. 1988. On the Double Object Construction. Linguistic
Inquiry 19, 335-391.

Pesetsky, D. 1995. Zero Syntax: Experiencers and Cascades. Cambridge,
Mass.: MIT Press.

Prince, A. & P. Smolensky 1993. Optimality Theory: Constraint
Interaction in Generative Grammar. Ms., Rutgers University, Brunswick
and University of Colorado, Boulder.

I am Assistant Professor for Theoretical Linguistics in the Department
of English Studies at the University of Cyprus in Nicosia. My general
interests include syntactic theory and comparative syntax; please see
my homepage [] for more
information. If you're interested in PUNKS IN SCIENCE, please go to
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