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Review of Current Issues in Spanish Syntax and Semantics
Gutierrez-Rexach, Javier, and Luis Silva-Villar, ed. (2001) Current Issues in Spanish Syntax and Semantics. Mouton de Gruyter, vi+254pp, hardback ISBN 3-11-016929-0, Studies in Generative Grammar 53 Announced at http://www.linguistlist.org/issues/12/12-2318.html#2
Miguel Rodriguez-Mondonedo, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, The University of Arizona
This book contains a collection of thirteen papers that present a wonderful overview of current linguistic theory, which is used to analyze some old problems in Spanish Grammar. Writing from a minimalist point of view, the papers deal with some features of clitics and various aspects of the structure and interpretation of Determiner Phrase (DP) and Verbal Phrase (VP). It has to be noted that, despite of the fact that they display a rigorous argumentation, all articles elucidate their contents in a very clear way. It allows considering this book not only a worth- reading update of traditional analysis, but also a useful introduction to some complex issues in Spanish Linguistics.
The book has three parts. Part 1 discusses the structure and interpretation of DP. It has three papers.
The first article, by Ignacio Bosque, is ''Adjective Position and the Interpretation of Indefinites''. Bosque introduces the idea that prenominal attributive adjectives (1b) and elatives (1c) in Spanish behave in the same way with respect to (non)specificity. For instance:
(1) a. Las cinco muchachas hab'ian conocido a un actor FAMOSO 'The five girls had met a [specific/non-specific] famous actor' b. Las cinco muchachas hab'ian conocido a un FAMOSO actor 'The five girls had met a [specific] famous actor' c. Las cinco muchachas hab'ian conocido a un actor FAMOSISIMO 'The five girls had met a [specific] extremely famous actor'
Sentence (1a) is ambiguous because each girl could have met a different famous actor (non-specific) or all of them could have met the same person (specific); but sentences (1b) and (1c) have only specific interpretation. The same contrast appears when different tests of (non) specificity are used: generic operators, quantificational adverbs, indefinite nominals in directive context, negation, subjunctive relative clauses, inter alia.
To explain these facts, Bosque assumes that prenominal attributive adjectives (i) move overtly to Specifier of Degree Phrase (DegP), and then, (ii) covertly, to Specifier of some Functional Projection (FP) above DP (''-i'' is my mark for indexes):
(2) OPERATOR.[FP (Famoso)-i [D un [DegP famoso-i [Deg] [AP* actor [AP (famoso)-i ] ] ] ]
In this way, a specific interpretation (with ''variable'' reading) is avoided, since FP blocks binding between OPERATOR and the variable provided by the indefinite.
The next paper is ''Issues in the Syntax of DP in Romance and Germanic'', by Enrique Mallen. The author observes that derived nominals in Spanish and German usually realize their arguments (as well as possessors) in a postnominal position (3a), however, genitive proper nouns (arguments and possessors) can occur prenominally in German but not in Spanish (3b). In the other hand, attributive adjectives must be prenominal in German, but they are often postnominal in Spanish (3c).
(3) a'. La descripciï¿½n del ladrï¿½n (Spanish) a''. Die Beschreibung des Diebes (German) 'the description of-the thief' b'. *De Bokan el ataque fue inexcusable (Spanish) b''. Bokans Angriff war unverzeihlich (German) 'Bokan attack was inexcusable' c'. El 'exito arrollador de la abuelita c''. Omas unubertreffliche Erfolge 'granny's superlative success'
To account for these and other similar Spanish/German contrasts, Mallen assumes that attributive adjectives (AP) are generated in [Spec, AgrP] in both languages, and then, in German, AP raises to Spec of KP (Case Phrase), because a [+strong] case feature---which will be [-strong] in Spanish. It assumes a DP structure like (4), where Agr goes upstairs cyclically and NP raises to [Spec, PredP] (Sanchez 1996).
It is possible to make the same claim regarding arguments inside DP, assuming more complex Agr projections, to explain distribution of Theme and Agent.
''The Syntax and Semantics of Preverbal Topical Phrases in Spanish'', by Eugenia Casielles, addresses the features of topical phrases in Spanish. Contreras 1991, Olarrea 1996, among others have proposed that preverbal subjects in Spanish are always adjuncts and they do not use any specifier position. Casielles challenges this idea observing that Spanish does not allow bare nouns (BN) as preverbal subjects (5a) but it does allow them as preverbal topics (5b):
(5) a. *Niï¿½os jugaban en el parque 'Children were playing in the park' b. Libros hay en la biblioteca 'Books there-are in the library'
In addition, since BNs cannot rise (left-dislocated BNs do not involve movement), they have to stay inside VP and cannot get a generic interpretation (only an existential one). Therefore, there must be two different positions for subjects (6a) and dislocated phrases (6b).
(6) a. [IP SPECIFIER [I' I [VP ] ] b. [IP XP [IP XP [IP XP [IP ] ] ] ]
However, subjects can be dislocated, as in:
(7) [A 'el] [su madre] [el coche] no se lo dejar'ia nunca [to him] [his mother] [the car] not would-lend never 'His mother would NEVER let him borrow the car'
This suggest that (5a) could be grammatical if [Niï¿½os] is topical. Casielles tells that this is not true, and proposes to use the distinction between two points of view: Topic- Comment and Focus-Background (basically, the idea that topic is not equal to non-focus). According to her, BNs cannot be Topics, but Backgrounds. In addition, (7) has no topic, because the ''appearance of a dislocated elements means that the sentence has a Background-focus structure'' (p.75). Then, we can conclude that (5a) will be grammatical if the sentence has a Focus-Background Structure.
Part 2 discusses the distribution of clitics. It has five papers.
''On the Doubling of Overt Operators'', by Jon Franco, addresses the fact that, in Basque Spanish and other Spanish dialects, clitic-doubling of wh-words and quantifiers is possible, as in:
(8) ?A quiï¿½n-i le-i viste? to whom ACC-CL3sg saw-2sg Who did you see?
However, (8) is possible only if the wh-word is linked with an element inferred from the discourse. Franco argues that a clitic can double only presupposed entities. To encode presuppositionality without using an ad hoc feature, the author assumes that these structures have a referential pro, which, in some dialects, can be licensed by discourse:
(9) ?[ A qui'enes pro-i ] les-i deportarï¿½n? to which-pl ACC-CL-3-PL deport-fut-3-pl Which ones of them will be deported?
To obtain a discourse referent from presuppositions, Franco uses Rizzi's 1997 structure of left periphery, and supposes that Topic Phrase (TopP)'s head licenses pro (under c- comand and coindexation), and then, the clitic-doubled element raises to [Spec, TopP], covertly, forcing a discourse referent. Unlike Spanish Basque, the dialects where (8) is not grammatical do not accept Top as a licenser of pro.
''Interface Conditions and the Semantics of Argument Clitics'', by Javier Gutierrez-Rexach, proposes that clitics are Determiners, with D feature. They may select an overt DP (the doubled element) and can saturate a verbal argument. Since clitics are prosodically weak, they need to move ''to a host that will be the prosodically strong element'' (p. 111), namely, V. Since some times there is not a doubled element, we can conclude that ''the selectional feature D of the clitic is optional'' (p. 113). Then, (11) is a derivation for (10), leaving aside the feature structures:
(10) Mar'ia le dio el libro a Pedro Maria him gave the book to Pedro 'Maria gave the book to Pedro'
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
I'm a graduate student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, in The University of Arizona, Tucson. I want to become a formal linguist and I have strong interest in syntax, phonetics, and syntax-pragmatics interface. Right now, I'm working in a thesis about modality in Spanish to get my MA. Also, I'm looking for a place to get my Ph.D in Linguistics.