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Review of  Organizing Grammar

Reviewer: Andrew McIntyre
Book Title: Organizing Grammar
Book Author: Hans Broekhuis Norbert Corver Jan Koster
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Subject Language(s): Bulgarian
Chinese, Mandarin
Greek, Modern
Issue Number: 17.2151

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EDITORS: Broekhuis, Hans; Corver, Norbert; Huybregts, Riny; Kleinherz,
Ursula; Koster, Jan
TITLE: Organizing Grammar
SUBTITLE: Studies in Honor of Henk van Riemsdijk
PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter
YEAR: 2005

Andrew McIntyre, University of Leipzig

On page 669 of the book under review, Henk van Riemsdijk is claimed to have
said that “every linguist should always have at least 15 squibs at hand”. I
would agree, as long as the squibs stay “at hand” and do not end up on
paper, unless the topic is genuinely self-contained or the basic idea so
promising that it deserves to be stated in an un-worked-out form. Imagine a
squib whose concluding words are “I have sketched an argument that all
nouns derive from conjunctions. For space reasons, an illustration of how
this works exactly and a rebuttal of potential counterarguments must be
postponed to future work.” Even if the argument had been ingenious, the
squib would have been a waste of paper, not so much because the central
thesis is wrong but because it leaves too many obvious questions
unanswered. I have not seen squibs as inane as this. However, I have seen
some pointless squibs as well as useful ones, and the book under review
contains both types of squib.

This 700-page book, a Festschrift for Henk van Riemsdijk, contains 71
squibs, most under ten pages, on diverse areas of linguistics (syntax,
morphology, phonology, semantics, philosophy of language), as well as a
bibliography of van Riemsdijk’s writings. Given the size of the book, I can
only summarise each squib briefly. A few contributions with
self-explanatory titles will be left unsummarised. I lack the space and
polymathy for a critical evaluation of all the squibs, so it seemed fairer
to evaluate none of them. Evaluating the articles would in any case have
been unfair because the draconian page limit arising from the exigencies of
the outdated format of commercial paper publishing cannot help but eat away
at the authors’ standards of explicitness and adequate coverage. I say more
on this in the final section of the review, where I also question the
scientific usefulness of Festschrift publications.

The book’s homepage contains an errata list, correcting some serious
mistakes. See under:

Organisation of the review:
1. Syntax, morphology, semantics
2. Phonology


''An intersubjective note on the notion of ‘subjectification’'' by Werner
Abraham. Abraham discusses critically the notions of subjectification and
intersubjectification, which have been influential in diachronic semantics,
notably in analyses of modality. He suggests that these notions are not
necessary, and that the development of the semantics of Germanic modals can
be explained by purely linguistic phenomena, notably aspectual considerations.

''A note on non-canonical passives: the case of the get-passive'' by Artemis
Alexiadou. The participle in ‘get’-passives is analysed as adjectival, not
verbal. This accounts for several properties distinguishing it from
‘be’-passives (e.g. reduced accessibility of the suppressed agent to
grammatical phenomena, possibility of reflexive interpretations, as in ‘get

''Displaced and misplaced genitives'' by Josef Bayer. Bayer presents some
attestations of German genitives appearing sentence-finally, separated from
the DP where one would normally expect to find them. This is argued to be a
problem for analyses replacing right adjunction with remnant movement,
since the leftward movement of postnominal genitives lacks independent
motivation in modern German. Given the well-known problems with rightward
movement and adjunction, Bayer suggests that genitive extrapositions should
not be handled by core grammar but by prosodic readjustment.

''Preposition stranding and locative adverbs in German'' by Dorothee Beermann
and Lars Hellan. This squib discusses the syntactic and semantic conditions
under which German allows preposition stranding constructions.

''Moving verbal complexes in Spanish'' by Reineke Bok-Bennema. Sentences like
(1) are often taken to involve movement of a verb out of a verb complex.
The author argues that this is wrong, that the adverb “apenas” is part of
the verbal complex, as is seen from the ability of the complex to move as a

(1) El problema se lo quiera apenas mencionar.
the problem 3.dat wanted hardly mention
‘He hardly wanted to mention the problem to him.’

''Unbearably light verbs versus finite auxiliary drop'' by Anne Breitbarth.
Swedish constructions in which finite perfect auxiliary ‘ha’ can be omitted
are compared with structures found in various Germanic languages which have
been argued to involve a silent GO (cf. English ‘I want out’). It is argued
that the two elliptical constructions should not receive the same treatment.

''Extraction from subjects: some remarks on Chomsky’s ‘On phases’'' by Hans
Broekhuis. Broekhuis contests Chomsky’s (2005) new version of phase theory
which assumes a loosening of the traditional subject island condition. The
data involve Dutch topicalisation and ‘wat voor’-split.

''A Chinese relative'' by Lisa Lai-Shen Cheng and Rint Sybesma. Mandarin
Chinese relative clauses with the relative pronoun ‘de’ are analysed as
gapless relatives. ‘De’ functions like a generalised lambda operator which
interacts with the event variable in the relative clause.

''Approximative ‘of zo’ as a diagnostic tool'' by Norbert Corver. Dutch ‘of
so’ (roughly equivalent to ‘or something like that’) is argued to be a
useful diagnostic for identifying any kind of maximal projection. Corver
shows how the test provides evidence bearing on a number of controversial
syntactic issues.

''A note on interpretable features and idiosyncratic categorial selection''
by Denis Delfitto. The squib discusses some properties of the s-selection
of verbs selecting factive complements, such as “I regret it that I came”.

''Transparent, free... and polarised: the (poli)tics of polarity in
transparent free relatives'' by Marcel den Dikken. The author discusses
transparent free relatives (as in “I discussed <a> what he called <a> far
from simple matter”).

''The inverse agreement constraint in Hungarian: a relic of a
Uralic–Siberian Sprachbund?'' by Katalin É. Kiss. Kiss discusses two
peculiar facts of Hungarian grammar: (a) that verb-object agreement is
ruled out with non-3rd-person objects, and (b) that 2nd person object
agreement is possible with 1st person subjects, but that a special
irregular morpheme is inserted under these conditions. Part of the
explanation is a constraint, needed also for other languages, barring
object agreement if the subject is lower in the animacy hierarchy than the
object, whereby the animacy hierarchy is sensitive to person and number
differences. This is conjectured to support an affirmative answer to the
question in the subtitle.

''Syntactic conditions on phonetically empty morphemes'' by Joseph Emonds.
Emonds distinguishes between a lexicon and a syntacticon, the latter
containing closed-class items whose meaning consists wholly of
syntactically relevant features. Only the latter can be phonetically empty.
Emonds proposes conditions on the licensing of the empty elements.

''Long-distance reciprocals'' by Martin Everaert. The author discusses the
generalisation in the literature that there are no non-locally bound
reciprocals, and notes some possible exceptions.

''The notion of topic and the problem of quantification in Hungarian'' by
Zsuzsanna Gécseg and Ferenc Kiefer. The authors call into question the
generalisation that Hungarian sentences begin with a topic followed by a
distributive quantifier. They claim that the notion ‘topic’ should be
replaced by that of ‘logical subject’ (which term is used non-standardly
and not defined).

''Questions of complexity'' by Casper de Groot. This squib addresses two
questions concerning differences between Hungarian spoken inside and
outside Hungary: (a) Varieties outside Hungary tend towards a less
morphologically complex, less synthetic morphology and (b) these varieties
replace the prenominal non-finite relative clauses of Hungarian Hungarian
with postnominal adpositional modifiers.

''Functional heads, lexical heads and hybrid categories'' by Liliane
Haegeman. The squib critically assesses the tenability of the dichotomy
between lexical and functional heads, specifically addressing the claim
that Italian “sembrare” (‘seem’) has a lexical and a functional variant,
based on discussion of restructuring phenomena with French “sembler”
(‘seem’) and Dutch “scheinen/lijken” (‘seem’).

''Concatenation and interpretation'' by Martin Haiden. Haiden suggests a
variant of minimalist structure-building which aims at a more principled
derivation of properties of the syntax-semantics and syntax-phonology

''As time goes by: a digressive discourse'' by Hubert Haider, Masyuki Oishi
and Shigeo Tonoike. A discussion of questions of linearisation in syntax in
informal dialogue form.

''There’s that: unifying existential and list readings'' by Jutta M.
Hartmann. The list reading of existential sentences (as in “Who was there?
– Well, there was the doctor and Mary”) are often treated as distinct from
other uses of existential constructions, e.g. because of their not
displaying definiteness effects. The author argues against this, and argues
for a principled derivation of both readings.

''Extended projections – extended analogues: a note on Hungarian Pps'' by
Veronika Hegedus. The squib discusses evidence from Hungarian (with side
glances at German) in favour of the idea that PPs contain functional structure.

''Classifiers, agreement and honorifics in Japanese'' by Masaru Honda. The
squib argues that Japanese honorifics are a type of agreement morpheme
expressing a relation between classifiers (seen as projecting a phrase
between N and D) and the verb.

''What stranded adjectives reveal about Split-NP Topicalization'' by Hanneke
van Hoof. The squib discusses topicalisation constructions in German and
Brabant Dutch in which a nominal is topicalised out of a DP, stranding
quantifiers and adjectives.

''Past tense interpretations in Dutch'' by Angeliek van Hout. This
contribution gives a semantic analysis of the three Dutch past tenses (the
present perfect, periphrastic progressive, simple past) the aim of which is
to explain why the first two are unambiguously (im)perfective while the
latter seems ambiguous. The ambiguity of the latter is argued to be
spurious; the perfective reading arises by conversational implicature. The
analysis is supported by a comprehension study.

''Recursively linked Case-Agreement: from accidents to principles and
beyond'' by Riny Huybregts. Huybregts argues that Comp trace violations
found in some languages, rather than being arbitrary, result from
principled considerations, ultimately to do with the failure of
Case-Agreement chains to have their features valued.

''Enfoldment as Economy'' by Takashi Imai. The author proposes a notion of
enfoldment, which is unfortunately not defined clearly, but, to exegete its
meaning from the examples, amounts to the claim that a hierarchy of heads
can share specifiers.

''On parameters and on principles of pronunciation'' by Richard S. Kayne.
The squib argues that the localisation of parametric variation to
functional elements may be tenable, despite apparent counterexamples. A
related discussion concerns the distribution of unpronounced elements.

''What to do with 'those fools of a crew'?'' by Evelien Keizer. The binomial
“of”-construction exemplified in the title is argued to be right-headed.

''Why indefinite pronouns are different'' by István Kenesei. The squib deals
with differences between indefinite pronouns and other nominals in
constructions involving adjectival modification (e.g. “some interesting
books” vs. “something interesting”).

''Seeing the forest despite the tree'' by Hans-Peter Kolb. This squib
discusses the notion of ‘segment’ in the context of a tree-building algorithm.

''When to pied-pipe and when to strand in San Dionicio Octotepec Zapotec'' by
Hilda Koopman. Koopman discusses constraints on pied-piping in a
wh-construction in SDO Zapotec, in which a wh-complement of a preposition
appears to the left of the preposition which has also undergone wh-fronting.

''Free relatives as light-headed relatives in Turkish'' by Jaklin Kornfilt.

''Is linguistics a natural science?'' by Jan Koster.

''Two asymmetries between Clitic Left and Clitic Right Dislocation in
Bulgarian'' by Iliyana Krapova and Guglielmo Cinque.

''On dative subjects in Russian'' by S.-Y. Kuroda. Kuroda discusses an
apparent instance of a dative subject construction in Russian, arguing that
the construction is not a good example of this phenomenon.

''On the nature of case in Basque: structural or inherent?'' by Itziar Laka.
This squib argues that case in Basque is inherent.

''Examining the scope of Principles-and-Parameters Theory'' by David LeBlanc.
LeBlanc examines some tenets of (P&P) theoretical linguists from the
perspective of a computer scientist.

''Clitics and adjacency in Greek Pps'' by Winfried Lechner and Elena

''A minimalist program for parametric linguistics?'' by Giuseppe Longobardi.
The author addresses the question as to what possible parameters are.

''A syntactic approach to negated focus questions in Bulgarian'' by Krzysztof
Migdalski. The squib argues that the position of the Bulgarian
interrogative complementiser “li” in relation to negation, clitics and
finite verbs is syntactically determined.

''The case of midpositions'' by Natasa Milicevic. This squib deals with the
syntax of midpositions (as in “problem after problem”, “piece by piece”),
arguing against a coordination approach.

''Quechua P-soup'' by Pieter Muysken. This contribution deals with PPs in
Quecha, of interest because the category P does not have overt instantiations.

''Semantic compositionality of the way-construction'' by Heizo Nakajima. This
squib claims that the “way”-construction (“I fought my way into the
building”) is derived compositionally, contrary to what is often claimed in
the literature.

''Soft mutation at the interface'' by Ad Neeleman. Neeleman argues that Welch
soft mutation is a case of lexical allomorphy conditioned by prosodic

''What do we learn when we acquire a language?'' by Marina Nespor, Judit
Gervain and Jacques Mehler.

''The object of verbs like help and an apparent violation of UTAH'' by
Christer Platzack. Platzack discusses the fact that, in Germanic languages
with rich case morphology, some verbs like “help”, “serve” take inherent
dative. The loss of this specific marking from Old Swedish to Modern
Swedish is accompanied by a reanalysis of the object from being a
beneficiary to being a theme, in accordance with the Uniformity of Theta
Assignment Hypothesis.

''A note on relative pronouns in Standard German'' by Martin Prinzhorn and
Viola Schmitt. The authors discuss the differences between two types of
relative pronouns in German, viz. “d-” and “welch-”.

''Agreeing to bind'' by Eric Reuland. A discussion of binding theory, taking
into consideration the idea that indices have no role in grammar.

''Positive polarity and evaluation'' by Hendrik C. van Riemsdijk. This is a
translation by the editors of a term paper written by van Riemsdijk in
1970. It discusses positive polarity items, using Dutch “wel” as an example.

''Phase theory and the privilege of the root'' by Luigi Rizzi. Rizzi
discusses the privilege of the root (the non-pronunciation of material at
the edge of the root category), applying the notion (seen from the
perspective of phase theory) to the silence of matrix complementisers and
German topic drop.

''On the role of parameters in Universal Grammar: a reply to Newmeyer'' by
Ian Roberts and Anders Holmberg. The authors criticise Newmeyer’s proposal
that parameters of Universal Grammar are not relevant to the acquisition of

''Welsh VP-ellipsis and the representation of aspect'' by Alain Rouveret. The
squib discusses Welsh VP-ellipsis, which shares some properties with
English VP-ellipsis, notably what appears to be a counterpart of
“do”-support, though the apparent counterpart of “do” is argued to be a
spellout of little-v and to have aspectual import.

''A new perspective on event participants in psychological states and
events'' by Bozena Rozwadowska. This is a study of object experiencer verbs
in Polish, with special reference to their event-structural properties.

''A glimpse of doubly-filled COMPs in Swiss German'' by Manuela
Schönenberger. The author argues that Swiss German doubly filled Comp
constructions are sensitive to prosodic considerations.

''Missing prepositions in Dutch free relatives'' by Chris Sijtsma. The squib
discusses the problem of Dutch free relatives in contexts with verbs
selecting prepositions (constructions well illustrated in English by “I
relied on whomever you relied”), arguing that it is the preposition in the
matrix clause that undergoes ellipsis. Like many other squibs, this one
leaves the proper solution of the puzzle ‘as a challenge for retired
linguistics professors’, p. 582.

''Cyclic NP structure and trace interpretation'' by Dominique Sportiche.
Sportiche discusses a difference between A- and A’-movement in cases like
the following:

(a) Which pictures of BILL does it seems to HIM [t look fuzzy]
(b) Pictures of BILL seem to HIM to [t look fuzzy]

Here (a) allows coreference between the capitalised items while (b) does
not (at least for Sportiche’s informants). These data are used to argue
that traces are not always interpreted as copies of moved elements.

''Appositive and parenthetical relative clauses'' by Tim Stowell. Stowell
argues that, while all appositive (non-restrictive) relative clauses are
parenthetical, not all parenthetical relatives are appositive. It is for
instance possible to get a restrictive interpretation for the bracketed
parenthetical relative in “The guy next door (that I sold my car to) was
arrested yesterday”.

''Overt infinitival subjects (if that’s what they are)'' by Anna Szabolcsi.
The author discusses a construction in Hungarian in which a focus particle
corresponding to English “too” requires an overt pronominal subject in
infinitival clauses and resists overt subjects in the matrix clause.

'''Wanna' and the prepositional complementizers of English'' by Tarald
Taraldsen. Taraldsen argues that constraints on “wanna”-contraction (“who
does she wanna invite” vs. *“who does she wanna win”) are not sensitive to
the presence/absence/PF-(in)visibility of wh-traces. He presents a novel
account of this phenomenon not involving contraction in all cases, adducing
evidence from Romance prepositional complementisers.

''A note on asymmetric coordination and subject gaps'' by Craig Thiersch. The
author discusses a type of asymetric coordination in German in which one
conjunct apparently contains a subject gap.

''The representation of focus and its implications: towards an alternative
account of some ‘intervention effects’'' by Jean-Roger Vergnaud and
Maria-Luisa Zubizarreta.

''Circumstantial evidence for Dative Shift'' by Edwin Williams. Williams
argues against the use of an applicative head in double object
constructions and in favour of dative shift.

''Why should diminutives count?'' by Martina Wiltschko. The squib discusses
the fact that diminutives turn mass nouns into count nouns in many
languages. The account involves treating the diminutives in question as a
type of classifier.

''Adjacency, PF, and extraposition'' by Susi Wurmbrand and Jonathan David
Bobaljik. The authors discuss the fact that German and Dutch do not allow a
string of clause final verbs to be broken up by extraposed phrases. This is
viewed as a PF constraint. A theory using the copy theory of movement is
sketched which allows PF to be treated strictly as an interpretative
component and does not require syntax to look ahead.

''A note on functional adpositions'' by Jan-Wouter Zwart. Zwart discusses a
generalisation that functional adpositions (in the sense of adpositions
lacking clear descriptive content) are always prepositions rather than


''Against the sonority scale: evidence from Frankish tones'' by Ben Hermans
and Marc van Oostendorp.

''Why phonology is the same'' by Harry van der Hulst. The author argues that
phonology and (morpho)syntax are organised in parallel fashion.

“GP, I’ll have to put your flat feet on the ground” by Jonathan Kaye. A
discussion of the autonomy of the phonetic component from the articulatory
component, from the perspective of a variant of Government Phonology.

''Abracadabra, the relation between stress and rhythm'' by Anneke Neijt. The
squib argues that stress and rhythm are distinct phenomena, which can
condition each other, suggesting that they are subject to global constraints.

''A prosodic contrast between Northern and Southern Dutch: a result of a
Flemish-French sprachbund'' by Roland Noske. The article focusses on
prosodict differences between Northern and Southern Dutch, focussing on (a)
syllabification in morphologically complex words, and (b) vowel reduction.
It is suggested that the differences are due to language contact with French.

''Final sonorant devoicing in early Yokuts field-records'' by Norval Smith.


I wish to denigrate neither the editors’ hard and competent work, nor the
efforts of the authors in fitting their (often interesting) ideas into ten
pages, nor Henk van Riemsdijk’s entitlement to a resounding encomium, but I
think it is time to query whether publications of this type are in the best
interests of our science, at least if published with commercial publishers.
A backdrop: I asked to review this book because some articles in it seemed
relevant to projects of mine, and buying the book was a non-option given
its price coupled with the fact that many articles weren’t relevant to my
concerns. When I received it, I found that the contributions I was
interested in could not be developed to any useful degree because of page
limits. The page limits are understandable given constraints on traditional
paper publishing. But why choose that format? The time invested in dealings
with publishers could be put towards inquiring into avenues for internet
publication, which could be used for other publications as well. Internet
publication would get around the page limit problem. Moreover, libraries
would not be forced to spend hard-won taxpayer money on a volume replete
with ideas which their defenders were prevented from defending with fitting
attention to detail. Finally, internet publication would solve the problem
of the obstruction of the flow of information caused by the costs of
traditional commercial publishing.

One can perhaps (and I insert this hedge advisedly) query whether
Festschriften in *any* format are a valid use of scientists’ time and
resources. Except in the case of very prolific (or saintly but career-wise
naive) contributors, the invitation to publish in a Festschrift is
inherently in danger of being an invitation to offload work that the author
might not otherwise have bothered writing/publishing. Normally, scholars
who have something important to say will say it in sources which have a
wider readership and greater CV-enhancement value than Festschriften have.
Presented with a Festschrift invitation, contributors could well be tempted
to submit either unimportant work or good work which has been or will be
published elsewhere, and neither option is a fruitful use of time and
resources. These criticisms of Festschriften apply however much the
beneficiary might have done for the science. There are other ways to
express respect and thanks to them.

I hasten to add that the book under review contained many more worthwhile
squibs than pointless ones, which is no small praise given the potential
pitfalls of Festschriften just described.

Andrew McIntyre ( has a postdoctoral
research and teaching position at the University of Leipzig, Germany. He
mainly works on issues of the syntax-semantics interface in the VP domain.

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