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Unspecified Human Subjects in the Romance Languages  

Pekka Posio

The term unspecified human subjects refers to syntactic constructions profiling a human subject participant whose identity is either not specified at all or is left underspecified, for instance by limiting the scope of potential referents either by choice of verb (e.g., They have raised taxes again) or by a locative expression (e.g., In Spain they eat late). Such constructions include human impersonal pronouns grammaticalized from nouns meaning ‘man’ or ‘person’ (e.g., French on, Portuguese a pessoa) or based on the numeral ‘one’ (e.g., Spanish uno), as well as impersonal (i.e., unspecified, generic, or arbitrary, depending on the theoretical framework) uses of personal pronouns and verb forms, in particular the second-person singular and the third-person plural. Unspecified human subjects present functional overlap with other human impersonal constructions such as the periphrastic passive and reflexive-based passives and impersonals (i.e., Romance se/si constructions), however differing from them in that the unspecified human argument is not the syntactic subject in these latter constructions. While it has been argued that man-impersonal constructions are either restricted or more frequent in languages with obligatory subject expression (e.g., French) and pronoun-based human impersonals are more frequent in so-called null subject languages (e.g., Italian, Spanish), some Romance languages and language varieties display both types, thus providing interesting data for the study of variation.


Alignment and Word Order in the Romance Languages  

Francesco Rovai

The term “alignment” refers to the formal realization of the argument structure of the clause, that is, the ways in which the core arguments of the predicate are encoded by means of three main morphosyntactic devices: nominal case marking (morphological case, adpositions), verb marking systems (verbal agreement, pronominal affixes, auxiliaries, voice distinctions, etc.), and word order. The relative importance of these mechanisms of argument coding may considerably vary from language to language. In the Romance family, a major role is played by finite verb agreement and, to a lesser extent, auxiliary selection, participial agreement, voice distinctions, and word order, depending on the language/variety. Most typically, both transitive and intransitive subjects share the same formal coding (they control finite verb agreement and precede the verb in the basic word order) and are distinguished from direct objects (which do not control finite verb agreement and follow the verb in the basic word order). This arrangement of the argument structure is traditionally known as “nominative/accusative” alignment and can be easily identified as the main alignment of the Romance languages. Note that, with very few exceptions, nominal case marking is instead “neutral,” since no overt morphological distinction is made between subject and object arguments after the loss of the Latin case system. However, although the Romance languages can legitimately be associated with an accusative alignment, it must be borne in mind that, whatever the property selected, natural languages speak against an all-encompassing, holistic typology. A language “belongs” to an alignment type only insofar as it displays a significantly above-average frequency of clause structures with that kind of argument coding, but this does not exclude the existence of several grammatical domains that partake of different alignments. In the Romance family, minor patterns are attested that are not consistent with an accusative alignment. In part, they depend on robust crosslinguistic tendencies in the distribution of the different alignment types when they coexist in the same language. In part, they reflect phenomena of morphosyntactic realignment that can be traced back to the transition from Latin to Romance, when, alongside the dominant accusative alignment of the classical language, Late Latin developed an active alignment in some domains of the grammar—a development that has its roots in Classical and Early Latin. Today, the Romance languages preserve traces of this intermediate stage, but in large part, the signs of it have been replaced with novel accusative structures. In particular, at the level of the sentence, there emerges an accusative-aligned word order, with the preverbal position realizing the default “subject” position and the postverbal position instantiating the default “object” position.


Dislocation in the Romance Languages: Syntax, Semantics, Discourse, Acquisition  

Davide Garassino

Dislocations are syntactic constructions consisting of a core sentence and a detached constituent located outside the clause, either at its left (left dislocation) or at its right (right dislocation). Typically, although not invariably, the clause hosts a resumptive element, often a pronoun, which is co-referent with the detached constituent. This separation between an extra-clausal element and the sentence led to the classification of dislocations as “non-canonical” or “marked” syntactic structures. Dislocations are attested in many language families, to the extent that they can be regarded as a language universal. However, these constructions have predominantly been examined in Germanic and Romance languages, both in formal and functional frameworks. Left and right dislocations are usually analyzed as topic-marking structures, in which the referent of the detached element has the function of sentence topic. However, specific types of topics appear to preferentially occur in either left or right dislocation. For example, left dislocations often convey topic shifts and contrastive topics, while continuous (or familiar) topics are more commonly found in right dislocations. Nonetheless, corpus-based research unveiled a more nuanced situation. Furthermore, interactionally oriented studies also suggest that exploring dislocations in spontaneous conversations is crucial for comprehending their broad functional spectrum. Thus, dislocations present many intriguing challenges to Romance linguistics, including the questions, To what extent do left and right dislocations differ syntactically and pragmatically across Romance languages? Are descriptions framed in terms of “topic establishing” and “topic promotion” truly adequate? What are the main prosodic characteristics of left and right dislocations? and What challenges do L1 and L2 learners encounter in the acquisition of these constructions?


Gothic and Other East Germanic Varieties  

Stefan Schaffner

Biblical Gothic is the earliest Germanic language preserved in a longer text. The main source is represented by the Bible translation of the Visigothic Arian Christian bishop Wulfila ( born ca. 311, deceased ca. 382–383). Another few short Gothic texts are extant. For the translation of the Bible (ca. 350–380), on the basis of a Greek text, Wulfila invented his own alphabet (called Wulfila’s alphabet), using the Greek alphabet as model, with the addition of Latin and runic characters. Several manuscripts (5th/6th century; the most famous is the Uppsala Codex argenteus) contain the greater part of the New Testament. In spite of its fragmentary documentation, Gothic represents without doubt an important basis for the reconstruction of Proto-Germanic, because it offers—due to its early attestation—very archaic features in all areas of its grammar in comparison with the other old Germanic languages, the documentation of which began some centuries later. Gothic also shows recent innovations (especially the almost complete elimination of the effects of Verner’s Law within the strong verbs). The position of Gothic within the other Germanic subgroups, North and West Germanic, is still a matter of controversial discussion. Whereas older research stressed the correspondences between Gothic and North Germanic and, therefore, favored a closer relationship between them, postulating a subgroup Goto-Nordic, currently, a subgrouping into Northwest Germanic on the one hand and East Germanic (with Gothic as the most important representative) one the other hand is preferred, although this model also leaves open a couple of questions, giving impetus to further research. Other varieties of East Germanic are runic epigraphic texts (less than 10, most of them probably Gothic) from the 1st half of the 3rd century until the end of the 6th century. One of them (on the Charnay fibula, 2nd half of the 6th century) is probably of Burgundian origin. The documentation of other EGrm (East Germanic). languages is very poor and consists almost only of a few names. Two short syntagmata can probably be attributed to Vandalic. Crimean Gothic, the latest attested EGrm. language, is documented in a list of several dozen words and three lines of a cantilena. Most attested forms seem to represent a late EGrm. dialect.


PPs and Particles in Germanic  

Marion Elenbaas

Prepositional phrases (PPs) are headed by a preposition, an indeclinable word that expresses relationships between two entities, the Figure and the Ground. Prepositions are members of a larger class of adpositions, which also includes postpositions, circumpositions, and particles. The Germanic languages are predominantly prepositional, while postpositions and circumpositions are much rarer. Prepositions express either spatial (locative, directional) relationships or nonspatial (such as temporal, aspectual) relationships. PPs may function as nonargument modifiers (of verbs, nouns, adjectives) or as arguments (of verbs, nouns, adjectives). The syntax and argument structure of PPs is characterized by a range of phenomena that are found across the Germanic languages, though not necessarily to the same extent and with the same properties. A number of prepositions are homonymous with so-called particles, which feature in what is often called a particle (or “phrasal”) verb. Particle verbs are extremely common in all Germanic languages and have an array of spatial and nonspatial meanings. While there is some variation in the morphosyntactic behavior of particle verbs across the Germanic languages, they have in common that they straddle the boundary between morphology and syntax: the verb and the particle behave as a unit, and yet they are separable. Particles are often treated as intransitive prepositions (with a Figure but without a Ground) and therefore as a type of adposition. The heterogeneous nature of the category of adposition and the characteristics of PPs and particles in Germanic languages have led to considerable debate concerning the functional or lexical nature of adpositions as well as the morphological (word) status or syntactic (phrasal) status of particle verbs.


The Syntax of Causatives in the Romance Languages  

Fabienne Martin

This article discusses the syntax of lexical and periphrastic causative verbs in the Romance languages. Several aspects of these verbs are examined: the building blocks of lexical causative verbs, the role of reflexive marking on the anticausative form, the interaction between causativity and agentivity, the morphosyntactic make-up of causative verbs with causative semantics. It offers a comprehensive typology of lexical causatives, resultatives and periphrastic causatives, relying on recent research on these topics.


Diatheses in Germanic  

Simon Kasper

An alternation between clauses is treated as a diathetical alternation (a) if one or more semantic roles associated with the main verb exhibit differential grammatical (i.e., morphological or syntactic) encoding, (b) if the overt lexical expressions have same lexical roots, and (c) if the clauses approximately share at least the meaning and truth conditions of the semantically less specific clause alternant. This qualifies as diathesis what has come to be known as the canonical passive, impersonal passive, non-canonical passive, pseudo-passive, anticausative, the dative alternation, and the locative alternation, among others. The focus of this article is on the semantic restrictions governing a clause’s participation in various diathetical alternations across the modern Germanic (standard) languages. Semantic differences between alternating clauses are captured using a sophisticated semantic role account. Grammatical encoding of diathesis is described in a theory-neutral manner using the four-case system of the old Germanic languages as a tertium comparationis and syntactic function notions from descriptive typology. Diatheses are differentiated by the semantic roles that are fore- and backgrounded by means of the syntactic functions they bear. The roles that alternate in grammatical coding are foregrounded in the clause in which they have the higher syntactic function in a syntactic function hierarchy, and they are backgrounded in the clause in which they have the lower syntactic function. In a first set of diatheses, alternations are described in which the proto-agent role is backgrounded and a proto-patient is foregrounded. This set includes a “patient passive” and the “anticausative domain.” In a second set of diatheses, the proto-agent is again backgrounded, but now the proto-recipient is foregrounded. This is illustrated using the “eventive recipient passive.” Completing this pattern, the “locational passive” represents a diathetical pattern in which the proto-agent role is backgrounded once more and the proto-locational role is foregrounded. Other types of diatheses in which the proto-locational is foregrounded and the proto-patient is backgrounded are exemplified by means of the location/possession alternation (dative alternation) and the location/affection alternation (e.g., locative and applicative alternations).


Degree Expressions in Chinese  

Linmin Zhang

Degree expressions in natural language reflect how human cognition performs abstract tasks like taking measurements (i.e., mapping items to degrees on a certain scale) and conducting comparisons between measurements. There is a great variation on how different languages encode notions like degrees and scales and operate comparison, inspiring ongoing theoretical development in degree semantics. This article presents major empirical data on degree expressions in Mandarin Chinese and surveys current research on Chinese-specific phenomena. Compared to well-known English phenomena, Chinese gradable predicates like 高gāo ‘tall, high’ seem rather syntactic-category-fluid, and due to the lack of comparative morphemes, their interpretation can be ambiguous between a comparative use and a positive/measurement interpretation. Typical degree expressions in Chinese, including the positive use, comparatives, equatives, and measurement constructions, demonstrate patterns different from those in English. Moreover, not only adjective-like words such as 高gāo ‘tall, high’, but also property nouns (e.g., 魅力mèi-lì ‘charm’, 钱qián ‘money’) and mental verbs (e.g., 喜欢xǐ-huān ‘like’) have gradable meanings and can be used to form degree expressions. With regard to these empirical phenomena, this article focuses on the following fundamental research questions in the literature: (a) The encoding of comparison: In a language lacking comparative morphemes, how is the distinction established between the positive and the comparative interpretation? (b) Compositional derivation: How are Chinese comparatives distinct from well-studied English clausal comparatives? (c) Ontology of degrees: How do various Chinese degree expressions reveal the underlying ontological assumptions of scales and degrees? Even though many of the research questions are still hotly debated in the existing literature, research on Chinese empirical data already brings profound implications for theoretical development of degree semantics. In particular, this article suggests a new look at variations between languages with versus without overt comparative morphemes (e.g., English -er) and invites more research on the pragmatics involved in cross-linguistic degree expressions.


Liheci ‘Separable Words’ in Mandarin Chinese  

Kuang Ye and Haihua Pan

Liheci ‘separable words’ is a special phenomenon in Mandarin Chinese, and it refers to an intransitive verb with two or more syllables that allows the insertion of syntactic modifiers or an argument in between the first syllable and the second or the rest of syllables with the help of the nominal modifier marker de. There are two major groups of Liheci: those stored in the lexicon, such as bangmang ‘help’, lifa ‘haircut’, and shenqi ‘anger’, and those derived in syntax through noun-to-verb incorporation, such as chifan ‘eat meal’, leiqiang ‘build wall’, in which fan ‘meal’ and qiang ‘wall’ are incorporated into chi ‘eat’ and lei ‘build’, respectively, to function as temporary verbal compounds. The well-known behavior of Liheci is that it can be separated by nominal modifiers or a syntactic argument. For example, bangmang ‘help’ can be used to form a verb phrase bang Lisi-de mang ‘give Lisi a help’ by inserting Lisi and a nominal modifier marker, de, between bang and mang, with bang being understood as the predicate and Lisi-de mang as the object. Although Lisi appears as a possessor marked by de, it should be understood as the theme object of the compound verb. In similar ways, the syntactic–semantic elements such as agent, theme, adjectives, measure phrases, relative clauses, and the like can all be inserted between the two components of bangmang, deriving verb phrases like (Zhangsan) bang Zhangsan-de mang ‘(Zhangsan) do Zhangsan’s help’, where Zhangsan is the agent; bang-le yi-ci mang ‘help once’, where yi-ci is a measure phrase; and bang bieren bu xiang bang de mang ‘give a help that others don’t want to give’, where bieren bu xiang bang is a relative clause. The same insertions can be found in Liheci formed in syntax. For example, chi liang-ci fan ‘eat two time’s meal’ (eat meals twice), lei san-tian qiang ‘build three day’s wall’ (build walls for three days). There are three syntactic-semantic properties exhibited in verb phrases formed with Liheci: first, possessors being understood as Liheci’s logical argument; second, interdependent relation between the predicate and the complement; and, third, obligatory use of verbal classifiers instead of nominal classifiers. In this article, first, five influential analyses in the literature are reviewed, pointing out their strengths and weaknesses. Then, the cognate object approach is discussed. Under this approach, Lihecis are found to be intransitive verbs that are capable of taking nominalized reduplicates of themselves as their cognate objects. After a complementary deletion on the verb and its reduplicate object in the Phonetic Form (PF), all the relevant verb phrases can be well derived, with no true separation involved in the derivation, as all the copies of Liheci in question remain intact all along. After a discussion of the relevant syntactic structures, it is shown that with this syntactic capacity, all participants involved in the events can be successfully accommodated and correctly interpreted. The advantage can be manifested in six aspects, demonstrating that this proposal fares much better than other approaches.



Eva Skafte Jensen

Danish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 6 million people. Genealogically, it is related to the other Germanic languages, in particular the other North Germanic languages (Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Faroese), but also, for example, German, Dutch, and English; typologically, Modern Danish is closer to Norwegian and Swedish than to any other language. Historically deriving from Proto-Germanic, Danish morphology once had three grammatical genders (the masculine, the feminine, and the neuter) and case inflection (nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive) in all nominal words; it also had inflection for mood, tense, number, and person in the verbal conjugations. In Modern Standard Danish, much of the traditional nominal and verbal inflection has disappeared. Instead, other kinds of morphosyntactic constructions and structures have emerged. Middle Danish and Modern Danish are typologically very different languages. One of the structural innovations linked to the typological change is that a syntactic subject becomes obligatory in Danish sentences. Correlated to this, Danish develops expletive constructions with det ‘it’ and der ‘there’. Another important point differentiating Middle Danish from Modern Danish concerns agreement. Traditional Indo-European agreement (verbal as well as nominal) has receded in favor of more fixed word order, both on the sentence level and internally within phrases. As part of this, Modern Danish has developed a set of definite and indefinite articles. The traditional three genders are reduced to two (common and neuter) and have developed new syntactic-semantic functions alongside the traditional lexically distributed functions. In the verbal systems, Danish makes use of two different kinds of passive voice (a periphrastic and an inflected one), which carry different meanings, and also of two different auxiliaries in perfective constructions, that is, have ‘have’ and være ‘be’, the latter doubling as an auxiliary in periphrastic passive constructions. Perfective constructions are made up by an auxiliary and the supine form of the main verb. Danish is a V2-language with a relatively fixed word order, often depicted in the form of the so-called sentence frame, a topological model designed specifically for Danish. Like most other Germanic languages, Danish has a rich set of modal particles. All these morphosyntactic features, Danish shares with Swedish and Norwegian, but the distribution is not completely identical in the three languages, something that makes the Mainland Scandinavian languages an interesting study object to the typologically interested linguist. Exclusive for Danish is the so-called stød, a suprasegmental prosodic feature, used as a distinctive feature. Modern Danish is strongly standardized with only little of the traditional dialectal variation left. From the end of the 20th century, in the larger cities, new sociolects have emerged, that is, multi-ethnolects. The new multi-ethnolects are based on a substrate of Danish with lexical features from the languages of Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. In addition to the lexical innovations, the multi-ethnolects are characteristic in intonation patterns different from Standard Danish, and they have morphosyntactic features different from Standard Danish, for example, in word order and in the use of gender.