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Article

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.

Article

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?

Article

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.

Article

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.

Article

Focus in Chinese  

Peppina Po-lun Lee and Yueming Sun

Focus is a phenomenon intertwined between different levels of linguistics and context/discourse, and different languages appeal to different ways in marking focus. Chinese mainly adopts syntactic structures and focus markers for focus marking. Different from European languages, it is widely acknowledged that Chinese uses more syntax and less phonology in focus realization. It is argued that Chinese is a language that exhibits a reverse relationship between syntactic positioning and phonological prominence of focus, and focus types in Chinese are generally viewed from a grammatical perspective. With syntax as a prominent way of focus marking, Chinese appeals to a wide range of syntactic constructions to mark focus. While sentence-final position by default is taken as the position where new information is located, focus can be grammatically marked by constructions like shi…de ‘be…DE’ construction, bare shi construction, and bare de construction, with bare shi construction seemingly representing the closest to cleft constituent among the three. Apart from the variants in different shi constructions, object preposing is also another way of grammatical focus marking in Chinese, which involves the issue of whether the preposed object marks focus or subtopic, with both bearing a contrastive feature. Apart from focus marking through syntactic constructions, Chinese appeals to preverbal focus adverbs as their focus particles. Natural language includes two types of focus particles—namely, restrictive and additive particles. For restrictive adverbs, Chinese appeals to the first group through the adjunction of the exclusive adverb, including zhi(-you/-shi) ‘only(-have/be)’, with exclusiveness conducted by grammatical mechanism. Apart from this, the second group includes the widely recognized restrictive focus particles that do not perform restrictive focus marking through adjunction. Typical members include jiu ‘only’, cai ‘only’, and dou ‘all’, which are sensitive to focus and affect the truth condition of a sentence. Among the restrictive focus particles, jiu and cai are most controversial, with both translated as only in English. For additive particles, one widely discussed focus-marking construction is lian...dou/ye ‘even...all/also’, which is argued to mark inclusive or additive focus. Other additive adverbs include at least four—namely, you ‘again/too’, ye ‘also’, hai ‘still’, and zai ‘again’, with their English counterparts taken as also, even, again, still, or too. Focus markers in Chinese tend to be polysemous in meaning, making their semantics very complicated. On top of this, it is claimed that the linear order of constituents also plays an important role in focus structuring in Mandarin, with discourse and prosody structurally interacting with word order or syntactic structures to determine focus structures in Chinese. Linearity and syntax represent the two major ways of focus marking in Chinese. This is unlike English and other European languages, in which intonation and phonological prominence represent the major way.

Article

History of the Occitan and Gascon Lexicon  

Hélène Carles and Martin Glessgen

The process of differentiation of the Occitan and the Gascon lexicon began under the Roman Empire, increasing from the 8th century onward, and was further accentuated during the course of the second millennium. The dialects but also the written varieties of Medieval Occitan and Gascon were highly developed and remained pluricentric. The mechanisms of lexical innovation engendered by the development of the various textual traditions, as well as by intertextuality, caused the vocabulary to develop considerably between the 12th and the 15th centuries. From the 16th to the 19th centuries, the process of elaboration of written culture began to grind to a halt, although the two languages continued to be spoken throughout the territory. The traditional vocabulary continued to diversify, parallel to the development of regional literature and the constitution of significant lexical inventories. Thus, at the start of the contemporary period, the dialectal varieties of Occitan and Gascon had reached a pinnacle of diversification, but use of the spoken variety diminished throughout the 20th century, despite the powerful revival movements of the 19th and 20th centuries. Future research should intensify its efforts in the field of lexicological analysis with the object of emphasizing the richness of dialectal varieties and the expressivity of contemporary literature.

Article

Negative Polarity Items in Chinese  

Bo Xue and Haihua Pan

Negative polarity items (NPIs) are well known for their limited distribution, that is, their negation-implicating contexts, the phenomenon of which has attracted much attention in generative linguistics since Klima’s seminal work. There is a large amount of research on NPI licensing that aims to (a) identify the range of potential licensors of NPIs, also known as Ladusaw’s licensor question; (b) ascertain the semantic/logical properties shared by these licensors; (c) elucidate the licensing dependency, for example, whether the dependency between an NPI and its licensor involves a structural requirement like c-command, and (d) shed light on the nature of polarity-sensitive items in natural languages and, more generally, the architectural organization of the syntax–semantics and semantics–pragmatics interfaces. Theories of NPI licensing on the market abound, ranging from Klima’s affectivity to the influential Fauconnier–Ladusaw downward-entailingness (DE) as well as some weakened versions of Ladusaw’s licensing condition like (non-)veridicality and Strawson downward-entailingness. These theories are primarily concerned with pinpointing the logical properties of NPI licensors and elucidating the dependency between a licensor and its licensee. Broadly speaking, NPIs are assumed to be in the scope of some negative element. On the licensor side, various logical properties have been identified, resulting in a more fine-grained distinction between different negative strengths including downward-entailing, anti-additive, and anti-morphic. Moreover, a diverse class of NPIs has been uncovered and differentiated, including English weak NPIs like any/ever, for which simple DE would suffice, and stronger NPIs like in years/the minimizer sleep a wink, which are more selective and correlate with a stronger negative strength, namely, anti-additivity. Further theoretical developments of NPI licensing shift to the nature of NPIs and their communicative roles in a discourse, unearthing important properties like domain-widening in need of semantic strengthening (with its recent implementation in the alternative-and-exhaustification framework), which advances the understanding of their polarity-sensitive profiles. Chinese NPIs include renhe-phrases (similar to English any) and wh-items, and minimizers, all of which are also confined to certain negative semantic contexts and not acceptable if they occur in simple positive episodic sentences without Chinese dou ‘all’. Descriptively, among canonical affective contexts(those including sentential negation, yes–no/wh questions, intensional verbs, if-clauses, imperatives, modals, adversative emotive predicates, adverb dou ‘all’, and the exclusive particle zhiyou ‘only’), renhe-phrases, and wh-items can be licensed by sentential negation, yes–no questions, intensional verbs, if-clauses, imperatives, modals, and the left restrictor of dou ‘all’, whereas minimizers like yi-fen qian ‘one penny’ display a more constrained distribution and can only be licensed by sentential negation, yes–no rhetorical questions, concessive if-clauses, and the left restrictor of dou. There are at least two research questions worth exploring in the future. First, the affective contexts licensing Chinese renhe-phrases, wh-items, and minimizers are not totally the same, with minimizers being more constrained in their distribution. What could explain the unique behavior of Chinese minimizers? Why are these minimizers deviant in modal contexts and in need of the likelihood reasoning? Second, the affective contexts licensing Chinese NPIs do not totally overlap with those licensing English any. What could explain the divergent distributions of NPIs cross-linguistically?

Article

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.

Article

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).

Article

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.