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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

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.

Article

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.

Article

Focus and Focus Structures in the Romance Languages  

Silvio Cruschina

Focus is key to understanding processes of syntactic and prosodic readjustments in the Romance languages. Since, prosodically, it must be the most prominent constituent in the sentence, focus associates with the nuclear pitch accent, which may be shifted from its default rightmost position when the syntactic position of the focus also changes. The application of specific syntactic operations depends both on the size and on the subtype of focus, although not always unambiguously. Subject inversion characterizes focus structures where the domain of focus covers either the whole sentence (broad-focus) or a single constituent (narrow-focus). Presentational constructions distinctively mark broad focus, avoiding potential ambiguity with an SVO structure where the predicate is the focus and the subject is interpreted as topic. In narrow-focus structures, the focus constituent typically occurs sentence-final (postverbal focalization), but it may also be fronted (focus fronting), depending on the specific interpretation associated with the focus. Semantically, focus indicates the presence of alternatives, and the different interpretations arise from the way the set of alternatives is pragmatically exploited, giving rise to a contextually open set (information focus), to contrast or correction (contrastive or corrective focus), or to surprise or unexpectedness (mirative focus). Whether a subtype of focus may undergo fronting in a Romance language is subject to variation. In most varieties it is indeed possible with contrastive or corrective focus, but it has been shown that focus fronting is also acceptable with noncontrastive focus in several languages, especially with mirative focus. Finally, certain focus-sensitive operators or particles directly interact with the narrow-focus constituent of the sentence and their association with focus has semantic effects on the interpretation of the sentence.

Article

Cognitive Semantics in the Romance Languages  

Ulrich Detges

Cognitive semantics (CS) is an approach to the study of linguistic meaning. It is based on the assumption that the human linguistic capacity is part of our cognitive abilities, and that language in general and meaning in particular can therefore be better understood by taking into account the cognitive mechanisms that control the conceptual and perceptual processing of extra-linguistic reality. Issues central to CS are (a) the notion of prototype and its role in the description of language, (b) the nature of linguistic meaning, and (c) the functioning of different types of semantic relations. The question concerning the nature of meaning is an issue that is particularly controversial between CS on the one hand and structuralist and generative approaches on the other hand: is linguistic meaning conceptual, that is, part of our encyclopedic knowledge (as is claimed by CS), or is it autonomous, that is, based on abstract and language-specific features? According to CS, the most important types of semantic relations are metaphor, metonymy, and different kinds of taxonomic relations, which, in turn, can be further broken down into more basic associative relations such as similarity, contiguity, and contrast. These play a central role not only in polysemy and word formation, that is, in the lexicon, but also in the grammar.

Article

Numerical Expressions in Chinese: Syntax and Semantics  

Chuansheng He and Min Zhang

Numerical expressions are linguistic forms related to numbers or quantities, which directly reflect the relationship between linguistic symbols and mathematical cognition. Featuring some unique properties, numeral systems are somewhat distinguished from other language subsystems. For instance, numerals can appear in various grammatical positions, including adjective positions, determiner positions, and argument positions. Thus, linguistic research on numeral systems, especially the research on the syntax and semantics of numerical expressions, has been a popular and recurrent topic. For the syntax of complex numerals, two analyses have been proposed in the literature. The traditional constituency analysis maintains that complex numerals are phrasal constituents, which has been widely accepted and defended as a null hypothesis. The nonconstituency analysis, by contrast, claims that a complex numeral projects a complementative structure in which a numeral is a nominal head selecting a lexical noun or a numeral-noun combination as its complement. As a consequence, additive numerals are transformed from full NP coordination. Whether numerals denote numbers or sets has aroused a long-running debate. The number-denoting view assumes that numerals refer to numbers, which are abstract objects, grammatically equivalent to nouns. The primary issue with this analysis comes from the introduction of a new entity, numbers, into the model of ontology. The set-denoting view argues that numerals refer to sets, which are equivalent to adjectives or quantifiers in grammar. One main difficulty of this view is how to account for numerals in arithmetic sentences.

Article

Morphology in Japonic Languages  

Taro Kageyama

Due to the agglutinative character, Japanese and Ryukyuan morphology is predominantly concatenative, applying to garden-variety word formation processes such as compounding, prefixation, suffixation, and inflection, though nonconcatenative morphology like clipping, blending, and reduplication is also available and sometimes interacts with concatenative word formation. The formal simplicity of the principal morphological devices is counterbalanced by their complex interaction with syntax and semantics as well as by the intricate interactions of four lexical strata (native, Sino-Japanese, foreign, and mimetic) with particular morphological processes. A wealth of phenomena is adduced that pertain to central issues in theories of morphology, such as the demarcation between words and phrases; the feasibility of the lexical integrity principle; the controversy over lexicalism and syntacticism; the distinction of morpheme-based and word-based morphology; the effects of the stage-level vs. individual-level distinction on the applicability of morphological rules; the interface of morphology, syntax, and semantics, and pragmatics; and the role of conjugation and inflection in predicate agglutination. In particular, the formation of compound and complex verbs/adjectives takes place in both lexical and syntactic structures, and the compound and complex predicates thus formed are further followed in syntax by suffixal predicates representing grammatical categories like causative, passive, negation, and politeness as well as inflections of tense and mood to form a long chain of predicate complexes. In addition, an array of morphological objects—bound root, word, clitic, nonindependent word or fuzoku-go, and (for Japanese) word plus—participate productively in word formation. The close association of morphology and syntax in Japonic languages thus demonstrates that morphological processes are spread over lexical and syntactic structures, whereas words are equipped with the distinct property of morphological integrity, which distinguishes them from syntactic phrases.

Article

Idioms and Phraseology  

M. Teresa Espinal and Jaume Mateu

Idioms, conceived as fixed multi-word expressions that conceptually encode non-compositional meaning, are linguistic units that raise a number of questions relevant in the study of language and mind (e.g., whether they are stored in the lexicon or in memory, whether they have internal or external syntax similar to other expressions of the language, whether their conventional use is parallel to their non-compositional meaning, whether they are processed in similar ways to regular compositional expressions of the language, etc.). Idioms show some similarities and differences with other sorts of formulaic expressions, the main types of idioms that have been characterized in the linguistic literature, and the dimensions on which idiomaticity lies. Syntactically, idioms manifest a set of syntactic properties, as well as a number of constraints that account for their internal and external structure. Semantically, idioms present an interesting behavior with respect to a set of semantic properties that account for their meaning (i.e., conventionality, compositionality, and transparency, as well as aspectuality, referentiality, thematic roles, etc.). The study of idioms has been approached from lexicographic and computational, as well as from psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic perspectives.

Article

Personal/Participant/Inhabitant in Morphology  

Marios Andreou

The category of Personal/Participant/Inhabitant derived nouns comprises a conglomeration of derived nouns that denote among others agents, instruments, patients/themes, inhabitants, and followers of a person. Based on the thematic relations between the derived noun and its base lexeme, Personal/Participant/Inhabitant nouns can be classified into two subclasses. The first subclass comprises derived nouns that are deverbal and carry thematic readings (e.g., driver). The second subclass consists of derived nouns with athematic readings (e.g., Marxist). The examination of the category of Personal/Participant/Inhabitant nouns allows one to delve deeply into the study of multiplicity of meaning in word formation and the factors that bear on the readings of derived words. These factors range from the historical mechanisms that lead to multiplicity of meaning and the lexical-semantic properties of the bases that derived nouns are based on, to the syntactic context into which derived nouns occur, and the pragmatic-encyclopedic facets of both the base and the derived lexeme.