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Morphology and Argument Alternations  

Malka Rappaport Hovav

Theories of argument realization typically associate verbs with an argument structure and provide algorithms for the mapping of argument structure to morphosyntactic realization. A major challenge to such theories comes from the fact that most verbs have more than one option for argument realization. Sometimes a particular range of realization options for a verb is systematic in that it is consistently available to a relatively well-defined class of verbs; it is then considered to be one of a set of recognized argument alternations . Often—but not always—these argument alternations are associated morphological marking. An examination of cross-linguistic patterns of morphology associated with the causative alternation and the dative alternation reveals that the alternation is not directly encoded in the morphology. For both alternations, understanding the morphological patterns requires an understanding of the interaction between the semantics of the verb and the construction the verb is integrated into. Strikingly, similar interactions between the verb and the construction are found in languages that do not mark the alternations morphologically, and the patterns of morphological marking in morphologically rich languages can shed light on the appropriate analysis of the alternations in languages that do not mark the alternations morphologically.


Manner and Result Verbs in Mandarin Chinese  

Feng-hsi Liu

The distinction between manner and result verbs arises from the event structure approach to verb meaning. In this approach verb meaning consists of two parts, a structural component that includes a small number of primitive predicates indicating event types, and a root component that describes idiosyncratic actions and states. Manner verbs describe actions but not the end results; they have a simple event structure. By contrast, result verbs describe the end results but not the way actions are carried out; they have a complex event structure. The distinction plays an important role in argument realization and constraints on possible verb meanings. It is also related to an issue that has been controversial in the study of Chinese verbs—whether there are simple accomplishments in Chinese. On the basis of Beavers and Koontz-Garboden’s diagnostics for manner and result verbs in English, five tests are suggested for Mandarin Chinese (henceforth Chinese) verbs. Two tests concern result: (a) result cannot be denied; (b) in forming resultative verb compounds the second verb and the object are restricted. Three tests identify manner verbs: (a) subject cannot be nonhuman, (b) action cannot be denied, (c) action has duration. Relying on the five tests, dynamic simple verbs in Chinese are classified into three groups—manner, result, and manner + result. Result verbs include verbs of damage, for example, duan ‘cut off’ and hui ‘destroy’; manner verbs include the verb of killing sha ‘kill’, de-adjectival degree achievement verbs, for example, re ‘heat up’, verbs of cooking, for example, kao ‘bake’; and one verb is found to lexicalize both manner and result—mie ‘put out, extinguish’. The verb of killing sha ‘kill, do killing’ is examined in detail, as its status has remained unresolved in the literature. It is found that sha entails change but not culminating change; morphosyntactically it patterns like manner verbs, hence its manner status. In terms of the affectedness hierarchy, the cutoff between result and manner is between verbs of quantized change and non-quantized change. The grammatical relevance of the verb classification can be seen in argument realization. Manner verbs takes more than one type of object, whereas result verbs only take one type of object, where the patient undergoes scalar change. In argument alternation, result verbs, but not manner or manner + result verbs, participate in causative alternation, and only manner verbs allow object alternations. This data suggests that Chinese does have simple accomplishments.


Natural Language Ontology  

Friederike Moltmann

Natural language ontology is a branch of both metaphysics and linguistic semantics. Its aim is to uncover the ontological categories, notions, and structures that are implicit in the use of natural language, that is, the ontology that a speaker accepts when using a language. Natural language ontology is part of “descriptive metaphysics,” to use Strawson’s term, or “naive metaphysics,” to use Fine’s term, that is, the metaphysics of appearances as opposed to foundational metaphysics, whose interest is in what there really is. What sorts of entities natural language involves is closely linked to compositional semantics, namely what the contribution of occurrences of expressions in a sentence is taken to be. Most importantly, entities play a role as semantic values of referential terms, but also as implicit arguments of predicates and as parameters of evaluation. Natural language appears to involve a particularly rich ontology of abstract, minor, derivative, and merely intentional objects, an ontology many philosophers are not willing to accept. At the same time, a serious investigation of the linguistic facts often reveals that natural language does not in fact involve the sort of ontology that philosophers had assumed it does. Natural language ontology is concerned not only with the categories of entities that natural language commits itself to, but also with various metaphysical notions, for example the relation of part-whole, causation, material constitution, notions of existence, plurality and unity, and the mass-count distinction. An important question regarding natural language ontology is what linguistic data it should take into account. Looking at the sorts of data that researchers who practice natural language ontology have in fact taken into account makes clear that it is only presuppositions, not assertions, that reflect the ontology implicit in natural language. The ontology of language may be distinctive in that it may in part be driven specifically by language or the use of it in a discourse. Examples are pleonastic entities, discourse referents conceived of as entities of a sort, and an information-based notion of part structure involved in the semantics of plurals and mass nouns. Finally, there is the question of the universality of the ontology of natural language. Certainly, the same sort of reasoning should apply to consider it universal, in a suitable sense, as has been applied for the case of (generative) syntax.


Argument Realization and Case in Japanese  

Hideki Kishimoto

Japanese is a language where the grammatical status of arguments and adjuncts is marked exclusively by postnominal case markers, and various argument realization patterns can be assessed by their case marking. Since Japanese is categorized as a language of the nominative-accusative type typologically, the unmarked case-marking frame obtained for transitive predicates of the non-stative (or eventive) type is ‘nominative-accusative’. Nevertheless, transitive predicates falling into the stative class often have other case-marking alignments, such as ‘nominative-nominative’ and ‘dative-nominative’. Consequently, Japanese provides much more varying argument realization patterns than those expected from its typological character as a nominative-accusative language. In point of fact, argument marking can actually be much more elastic and variable, the variations being motivated by several linguistic factors. Arguments often have the option of receiving either syntactic or semantic case, with no difference in the logical or cognitive meaning (as in plural agent and source agent alternations) or depending on the meanings their predicate carry (as in locative alternation). The type of case marking that is not normally available in main clauses can sometimes be obtained in embedded contexts (i.e., in exceptional case marking and small-clause constructions). In complex predicates, including causative and indirect passive predicates, arguments are case-marked differently from their base clauses by virtue of suffixation, and their case patterns follow the mono-clausal case array, despite the fact that they have multi-clausal structures. Various case marking options are also made available for arguments by grammatical operations. Some processes instantiate a change on the grammatical relations and case marking of arguments with no affixation or embedding. Japanese has the grammatical process of subjectivization, creating extra (non-thematic) major subjects, many of which are identified as instances of ‘possessor raising’ (or argument ascension). There is another type of grammatical process, which reduces the number of arguments by virtue of incorporating a noun into the predicate, as found in the light verb constructions with suru ‘do’ and the complex adjective constructions formed on the negative adjective nai ‘non-existent.’


Argument Structure and Morphology  

Jim Wood and Neil Myler

The topic “argument structure and morphology” refers to the interaction between the number and nature of the arguments taken by a given predicate on the one hand, and the morphological makeup of that predicate on the other. This domain turns out to be crucial to the study of a number of theoretical issues, including the nature of thematic representations, the proper treatment of irregularity (both morphophonological and morphosemantic), and the very place of morphology in the architecture of the grammar. A recurring question within all existing theoretical approaches is whether word formation should be conceived of as split across two “places” in the grammar, or as taking place in only one.


Collective/Abstract in Morphology  

Livio Gaeta

In morphology, the two labels ‘collective’ and ‘abstract’ have been used to refer to properties and categories relevant at different levels. The term collective is normally used in connection with number and plurality in reference to a plurality presented as a homogeneous group of entities. This can be relevant for inflectional morphology where it can be shown to flank markers for coding number in some languages. Moreover, a plurality intended as a homogeneous group of individuals can also be relevant for word-formation patterns where it usually expresses concrete or abstract sets of objects relating to the derivational base. The term abstract makes general reference to processes of nominalization from different source classes, especially verbs and adjectives. In the passage to the nominal domain, verbal properties like tense and argument structure are partially lost while new nominal properties are acquired. In particular, a number of semantic shifts are observed which turn the abstract noun into a concrete noun referring to the result, the place, etc. relating to the derivational base. Although the morphological processes covered by the two labels apparently depict different conceptual domains, there is in fact an area where they systematically overlap, namely with deverbal nouns denoting an abstract or concrete, iterated or habitual instantiation of the action referred to by the verbal base, which can be conceptualized as a collective noun.


Causative/Inchoative in Morphology  

Mercedes Tubino-Blanco

The Causative/Inchoative alternation involves pairs of verbs, one of which is causative and the other non-causative syntactically and semantically (e.g., John broke the window vs. The window broke). In its causative use, an alternating verb is used transitively and understood as externally caused. When used non-causatively, the verb is intransitive and interpreted as spontaneous. The alternation typically exhibits an affected argument (i.e., a Theme) in both intransitive and transitive uses, whereas the transitive use also involves a Causer that brings about the event. Although they are often volitional agents (e.g., John broke the window with a stone), external causers may also be non-volitional causers (e.g., The earthquake broke the windows) and instruments (e.g., The hammer broke the window). Morphologically, languages exhibit different patterns reflecting the alternation, even intralinguistically. In languages like English, alternations are not morphologically coded, but they are in most languages. Languages like Hindi commonly mark causative (or transitive) alternations by means of different mechanisms, such as internal vowel changes or causative morphology. In many European languages, a subset of alternating verbs may exhibit an uncoded alternation, but most alternating verbs mark anticausativization with a reflexive-like clitic. In Yaqui (Uto-Aztecan), different patterns are associated with different verbal roots. The alternation may be uncoded, equipollent (i.e., both alternating forms are coded), and anticausative. Theoretically, different approaches have explored the alternation. Both lexical and syntactic causativization and anticausativization accounts have been proposed to explain the alternation. A third approach postulates that both forms are derived from a common source.


Lexical Integrity in Morphology  

Ignacio Bosque

The Lexical Integrity Hypothesis (LIH) holds that words are syntactic atoms, implying that syntactic processes and principles do not have access to word segments. Interestingly, when this widespread “negative characterization” is turned into its positive version, a standard picture of the Morphology-Syntax borderline is obtained. The LIH is both a fundamental principle of Morphology and a test bench for morphological theories. As a matter of fact, the LIH is problematic for both lexicalist and anti-lexicalist frameworks, which radically differ in accepting or rejecting Morphology as a component of grammar different from Syntax. Lexicalist theories predict no exceptions to LIH, contrary to fact. From anti-lexicalist theories one might expect a large set of counterexamples to this hypothesis, but the truth is that attested potential exceptions are restricted, as well as confined to very specific grammatical areas. Most of the phenomena taken to be crucial for evaluating the LIH are briefly addressed in this article: argument structure, scope, prefixes, compounds, pronouns, elliptical segments, bracketing paradoxes, and coordinated structures. It is argued that both lexicalist and anti-lexicalist positions crucially depend on the specific interpretations that their proponents are willing to attribute to the very notion of Syntax: a broad one, which basically encompasses constituent structure, binary branching, scope, and compositionality, and a narrow one, which also coverts movement, recursion, deletion, coordination, and other aspects of phrase structure. The objective differences between these conceptions of Syntax are shown to be determinant in the evaluation of LIH’s predictions.


Korean Syntax  

James Hye Suk Yoon

The syntax of Korean is characterized by several signature properties. One signature property is head-finality. Word order variations and restrictions obey head-finality. Korean also possesses wh in-situ as well as internally headed relative clauses, as is typical of a head-final language. Another major signature property is dependent-marking. Korean has systematic case-marking on nominal dependents and very little, if any, head-marking. Case-marking and related issues, such as multiple case constructions, case alternations, case stacking, case-marker ellipsis, and case-marking on adjuncts, are front and center properties of Korean syntax as viewed from the dependent-marking perspective. Research on these aspects of Korean has contributed to the theoretical understanding of case and grammatical relations in linguistic theory. Korean is also characterized by agglutinative morphosyntax. Many issues in Korean syntax straddle the morphology-syntax boundary. Korean morphosyntax constitutes a fertile testing ground for ongoing debates about the relationship between morphology and syntax in domains such as coordination, deverbal nominalizations (mixed category constructions), copula, and other denominal constructions. Head-finality and agglutinative morphosyntax intersect in domains such as complex/serial verb and auxiliary verb constructions. Negation, which is a type of auxiliary verb construction, and the related phenomena of negative polarity licensing, offer important evidence for crosslinguistic understanding of these phenomena. Finally, there is an aspect of Korean syntax that reflects areal contact. Lexical and grammatical borrowing, topic prominence, pervasive occurrence of null arguments and ellipsis, as well as a complex system of anaphoric expressions, resulted from sustained contact with neighboring Sino-Tibetan languages.


Nominalizations in the Romance Languages  

Antonio Fábregas and Rafael Marín

The term nominalization refers to a specific type of category-changing morphological operation that produces nouns from other lexical categories, most productively verbs and adjectives. By extension, it is also used to refer to the resulting derived nouns. In Romance languages, nominalization generally involves addition of a suffix to the base (cf. Italian generoso ‘generous’ > generos-ità ‘generosity’), and such suffixes are called nominalizers. However there are also cases of nouns built from other categories without any overt nominalizer (cf. Spanish inútil ‘useless’ > inútil ‘useless person’); descriptively, this process is called conversion, and it is debatable whether it should also be treated as a nominalization or whether another different kind of morphological operation is involved here. Nominalizations can be divided in several classes depending on a variety of semantic and syntactic factors, such as the type of entities that they denote or the ability to introduce arguments. The main nominalization classes are (a) complex event nominalizations, which come from verbs, can combine with some temporal and aspectual modifiers, and have the ability to introduce at least an internal argument; (b) state nominalizations, which denote states associated to the verbs that serve as their bases; (c) participant nominalizations, which denote different types of arguments of the base, such as agents, resulting objects, locations or recipients; and (d) quality nominalizations, coming from adjectives and more restrictively from verbs, which denote a set of properties related to their base. Different classes of predicates select for different nominalization types, and there is a debate surrounding which tests capture in a more complete way the nuances of this taxonomy. Nominalizers impose different types of restrictions to their bases: aspectual restrictions (individual-level vs. stage-level, (a) telicity, dynamicity, etc.), argument structure restrictions (agent vs. nonagent, different types of internal arguments), morphological restrictions (for instance, selecting only verbs that belong to a particular conjugation class), and finally conceptual restrictions (for instance, showing a strong preference for bases belonging to a particular conceptual domain). In Romance languages, nominalizations sometimes alternate with other word classes, most significantly infinitives (see article on “Infinitival Clauses in the Romance Languages” in this encyclopedia). Infinitival constructions in Romance can display a mixture of verbal and nominal properties, or be totally recategorized as nouns, and in both cases they can compete with prototypical nominalizations. Less generally, participles (see article on “Participial Relative Clauses” in this encyclopedia), gerunds and supines can also display nominalization properties in some Romance varieties.


Valency in the Romance Languages  

Steffen Heidinger

The notion of valency describes the property of verbs to open argument positions in a sentence (e.g., the verb eat opens two argument positions, filled in the sentence John ate the cake by the subject John and the direct object the cake). Depending on the number of arguments, a verb is avalent (no argument), monovalent (one argument), bivalent (two arguments), or trivalent (three arguments). In Romance languages, verbs are often labile (i.e., they occur in more than one valency pattern without any formal change on the verb). For example, the (European and Brazilian) Portuguese verb adoecer ‘get sick’/‘make sick’ can be used both as a monovalent and a bivalent verb (O bebê adoeceu ‘The baby got sick’ vs. O tempo frio adoeceu o bebê ‘The cold weather made the baby sick’). However, labile verbs are not equally important in all Romance languages. Taking the causative–anticausative alternation as an example, labile verbs are used more frequently in the encoding of the alternation in Portuguese and Italian than in Catalan and Spanish (the latter languages frequently recur to an encoding with a reflexively marked anticausative verb (e.g., Spanish romperse ‘break’). Romance languages possess various formal means to signal that a given constituent is an argument: word order, flagging the argument (by means of morphological case and, more importantly, prepositional marking), and indexing the argument on the verb (by means of morphological agreement or clitic pronouns). Again, Romance languages show variation with respect to the use of these formal means. For example, prepositional marking is much more frequent than morphological case marking on nouns (the latter being only found in Romanian).


Subordinate and Synthetic Compounds in Morphology  

Chiara Melloni

Subordinate and synthetic represent well-attested modes of compounding across languages. Although the two classes exhibit some structural and interpretative analogies cross-linguistically, they denote distinct phenomena and entail different parameters of classification. Specifically, subordinate makes reference to the grammatical relation between the compound members, which hold a syntactic dependency (i.e., head-argument) relation; synthetic makes reference to the synthesis or concomitance of two processes (i.e., compounding and derivation). Therefore, while the former term implies the presence of a syntactic relation realized at the word level, the latter has strictly morphological implications and does not directly hinge on the nature of the relation between the compound members. Typical examples of subordinate compounds are [V+N]N formations like pickpocket, a class which is scarcely productive in English but largely attested in most Romance and many other languages (e.g., Italian lavapiatti ‘wash-dishes, dishwater’). Other instances of subordinate compounds are of the type [V+N]V, differing from the pickpocket type since the output is a verb, as in Chinese dài-găng ‘wait for-post, wait for a job’. The presence of a verb, however, is not compulsory since possible instances of subordinate compounds can be found among [N+N]N, [A+N]A, and [P+N]N/A compounds, among others: The consistent feature across subordinate compounds is the complementation relation holding between the constituents, whereby one of the two fills in an argumental slot of the other constituent. For instance, the N tetto ‘roof’ complements P in the Italian compound senza-tetto ‘without-roof, homeless person’, and the N stazione ‘station’ is the internal argument of the relational noun capo in capo-stazione ‘chief-station, station-master’. Synthetic compounds can envisage a subordination relation, as in truck driv-er/-ing, where truck is the internal argument of driver (or driving), so that they are often viewed as the prototypical subordinates. However, subordination does not feature in all synthetic compounds whose members can hold a modification/attribution relation, as in short-legged and three-dimensional: In these cases, the adjective (or numeral) is not an argument but a modifier of the other constituent. The hallmark of a synthetic compound is the presence of a derivational affix having scope over a compound/complex form, though being linearly attached and forming an established (or possible) word with one constituent only. This mismatch between semantics and formal structure has engendered a lively theoretical debate about the nature of these formations. Adopting a binary-branching analysis of morphological complexes, the debate has considered whether the correct analysis for synthetic compounds is the one shown in (1) or (2), which implies answering the question whether derivation applies before or after compounding. (1) a.[[truck] [driv-er]] b. [[short] [leg(g)-ed]] (2) a. [[[truck] [drive]] -er] b. [[[short] [leg(g)]]-ed] Interestingly, the structural and interpretative overlap between subordinate and synthetic compounds with a deverbal head is well represented across language groups: Synthetic compounds of the type in (1–2) are very productive in Germanic languages but virtually absent in Romance languages, where this gap is compensated for by the productive class of subordinate [V+N]N compounds, like Italian porta-lettere ‘carry-letters, mailman’, which are the interpretative analogous of Germanic synthetic formations. The difference between the two complexes lies in constituent order, V+N in Romance versus N+V in Germanic, and lack of an (overt) derivational affix in Romance languages.


Existential and Locative Constructions in the Romance Languages  

Delia Bentley

Existential and locative constructions form an interesting cluster of copular structures in Romance. They are clearly related, and yet there are theoretical reasons to keep them apart. In-depth analysis of the Romance languages lends empirical support to their differentiation. In semantic terms, existentials express propositions about existence or presence in an implicit contextual domain, whereas locatives express propositions about the location of an entity. In terms of information structure, existentials are typically all new or broad focus constructions. Locatives are normally characterized by focus on the location, although this can also be a presupposed topic. Romance existentials are formed with a copula and a postcopular phrase (the pivot). A wide range of variation is found in copula selection, copula-pivot agreement, expletive subjects, the presence and function of an etymologically locative precopular proform, and, finally, the categorial status of the pivot, which is normally a noun phrase, but can also be an adjective (Calabrian, Sicilian). As for Romance locatives, a distinction must be drawn between, on the one hand, a construction with canonical SV order and S-V agreement and, on the other hand, another construction, with VS order and, in some languages, lack of V-S agreement. This latter structure has been named inverse locative. Both existentials and locatives have a nonverbal predicate: the locative phrase in locatives and the postcopular noun or adjectival phrase in existentials. In locatives the predicate selects a thematic argument (i.e., an argument endowed with a thematic role), which serves as the syntactic subject, exception being made for inverse locatives in some languages. Contrastingly, in existentials, there is no thematic argument. In some languages the copula turns to the pivot for agreement, as this is the only overt noun phrase endowed with person and number features (Italian, Friulian, Romanian, etc.). In other languages this non-canonical agreement is not licensed (French, some Calabrian dialects, Brazilian Portuguese, etc.). In others still (Spanish, Sardinian, European Portuguese, Catalan, Gallo-Italian, etc.), it is only admitted with pivot classes that can be defined in terms of specificity. When the copula does not agree with the pivot, an expletive subject form may figure in precopular position. The cross-linguistic variation in copula-pivot agreement has been claimed to depend on language-specific constraints on subjecthood. Highly specific pivots are only admitted in contextualized existentials, which express a proposition about the presence of an individual or an entity in a given and salient context. These existentials are found in all the Romance languages and would seem to defy the semantico-pragmatic constraints on the pivot that are widely known as Definiteness Effects.


Argument Marking in Romance  

Alexandru Nicolae

The loss of inflectional case marking in the passage from Latin to the Romance languages was accompanied by a profusion of analytic strategies of argument marking in Romance. The phenomenon of analytic marking of grammatical dependencies of arguments on their head is not limited to the usage of functional prepositions but also involves the emergence of non-prepositional freestanding markers (some of which take part in mixed, analytic and synthetic, marking). Furthermore, Romance languages display complex alternative strategies of encoding grammatical relations (differential object marking and clitic doubling), the emergence of which is unquestionably related to the changes in the system of case marking and to the subtle move away from dependent marking to head marking. This article represents an extensive survey of the non-inflectional markers (prepositional constructions marking genitive, partitive, and dative relations; non-prepositional freestanding markers; mixed marking) as well as of some more complex alternative strategies of encoding grammatical relations (differential object marking and clitic doubling), placing emphasis on the markers themselves and on their distribution. From a broader historical perspective, the emergence and consolidation of the non-inflectional strategies of marking grammatical dependencies are reflexes of the change in the head-directionality parameter (head-final in Latin to head-initial in Romance), besides the transition from dependent-marking to head-marking. The article looks both at standard Romance varieties and at dialects and places emphasis on issues less explored in the reference literature (e.g., the non-prepositional freestanding markers found in the historical dialects of Romanian or the phenomenon of mixed marking, where inflectional and non-inflectional markers co-occur within the same construction).


The Locative Existential Construction in Chinese  

Yang Gu and Jie Guo

The locative inversion constructions are characterized by a noncanonical word order where a locative phrase is inverted preceding the verb and the thematic subject follows the verb. This phenomenon is found quite common crosslinguistically, though whether “inversion” is the right label for the constructions or not remains controversial. Issues regarding the status of the locative phrase, Case assignment, unaccusativity, verb argument structure, agreement, and the mechanism that triggers this noncanonical word order have been the major concerns in various proposals. The closest constructions that exhibit similar word order found in Chinese are locative existential constructions (LECs). However, the assumption of locative inversion in the constructions requires substantial empirical support. The Chinese LECs depict or present the existence of an entity or an eventuality. As in English and other languages where locative inversion prevails, issues related to the grammatical function of the locative phrase, Case assignment, and types of verbs in LECs draw a lot of attention from researchers in Chinese linguistics. In particular, research on the types of verbs in LECs has important bearing on the possible syntactic derivation of locative existential sentences. The discussions in this article show that the verbs allowed in the constructions vary. Some are intrinsically intransitive postural verbs, and many others are lexical-syntactically derived from ditransitive placement verbs such as fang ‘put’, gua ‘hang’, etc. via decausativization. The result of the derivation yields verbs that show alternation with their ditransitive counterparts. These derived verbs are seemingly similar to the unaccusative member of the causative~unaccusative pairs in English, but different in terms of their argument structure and syntactic behavior. The intransitive and the derived verbs found in the LECs are shown to have the same lexical semantic sense of spatial configuration and can be treated on a par with a template of [y Location HAVE z Theme]. The abstract verb HAVE, meaning existentiality but lacking manner of existence, can be lexicalized by verbs, specifying various manner of existentiality. In other words, the argument structure of the verbs in the constructions is , where the location is realized by a locative phrase, which is a noun phrase in Chinese, base generated in [Spec, vP] in accordance with VP-internal Subject Hypothesis, and the theme by another noun phrase denoting an entity. It is the lexical semantics of these verbs that accounts for not only the general properties of Chinese LECs shared with other languages like English but also the language particular properties such as the word order and the aspect marker obligatorily used in Chinese LECs. Given these particular properties, Chinese LECs are shown not to involve locative inversion.


Argument Realization in Syntax  

Malka Rappaport Hovav

Words are sensitive to syntactic context. Argument realization is the study of the relation between argument-taking words, the syntactic contexts they appear in and the interpretive properties that constrain the relation between them.


The Acquisition of Syntax in the Romance Languages (in Mono- vs. Multilingual Children)  

Natascha Müller

Children do not speak like adults. This observation is not trivial in a framework in which language acquisition is framed as a process of parameter setting on the basis of universal principles and the child’s input. The present chapter summarizes two main views of language acquisition in this framework, maturation and continuity, with special reference to the acquisition of Romance languages. The debate is difficult to settle on the basis of monolingual data. The comparison of different monolingual populations has the inconvenience that factors like age, cognitive abilities, and abilities related to the performance system come into play in studies that are only interested in the linguistic differences. The multilingual child constitutes an individual with different grammars, but with the same prerequisites if the genetic endowment is concerned, with one performance system and one cognitive system, all facts which can help to settle the debate. Acquisitionists have shown that some routes to adult grammars are shorter and simpler than others. Some of the definitions of complexity, as presented in the literature, will be summarized in relation to the acquisition of grammatical domains in monolingual children. Since complexity can lead to cross-linguistic influence in the multilingual child, the study of this population, again, helps to prove the different definitions of complexity. If it is really the case that grammatical systems are not equally complex, this might also be related to the fact that linguistic variation is best described by parameters which differ in nature—some of which are core parameters (‘deep parameters’), others sub-case parameters—as well as by peripheral variation. Again, parameters which have different settings in the adult language are particularly interesting to study in the multilingual child. Language acquisition is embedded into the child’s linguistic experience, or input. Interestingly, a multilingual child’s input is divided by two, three, or more, in comparison to that of the monolingual child. Arguably, the study of children who acquire more than one language from birth is particularly apt to reveal those grammatical domains which are acquired with ease, even with much less input than the monolingual child receives. Very tentatively, the present article addresses the reduction of intralinguistic variation via child-directed speech and thus opens up a discussion of the relevance of the quality of input in the framework of parameter setting.