Jacek Witkos and Gisbert Fanselow, Eds. Elements of Slavic and Germanic Grammars: A Comparative View. Papers on Topical Issues in Syntax and Morphosyntax

By Citko, Barbara | Journal of Slavic Linguistics, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Jacek Witkos and Gisbert Fanselow, Eds. Elements of Slavic and Germanic Grammars: A Comparative View. Papers on Topical Issues in Syntax and Morphosyntax


Citko, Barbara, Journal of Slavic Linguistics


Jacek Witkos and Gisbert Fanselow, eds. Elements of Slavic and Germanic grammars: A comparative view. Papers on topical issues in syntax and morphosyntax. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2008.

This collection of papers on topics in Slavic and Germanic syntax and morphosyntax is a very welcome addition to the fields of Slavic and Germanic linguistics, as well as to the field of comparative linguistics as a whole. It grew out of the papers presented at the Syntax Session of the 2006 Poznan Linguistic Meeting, which explains why the Slavic contributions in the volume lean towards Polish. Five of the eight Slavic oriented contributions focus exclusively on Polish, two on Czech, and one on Russian. The remaining ones either focus on Germanic languages or adopt a broader crosslinguistic perspective.

The predominant theoretical framework is what I would describe as early minimalism, with the exception of Cetnarowka's optimality theoretical contribution. A couple of papers (Biahy, Witkos, Fanselow and Fery, in particular) rely on (or make reference to) more recent developments within minimalist syntax, such as the so-called phase theory of Chomsky (2000, 2001, 2008). This is not meant as a criticism, as not all the issues discussed in the volume have any direct bearing on phase theory, or would necessarily benefit from a phase-theoretical treatment. The volume does not include any contributions in other frameworks, such as Head Driven Phrase Structure Grammar, which, given the strong HPSG tradition in Polish syntax, is somewhat surprising.

In general terms, the papers included in the volume focus on the following topics: aspect and argument structure (Biaiy's "Result and feature specification of Polish prefixes", Miechowicz-Mathiasen and Scheffler's "A corpus based analysis of the peculiar behavior of the Polish verb podobac sie", Sowka's "Non-uniform approach to dative verbs in English"), empty subjects (Bulat's "Empty Subjects revisited and revised cross-linguistically", Midler's "Some consequences of an impoverishment-based approach to morphological richness and pro drop", Witkos's "Control and predicative adjectives in Polish"), A-bar dependencies (Do?eka?s "WCO and focus in Czech", Fanselow and Fery's "Missing superiority effects: Long movement in German (and other languages)", Simik's "Specificity in (Czech) relative clauses", Moss's "Functional projections in Polish"), DP internal structure (Cetnarowska's "Genitive/possessive variation and syntactic optionality in an optimality-theoretical framework", Pysz's "On the placement of prenominal adjectives with complements: Evidence from English", Trugman's "Move versus merge: DP-internal modifiers"). Wilder's "The PP-with-DP construction" does not fit any of these categories, as its focus is on the specifics of one construction. Most of the papers in the volume are synchronic in nature; however, Pysz's contribution adds a diachronic touch, and some of the papers are either based on corpus studies (Pysz, Miechowicz-Mathiasen and Scheffler) or report experimental results (Fanselow and Fery, Witkos). In what follows, I provide a brief summary of each paper, followed by an evaluation of the volume as a whole.

Bialy's "Results and feature specification of Polish prefixes" investigates Polish aspectual prefixes from the perspective of Ramchand's First Phase Syntax model of event composition. After introducing Ramchand's theory, the paper turns to motivating the distinction between two types of Polish perfective prefixes: lexical prefixes, which are introduced low in the structure and induce a resultative interpretation, and so-called superlexical prefixes, which are introduced higher in the structure and do not change basic event structure. The paper also adds a comparative perspective, by first comparing the behavior of English and Italian motion verbs (following Ramchand 2008, Folli and Ramchand 2002), and, next, by showing that Polish patterns with Italian rather than English in that its motion verbs are lexically specified as resultative. …

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