- Paths towards universal grammar: Studies in honor of Richard S. Kayne ed. by Guglielmo Cinque et al.
Richard Kayne was for a long time the (nonproverbial) American in Paris. More precisely, he was an American linguist at the Université de Paris-VIII, a position from which he was to gain an international reputation. His French syntax (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1975) was a seminal work which inspired research into Romance, Germanic, and other languages. Kayne’s list of publications shows that he has been in constant touch with generative syntax, from the standard theory to the minimalist framework.
The present work is a collection of papers by colleagues and former students in honor of Kayne. The volume contains 27 articles on syntax, each dealing with some aspect of universal grammar.
What exactly is universal grammar? Like ‘markedness’ in the 1970s, ‘universal grammar’ is a term often bandied around without a precise definition. In the Chomskyan tradition, it is sometimes equated with ‘core grammar’, i.e. what is common to the human language faculty (in opposition to language-specific features).
Using a variety of languages ranging from English and French to Hungarian and Chinese, the papers attempt to elucidate the nature of universal grammar. Most of the papers focus exclusively on syntax. A notable exception is ‘On some prosodically governed syntactic operations’ by Maria Luisa Zubizarreta (473–85), which deals with the interface between phonology and syntax.
Some of the articles deal with specific languages. Among these is ‘Another note on clausal pied-piping’ by Henk Van Riemsdijk (331–42) which presents an analysis of data from German. Other articles deal with data from two or more members of a language family. One of these is ‘On the evidence for partial N-Movement in the Romance DP’ by Guglielmo Cinque (85–110). ‘A re-definition of NP-movement’ by Kataliné. Kiss (237–53) is noteworthy in that it is a comparative study of English and Hungarian.
I shall now comment in more detail on two articles. The first is ‘A minimal account of the that-t effect’ by Viviane Deprez (121–35). That-trace structures have been much discussed in generative grammar since David Perlmutter’s Deep and surface structure constraints in syntax (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971). Deprez’s article is an attempt to account for the contrast in grammaticality between Who do you think is coming? and *Who do you think that is coming? within the minimalist framework. She argues that the difference between the two sentences is not, strictly speaking, an empty category principle (ECP) effect. Rather, the difference can be explained in terms of ‘the interaction of the ECP with more general principles of operational, derivational and structural Economy’ (121). Deprez then argues in detail that the reason for the acceptability of the complementizer-less sentence is that it involves economy of derivation, in contrast to the other sentence. However, her arguments are not very convincing, especially in the light of comparative data. Although she does refer to French in passing (124, 133), consideration of data from other languages would have led to a different conclusion. There are, in fact, languages (notably Krio and Thai) in which the complementizer-less sentence is ungrammatical and the sentence with the complementizer is grammatical. The existence of languages which show the reverse pattern of grammaticality in relation to English weakens the explanatory value of Deprez’s arguments. A minor problem with the article is that the work referred to as Chomsky 1986a and listed as such in the references (134) should simply be Chomsky 1986.
The second article is ‘Checking theory and bare verbs’ by Jean-Yves Pollock (293–310). As it is, Pollock’s article was the one in the collection that impressed me least, despite the paper’s high (and sometimes excessive) degree of formalism.
Pollock starts by trying to solve what...