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Reviewed by:
  • Typology of periphrastic ‘do’-Constructions
  • Pieter Muysken
Typology of periphrastic ‘do’-constructions. By Andreas Jäger. (Diversitas linguarum 12.) Bochum: Universitätsverlag Dr. N. Brockmeyer. Pp. xii, 343. ISBN 3819606750. $65.83.

In this book, the revised version of a 2005 University of Queensland doctoral dissertation, Andreas Jäger examines a sample of two hundred languages with respect to the periphrastic ‘do’-construction, which is well known in English (e.g. The boat does travel south, 29), but is also present in a wide variety of languages. The book offers a welcome snapshot of a yet unexplored construction. In contrast with many recent typological surveys, it does not take a concept or grammatical notion as its point of departure, but rather a construction, for which the range of associated concepts and grammatical notions is charted. [End Page 939]

In Ch. 1 (2–28), J outlines and defends the typological method and presents his language sample. The sample is ‘structurally based, that is to say languages are selected according to whether they employ relevant “do” periphrasis or not’ (24). It is clear from the database provided (306–13) that a wide range of families is included, covering Barbacoan (Ecuador, Colombia), Caucasian, Celtic, Dravidian, Mayan, Niger-Congo, Tibeto-Burman, and so on. Thus we get an idea where the construction occurs, but not really where it does not. I return to this below.

Ch. 2 is dedicated to the definition of the constructions and the different subtypes. The construction is defined in terms of the following criteria (drawn from pp. 28–29): (i) it must consist of at least two separate lexical items or morphemes, (ii) one being a full lexical verb, (iii) the other being an auxiliary with an abstract (or highly schematic) ‘action’ meaning as exemplified by the English word do, (iv) the argument structure is determined by the lexical verb, and (v) the subject of the auxiliary is the same as that of the lexical verb. The construction is monoclausal, and thus must be distinguished from multiverb or multiclause constructions. It must also be distinguished from serial verb constructions (where both verbs may contribute to the argument structure) and light verb constructions (where the lexical element has nominal features). In an elaborate review of the literature J makes the relevant distinctions, but acknowledges that the cluster of different phenomena that periphrastic ‘do’-constructions are part of is best viewed as a continuum.

The functions of the grammatically motivated periphrastic ‘do’-construction are the topic of Ch. 3 (85–188), the core of the book. Four key functions are distinguished: (a) obligatory periphrasis triggered by the need to mark specific morphosyntactic distinctions in the complex predicate (e.g. negative polarity in English), (b) obligatory periphrasis triggered by noncanonical word order (e.g. ‘why’ questions in English), (c) lexically triggered periphrasis (e.g. with nonnative verb stems), and (d) obligatory periphrasis to mark a construction type (e.g. subordination). All four functions are fairly well represented in J’s sample, the fourth type being the rarest.

In Chs. 4, 5, and 6, additional functions of the ‘do’-construction are discussed. Ch. 4 deals with ‘do’ in connection with coordinated lexical verbs, something that occurs in around thirty-six languages in J’s sample, as shown in 1 below.

  1. 1. it-tari ki-tari suru (Japanese, 190)

    come-often go-often do

    ‘be coming and going all the time’

The status of the constructions in Ch. 5 is somewhat different: here optional periphrasis is discussed, with a variety of functions, pragmatic (e.g. focalization), semantic (e.g. transitivizing or causativizing), and morphological (avoiding inflection of the main verb for some reason). Many of these uses link up to functions discussed in Ch. 3 and illustrate them with a series of additional examples. In Ch. 6, ‘do’-periphrasis as a direct marker of various grammatical categories is discussed. Most frequent is the marking of past tense (fifteen cases), emphatic or intensive modality (nine cases), and progressive/continuative/durative aspect (twelve cases).

Finally, Ch. 7 provides some conclusions and a schematic overview of the data. It would be interesting to link this overview with mapping software, in a future publication, to establish...


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