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  • Subject inversion in Romance and the theory of universal grammar ed. by Aafke C. J. Hulk, Jean-Yves Pollock
  • Kleanthes K. Grohmann
Subject inversion in Romance and the theory of universal grammar. Ed. by Aafke C. J. Hulk and Jean-Yves Pollock. (Oxford studies in comparative syntax.) Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Pp. vii, 215. ISBN 0195142705. $37.50.

Subject inversion in Romance, structures in which the subject follows the verb, has been a pervasive topic in generative research for a long time, and it has often (in)formed advancement in the theory of grammar. This causal relation comes out in the introduction, ‘Subject positions in Romance and the theory of universal grammar’ (3–19), by the editors.

Pilar Barbosa, in ‘On inversion in wh-questions in Romance’ (20–59), aims to provide a unified account of the dissimilarities between Germanic and Romance inversion triggered by wh-movement, and at the same time capture the different word order patterns observed in Romance.

‘ “Inversion” as focalization’ (60–90) is the title of Adriana Belletti’s contribution. She argues that the term ‘(subject) inversion’ is purely descriptive; what is really going on in the relevant VS-structures observed in Romance (and beyond) is clause-internal focalization.

JoÃo Costa considers ‘Marked versus unmarked [End Page 805] inversion and optimality theory’ (91–106). His main concern is to find out why inverted structures may be unmarked in some but obligatorily marked in other languages, concentrating on (European) Portuguese, Spanish, Greek, and towards the end, Italian. The discussion is couched in the framework of optimality theory, and the author’s proposal about the variation is explained and formalized in terms of ‘emergence of the unmarked’, by now a classic and very productive concept in optimality studies.

‘New thoughts on stylistic inversion’ (107–62) are offered by the authors of the seminal 1978 paper ‘Stylistic inversion, successive cyclicity and move NP in French’ (Linguistic Inquiry 9.595–621), Richard S. Kayne and Jean-Yves Pollock. The current proposal is in line with the antisymmetry framework, according to which rightward adjunction and right-hand specifiers are not allowed by universal grammar. An integral part of the authors’ proposal is that the subject in stylistic inversion structures is in a very high (left-hand) specifier.

Knut Tarald Taraldsen, in ‘Subject extraction, the distribution of expletives, and stylistic inversion’ (163–82), suggests that subject-verb inversion is more pervasive in modern French than commonly assumed. He argues specifically that every time wh-movement extracts a subject from an embedded clause, the subject is in a position lower than the usual preverbal subject position.

Maria Luisa Zubizaretta’s contribution is ‘The constraint on preverbal subject in Romance interrogatives: A minimality effect’ (183–204). At the center of her investigation lies the well-known constraint blocking the subject from intervening between a fronted wh-phrase and the verb. Zubizaretta’s analysis integrates her earlier claim that the preverbal subject (in Spanish) is always associated with a discourse-related feature, and in the present paper she integrates two further assumptions: The topic feature is always projected above the focus feature in the left periphery, and the wh-phrase is associated with the focus feature.

The topics discussed under the simple heading ‘inversion’ are rich and varied. All of these papers make novel contributions to the study of subject inversion in Romance and shed interesting light on (re)formulating aspects of the theory of grammar. Like most of the other books in the series, this is a high-quality volume of interest to anyone working in the generative framework.

Kleanthes K. Grohmann
University of Cyprus


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