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  • Issues in formal German(ic) typology ed. by Werner Abraham, and C. JanWouter Zwart
  • Kleanthes K. Grohmann
Issues in formal German(ic) typology. Ed. by Werner Abraham and C. JanWouter Zwart. (Linguistik aktuell/Linguistics today 45.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2002. Pp. xvii, 334. ISBN 1588111024. $110 (Hb).

As Werner Abraham frames it in his ‘Introduction’ (ix–xvii), this volume ‘focuses on German and its closest linguistic relatives, English and Scandinavia [in languages] both genetically and areally’ (ix). As such, the present collection of papers fits one part of the premise of its title well: ‘German(ic) typology’. The ‘formal’ part of the premise concerns the treatment of the various ‘issues’ discussed and, as can be expected from the ‘blue series’, offers the latest in generative theorizing applied to a number of Germanic languages and dialects. Abraham identifies a coherence in the articles regarding content, and the contributors investigate this coherence from syntactic and semantic angles throughout, as the one-sentence summaries below illustrate. The collection revolves around two issues that set German apart from its genetic and areal relatives yet allow in-depth comparisons on the search for explanations. On the one hand, German displays a distinct discourse-prominence, setting it apart from the other Germanic languages (viz. scrambling, refocusing, and issues dealing with theme/rheme discourse functions). On the other hand, it allows considerable freedom in passivization, which can take place irrespective of transitivity and aspectual constraints as long as the predicate is agentive (yielding obligatory insertion of an expletive when intransitives are passivized to satisfy the verb-second constraint).

If all contributions do indeed deal with these two issues, the majority of articles arguably falls into the first class. Werner Abraham and László Molnárfi investigate ‘German clause structure under discourse functional weight: Focus and antifocus’ (1–43) and propose an ‘accent-syntax’ by linking theme/rheme to the clausal structure on the basis of systematic clause-accent distribution. In ‘Reconsidering identificational focus’ (65–84), Jocelyn Cohan proposes to derive two core properties of identificational focus, exhaustiveness and contract, rather than positing them as inherent properties; she bases her investigation on recordings from spontaneous spoken English. Britta Jensen studies ‘Polarity items in English and Danish’ (127–40), first comparing polarity items in these two languages and then offering a licensing proposal that involves feature checking and a locality constraint. Jürgen Lenerz connects ‘Scrambling and reference in German’ (179–92), critically inspecting the oft-voiced constraint that indefinites in German do not scramble and replacing this too strong generalization by capitalizing on referential properties of indefinites. Enrique Mallen investigates ‘Attributive adjectives in Germanic and Romance’ (193–222) and proposes a uniform analysis in which attributive adjectives are maximal projections in the nominal specifier projection, in Germanic the highest and in Romance the lowest NP of a multiple NP-shell. In the only German-language contribution to this volume, ‘Die Negationsklammer im Afrikaans—Mehrfachnegation aus formaler und funktionaler Sicht’ (223–61), László Molnárfi proposes that multiple negation in Afrikaans is not only subject to a Neg-Criterion but also involves the minimal lexical identification of functional domains. John te Velde considers ‘Phases in the derivation of elliptical coordinate constructions’ (307–29) and proposes a derivational analysis of common forms of ellipsis in English and German, integrating recent developments in minimalist theorizing, in particular the distinction between pure merge on one hand and merge and move on the other.

The other third of the articles fall into the above-mentioned second class of issues addressed and issues related to this property. Cedric Boeckx reflects ‘On the co-occurrence of expletives and definite subjects in Germanic’ (45–64) and replaces traditional accounts of the ‘definiteness effect’ (which does not hold equally among the Germanic dialects) with a minimalist analysis, derived from independently motivated lexical parameters. Christine Czinglar’s ‘Decomposing existence: Evidence from Germanic’ (85–126) deals with impersonal existential constructions in German and Scandinavian languages and divides these into ‘locative’ and ‘pure’ existentials, a distinction she demonstrates to hold crosslinguistically and which she supports (syntactically and semantically) within a neat...


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