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  • Focus-related operations at the right edge in Spanish: Subjects and ellipsis by Iván Ortega-Santos
  • Timothy Gupton
Focus-related operations at the right edge in Spanish: Subjects and ellipsis. By Iván Ortega-Santos. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2016. Pp. 204. ISBN 9789027258069. $143 (Hb).

Ch. 1 of Iván Ortega-Santos’s book begins with a justification of syntactic inquiry into information structure in general and focalization processes in Spanish in particular. The fact that focalization phenomena incorporate multiple linguistic domains vis-à-vis alterations to word order, prosody, semantics, and pragmatics makes it a compelling challenge for any theoretical account of human language. O-S establishes the goals of the book: to motivate an analysis of subjects that appear at the rightmost edge of the sentence in Spanish. He suggests that right-edge subjects come to appear in this position as the result of three independent processes: (i) movement of a focused phrase to the leftmost clause edge (i.e. the left periphery) followed by topicalization movement of the remnant Tense Projection (TP), (ii) rightward movement, and (iii) absence of movement (i.e. in-situ position) for subjects of select unaccusative predicates. O-S notes that although the data set examined in the book consists primarily of intuition-based grammaticality judgments from Northern Iberian Spanish and Chilean Spanish, he also discusses experimentally gathered data and corpus data. This is largely reflective of the theoretical orientation of this work, which is formal syntactic analysis situated within Chomsky’s (1995 et seq.) minimalist program and the associated advances of multiple spell-out and phase theory (see e.g. Chomsky 1998, Uriagereka 1999). Although the author briefly sketches out the theoretical assumptions associated with the analysis undertaken in this work in a clear and concise manner, the intended audience [End Page 225] of this book is professional linguists and researchers. Not surprisingly, it is assumed that the reader already has a working knowledge of many of the theoretical tools employed in current generative syntactic theorizing. Ch. 1 concludes with a summary description of the three chapters that follow.

Ch. 2 is in large part a literature review establishing the theoretical assumptions of the syntactic analysis proposed in subsequent chapters. O-S first examines neutral focus associated with sentence-level stress (1; sentence stress underlined) and then examines narrow focus (2; small capitals indicate marked prosodic stress).1

(1) [Context: What happened?]

(2) [Context: Who bought a book yesterday?]

He dedicates the subsequent section to an examination of focus-fronting processes, including important notes on two related, but discursively different, phenomena: verum focus and mirative focus. He provides a convenient summary of the features that have been proposed to encode these types of focus. In the following subsection, he examines focus fronting, as in 3 (from p. 25, ex. 19).

(3) [Context: Little Jorge is looking at a toy car and motorcycle.]

O-S defends a syntactic treatment of focus fronting (based primarily on Rizzi’s (1997) observation that focus is quantificational), addressing the well-known objection that postulating [+Focus] as a lexical feature violates Chomsky’s (1995:Ch. 4) inclusiveness condition (see e.g. Zubizarreta 1998, Szendrői 2004). He concludes that the positing of syntactic movement to a FocP position is justified in light of the Chomsky/Uriagereka conjecture that complex surface semantics have corresponding movement operations. Next, he examines well-known subject-verb ‘inversion effects’ resulting from wh-movement and focus fronting, making particular use of Gallego’s (2007) phase-sliding proposal for Romance. Given the special properties that it attributes to T (namely phasal status), O-S notes that this possibility raises doubts about the universality of Chomsky’s (1982) extended projection principle (EPP). In the next two sections, he examines the EPP in Spanish, considering challenges it poses for the availability of Spec, TP (Contreras 1991), as well as the suggestion that null-subject languages have an inactive or perhaps parameterized EPP (e.g. Alexiadou & Anagnostopoulou 1998, Chomsky 2013). O-S concludes, in the vein of Lasnik (1989, 2003), that the EPP is active in Spanish based on null expletive data. In the remainder of the chapter, he examines...