Studies in Formal Linguistics

Universal Patterns and Language Specific Parameters

by Anna Bloch-Rozmej (Volume editor) Anna Bondaruk (Volume editor)
©2018 Edited Collection 256 Pages


This book investigates the nature and consequences of universal principles in four major grammar components, i.e. syntax, phonology, morphology and semantics. Language specific parameters are held responsible for the attested variation. The papers collected in this book analyse selected phenomena from English, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, and Polish, and shed new light on the interaction of universals and parameters in the structure of individual language systems. The generative framework is adopted as the theoretical model in the majority of contributions.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Foreword
  • Chapter 1 On Japanese Sluicing: Evidence for the Focus Movement & Deletion with Some Remarks on English and Polish (Naoyuki Akaso / Seichi Sugawa)
  • Chapter 2 A Syntactic Solution to the Inverse-Scope Puzzle and the Contrastive VP-Focus Construction in Hungarian Based on Extraction (Gábor Alberti / Judit Farkas)
  • Chapter 3 A Short Note on the Syntactic Behaviour of Demonstratives in Polish (Piotr Cegłowski)
  • Chapter 4 On Nominalization: Genitives, Datives, and Elementary Predicates in Italian (Ludovico Franco)
  • Chapter 5 Peeling of Subject Case: Marked Subjects in Polish (Aleksandra Gogłoza)
  • Chapter 6 On Subject Experiencer Verbs in Hungarian (Réka Jurth)
  • Chapter 7 Idioms: The Interplay of Domains or a No-Man’s-Land? (Joanna Kolbusz-Buda)
  • Chapter 8 N Morphology and Its Interpretation: Romance -a Plurals (M. Rita Manzini / Leonardo M. Savoia)
  • Chapter 9 Differentiating between the Syntactic Realisation of Complex Events and Complex Predicates of Irish (Brian Nolan)
  • Chapter 10 Rounded Back Vowels Preservation in Consonantal Contexts. C-V Licensing (Leonardo M. Savoia / Benedetta Baldi)
  • Chapter 11 Constraints on Multi-Noun Compounding in English: A Corpus-Based Approach (Sebastian Wasak)
  • Chapter 12 Subjects or not Subjects: Polish Dative Experiencers and Adjunct Control (Sylwiusz Żychliński)
  • Series index

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The volume called “Studies in Formal Linguistics: Universal Patterns and Language Specific Parameters” is a collection of twelve papers whose common denominator is the search for universal principles in the natural language, on the one hand, and the exploration of parameters of variation among languages, on the other. The papers gathered in the volume cover a wide range of topics concerning syntax, phonology, morphology and semantics.

Universal principles that all languages share and parameters along which languages vary have constituted the core of syntactic theorising since the advent of the Principles and Parameters (P&P) approach of Chomsky (1981). In the Government and Binding (GB) Theory, universal principles, or principles of Universal Grammar (UG), had a rich and modular structure, and affected a number of subsystems of human language, such as the Binding Theory, the Case Theory, the Control Theory, etc. The parameters, in turn, were perceived as choices on the range of possibilities admitted by the universal principles. In other words, in the GB era, universal principles were parametrised. As a result, the language variation was encoded in universal principles, or, in other words, was “hardwired in UG” (Gallego 2011: 527). In the GB model, a single parameter setting had a wide range of consequences, commonly referred to as ‘clustering effects’ (cf. Gallego 2011: 527–528; Fábregas et al. 2015: 5–9). Since parameters were nothing more than relativised principles, Kayne (2000) observes that “the study of syntactic parameters and the study of syntactic universals go hand in hand” (Kayne 2000: vii). The main problems that GB style analyses had to face concerned the question how many settings parameters allow and how many parameters there are. Although it was commonly assumed that parameters allowed binary choices, the binary divide was not enough to capture the variation attested in different language areas, including for instance the pro-drop parameter (Fábregas et al. 2015). The number of parameters that were posited in the GB theory was high, which was undesirable from the theoretical stance of trying to obtain a restricted set of parameters in order to be able to simplify the process of language acquisition.

In the Minimalist Program (MP) of Chomsky (1993, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2007), the linguistic inquiry has centred around recasting universal principles in the light of computational efficiency considerations and interface conditions. For this reason, the main focus has been on principles of UG, not on parameters. In the MP, UG is approached from below, which is characterised by Chomsky (2007: 4) as follows: “The MP seeks to approach the problem ‘from the bottom up’: How ← 7 | 8 → little can be attributed to UG while still accounting for the variety of I-languages attained, relying on third factor principles?”. Consequently, UG, viewed from below, is highly reduced, in comparison with the UG from the GB theory. It contains the recursive operation Merge and a set of features (in particular, formal features). The third factor principles, mentioned in the quotation above, cover principles of data processing and architectural/computational-developmental constraints (Chomsky 2005), where the latter correspond to the Inclusiveness Condition, the Minimal Link Condition, the Phase Impenetrability Condition, the No Tampering Condition, and the Principle of Full Interpretation (Gallego 2011: 539; Chomsky et al. to appear). Actually, beside the third factor, Chomsky (2005: 6) also mentions Factor I and Factor II of language design, where the former refers to genetic endowment, while the latter covers external data (E-language). Language variation cannot be attributed to Factor I, the faculty of language, and neither can it be associated with Factor III, which comprises “principles of neural organization that may be more deeply grounded in physical law” (Chomsky 1965: 59). Consequently, the locus of parametrisation in the MP is to be found in the lexicon. Variation thus emerges as a result of interaction of Factor I, which comprises features necessary to build up lexical items, with Factor II, which relies on language experience. The lexical approach to parametric variation has come to be known to as Borer-Chomsky conjecture and is stated in (1) below:

If the lexical view of parameters is adopted, then there are two sources of language variation in the MP, viz. (i) absence or presence of some head F, and (ii) absence or presence of some feature or set of features in the head F (Fábregas et al. 2015: 15). Still another source of variation among languages, recognized in the MP, is attributed to Externalization, i.e. Transfer to the morphophonological component or Spell-Out. Chomsky (2010) claims that the faculty of language is only optimal to meet the requirements of the Conceptual-Intentional systems, but is not designed to meet the requisites of the Sensori-Motor systems. There are various solutions adopted to externalize the structure into a physical signal, but no perfect solution is available. As a result, variation emerges, since languages make different choices as to how to solve the problem of adapting a linguistic structure to something that can be used by the organs such as the throat, the mouth, or the hands, which were not designed with a linguistic purpose. Consequently, the locus of variation is to be found in the PF-branch of grammar, perceived as an interface between syntax ← 8 | 9 → and phonology. This kind of variation is free from semantic effects, because it is attested at a point where access to semantics is no longer possible. Therefore, no language variation is to be found at the level of LF.

In Chapter 1, Naoyuki Akaso and Seichi Sugawa examine Sluicing in Japanese, English and Polish using the cartographic model of Rizzi (1997). The paper focuses primarily on Japanese, while the English and Polish data serve to provide a comparative view on the mechanisms deriving Sluicing cross-linguistically. Akaso and Sugawa argue that Sluicing in Japanese is derived by means of focus movement, followed by deletion of FinP. The main evidence adduced in favour of this line of analysis is based on one type of reason clause and one kind of negative polarity item (henceforth, NPI) from Japanese. The reason clauses analysed in the paper are treated as focus elements, placed in Spec, FocP, as in Kawamura (2008). When the reason clause functions as a sluice, Sluicing is ungrammatical, because there is only one focus position in a sentence which is occupied by the reason clause, and consequently, there is no position to which another focused element can be moved. Likewise, Sluicing is disallowed with NPIs, since in this case the NPI fills the Spec, FocP position, and thereby fails to be c-commanded by negation. Akaso and Sugawa note that the derivation of Sluicing in English involves wh-movement, not focus movement, while Polish seems to allow for both mechanisms operative in Sluicing, viz. wh- and focus movement.

In Chapter 2, Gábor Alberti and Judit Farkas investigate several instances of an extracted right-branching domain in Hungarian. The paper builds on the two prior works by Alberti (2004) and Alberti and Farkas (2017). In particular, the emphasis is laid on the inverse scope puzzle of contrastive topics, and the broadly understood phenomenon of contrastive VP-focus in Hungarian. In their analysis, Alberti and Farkas adopt Grohmann’s (2003) model with three Prolific Domains, covering the theta domain, the discourse (operator) domain, and the agreement domain. Both contrastive topics and contrastive VP-foci in Hungarian are analysed by means of remnant movement. The remnant is formed by extracting the right periphery out of the complex expression, whereby satisfying the language specific constraint on right branching structures, attested in Hungarian. The proposed analysis accounts for the puzzling word order found with contrastive topics and contrastive VP foci in Hungarian by suggesting that from the point of view of semantics, it is the complex expression that occupies a given operator position, whereas from a syntactic viewpoint, it is an appropriate remnant that figures in a corresponding syntactic layer. This is responsible for the discrepancy between the syntactic position of a given operator and the factual meaning of a sentence hosting it. ← 9 | 10 →

In Chapter 3, Piotr Cegłowski studies the syntactic behaviour and the structural position of demonstratives in Polish. The starting point for the analysis is an empirical study of acceptability of specific types of extraction, such as extraction of N-complements, extraction across a numeral, extraction related to the Left Branch Condition (LBC), and its various manifestations, including deep LBC, extraordinary LBC, and double AP LBC. The data obtained in the course of the experiment show that demonstratives do not pattern like adjectives with respect to LBC. In fact, demonstratives are much less prone to the LBC than adjectives or wh-phrases. This fact is accounted for by proposing that demonstratives are maximal projections (DemPs) generated at the edge of a functional projection, called Agr, sandwiched between D and N. The placement of DemP at the left periphery of a DP is additionally supported by the way demonstratives interact with discourse-related items such as topic and focus. The overall conclusion reached in the paper is that the syntactic behavior of demonstrative pronouns in Polish provides evidence for the existence of a DP in a language without articles, and hence supports the claim that the DP-Hypothesis constitutes a part of the UG.

In Chapter 4, Ludovico Franco analyses deverbal nominalisations in Italian that host an external and internal argument. He proposes that the process of nominalisation can be reduced to a syntactic template introducing the main participants, viz. the external and internal argument, by means of a sort of double oblique construction. Franco argues that the thematic as well as relational PPs are linked or adjoined to the eventive noun which projects to a DP. Genitives, datives and other oblique phrases involved in the process of nominalization are taken to represent part-whole relational predicates, following the work by Manzini and Savoia (2011a, b), Manzini et al. (2015) and Manzini and Franco (2016). Specifically, in this model the genitive or dative possessor acts as a whole including a part, i.e. the possessee. The part-whole relation holds between entities, as well as between entities and events or states. The analysis advanced in the paper goes against the claim that the genitive in nominalizations represents a structural case, as in Longobardi (1994) or Alexiadou (2001), inter alia. Franco also supports the idea that the genitive case marked external argument in nominalisations shows ergative properties, i.e. it does not act as a causer or agent in the event, but rather corresponds to the possessor of a property.

In Chapter 5, Aleksandra Gogłoza concentrates on the syntax of marked subjects in Polish, i.e. the external arguments that are associated with case different from the nominative. In particular, Gogłoza analyses instrumental subjects in Adversity Impersonals, dative subjects in the Dative Reflexive Construction, genitive external arguments in nominalizations, and accusative subjects in numeral ← 10 | 11 → phrases. Jabłońska’s (2007) nominal functional sequence, in which different types of external arguments occupy different hierarchically ordered positions, constitutes the starting point for Gogłoza’s account. Gogłoza first mentions problems that Jabłońska’s (2007) degrees of externality give rise to. Working within Caha’s (2009) Peeling Theory of Case, in which case is decomposed into hierarchically ordered projections, Gogłoza proposes that the external argument is merged in v1 with the instrumental case on top. Once the external argument starts moving up, the instrumental case is peeled off, and the ultimate case marking of the external argument depends on how high in the structure it moves. The analysis correctly predicts that the smaller the case of an external argument is, the more subject properties it has. Conversely, the lower the external argument stays in the structure, the fewer subject properties it shows.

In Chapter 6, Réka Jurth analyses two types of Subject Experiencer (henceforth, SE) verbs in Hungarian, viz. those which have an Object Experiencer (henceforth, OE) alternate (the worry-type), and those which are intransitive, but have a transitive SE alternate (the hate-type). She observes that the two classes of SE verbs differ in their aspectual properties in that the intransitive members of the hate-class are uniformly atelic and eventive, whereas the representatives of the worry-class are more heterogeneous and comprise both telic and atelic, stative as well as eventive verbs. Moreover, intransitive verbs of the hate-type are agentive, in contradistinction to worry-verbs which are non-agentive. The two classes of SE verbs can optionally select a PP, which in the case of the worry-type acts as a causer, subject of emotion, or target of emotion, while with the hate-type verbs, the PP can never be interpreted as a causer, but always functions as a target of emotion. The two types of SE verbs also differ morphologically. The worry-type verbs pattern morphologically with anticausatives and bear some resemblance to unergatives. The hate-types predicates, in turn, show reflexive and reciprocal morphology, and are in fact unergative. Jurth offers an analysis of the two types of SE verbs in Hungarian within Reinhart’s (2001) Theta System.

In Chapter 7, Joanna Kolbusz-Buda addresses the problem of the intricate nature of idioms. Any account of this linguistic phenomenon has to take into consideration both their syntactic structure and word-like unitary nature. Idioms seem to be a borderline phenomenon, belonging to the domains of both syntax and morphology. Thus, the author delves into the linguistic behaviour of idiomatic expressions with a view to establishing their significant traits in the system of language. The author proposes that in the processing of idioms, the syntactic and morphological factors have to interact. The aim of the analysis is to establish in ← 11 | 12 → what respects and to what extent syntax and morphology need to contribute to the creation of idiomatic expressions.

Chapter 8, Rita Manzini and Leonardo Savoia’s contribution, is devoted to the structure of nominal inflections in Romance. Subject to analysis is the –a inflection in Italian varieties which realises both the plural and the feminine singular. The authors maintain that in the language varieties analysed, the –a plural externalises a nominal Class property [aggregate]. It is further proposed that in the occurrence of a-inflection, this property ‘is at the basis of the superficial syncretism between plural and singular/feminine’. The analysis of the relevant data leads the authors to the conclusion that –a, which performs the inflectional function, is in fact a lexical unit endowed with interpretive content. This holds not only for the varieties of Italian but also for the other Romance languages.

In Chapter 9, Brian Nolan takes a closer look at the Irish data, providing a functional analysis of the realisation of complex events and complex predicates in this language. The author tries to construct an account which would incorporate both top-down and bottom-up approaches to the analysed phenomena. The analysis focuses on a set of relationships between multi-verb constructions, in single and multiple clauses, and a variety of complex events. There seems to be a linkage between conceptualisation of related complex events, and their participants. Further, the article discusses the syntactic realisation of these complex constructions of contemporary Irish.

In the organisation of phonological domains a special role is performed by the nucleus which licenses the preceding consonantal position – the onset. The prosodic dependency of the onset on its licenser also has serious consequences at the melodic level. In Chapter 10, Leonardo Savoia and Benedetta Baldi focus on the language-specific manifestations of the C-V interplay. In their paper, the authors focus on the interaction between consonantal and vocalic melodic material when the latter is associated to the stressed nucleus. They address the phenomena of metaphony and [u] propagation and preservation in the pre-tonic position. The evidence comes from Southern Italian varieties. The analysis is couched within the framework of Government Phonology.

In Chapter 11 by Sebastian Wasak, the reader will find a corpus-based account of constraints on multi-noun compounding in English, with a special focus on endocentric compounds. The analysis deals with multi-noun formations, trying to determine the frequency of their usage and account for their rare occurrence in language performance. The relevant data are taken from the British National Corpus and the Corpus of Contemporary American English. The author argues ← 12 | 13 → that multi-noun structures are typically formed of lexicalised subcomponents, which accounts for their status in the morphology of English.

In Chapter 12, Sylwiusz Żychliński concentrates on Polish dative Experiencers in order to test whether they behave like subjects in this language. He examines dative Experiencers which co-occur with the nominative argument in Polish, and analyses the way they behave with respect to a number of subjecthood criteria, available in the literature, such as anaphor binding, raising, the conjunction reduction, and resumption. These tests yield negative results as to the subject status of the dative Experiencer. The diagnostic which is most thoroughly studied in relation to dative Experiencers is adjunct control in participial clauses in Polish. Żychliński emphasizes that the prescriptive rule stating that the subject of the participial clause must be identical with the subject of the main clause is in fact untenable, especially in the light of a series of acceptability surveys that he carried out. The surveys have shown that dative Experiencers can act as controllers, which might point towards their subject status. This, however, does not seem to be supported by a wider range of data, as Żychliński specifies that accusative case marked arguments can also control PRO in participial clauses. The overall conclusion reached in the paper is that dative Experiencers cannot be taken to represent syntactic subjects in Polish.


Alberti, Gábor. 2004. “Climbing for Aspect – With no Rucksack.” In Verb Clusters: A Study of Hungarian, German and Dutch. Linguistics Today 69, edited by Katalin É Kiss, and Henk van Riemsdijk, 253–289. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Alberti, Gábor, and Judit Farkas. 2017. “Right Branching in Hungarian: Moving Remnants.” In Language Use and Linguistic Structure, Proceedings of Olomouc Linguistics Colloquium 2016, edited by Joseph Emonds, and Markéta Janebová. 209–224. Olomouc: Palackỳ University.

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ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (January)
Universal principles Parameters Structure Syntax Phonology Morphology Semantics
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2018. 253 pp., 2 fig. col., 10 fig. b/w, 20 tables,

Biographical notes

Anna Bloch-Rozmej (Volume editor) Anna Bondaruk (Volume editor)

Anna Bloch-Rozmej is Assistant Professor at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland. She is Head of the Department of Applied Linguistics. She specializes in phonology and applied linguistics. Anna Bondaruk is Associate Professor at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland. She is Head of the Department of Theoretical Linguistics. She specializes in syntax and theoretical linguistics.


Title: Studies in Formal Linguistics