Protosyntax: A thetic (unaccusative) stage?

Eugenia Casielles, Ljiljana Progovac

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12775/v10235-011-0003-4

Abstract


We have questioned the assumption that SV (agent-action) structures are basic and primary and have shown that thetic VS unaccusative structures, involving an event+theme unit, are better candidates for simple, primary proto-syntactic “fossils.” We have shown that thetic unaccusative structures are simpler syntactically, prosodically, semantically and informationally, and have suggested that this is due to the fact that syntactic evolution progressed from a stage with thetic statements (with no arguments, such as It is cold, or with only one argument, typically unaccusative, such as Spanish Ha llegado Juan (has arrived Juan) or Serbian Pao sneg (fallen.PP snow)), to more complex categorical assertions, involving agents and a syntactic and intonational separation between the subject and the predicate. Obviously, this raises many questions. How did thetic statements intergrade into categorical statements, and what were the evolutionary factors that facilitated this transition? Did both of the informational dichotomies (Topic-Comment and Focus-Background) develop from thetic statements or are F-B structures simpler than T-C? We leave these questions for future research.


Full Text:

PDF

References


Allerton, D. J. & Cruttenden, A. (1979). Three reasons for accenting a definite subject. Journal of Linguistics, 15, 49-53.[http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0022226700013104]

Baker, M. C. (1988). Incorporation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Baker, N. & Greenfield, P. (1988). The development of new and old information in young children’s early language. Language Sciences, 10(1), 3-34.

Bates, E. (1976). Language and Context: The Acquisition of Pragmatics. New York: Academic Press.

Belletti, A. & Rizzi, L. (1981). The syntax of ne: Some theoretical implications. The Linguistic Review, 1, 117-54.

Bickerton, D. (1998). Catastrophic evolution: The case for a single step from protolanguage to full human language. In J. R. Hurford, M. Studdert-Kennedy & C. Knight (Eds.), Approaches to the Evolution of Language: Social and Cognitive Bases (pp. 341-358). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bickerton, D. (2007). Language evolution: A brief guide for linguists. Lingua, 117(3), 510-526.[http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2005.02.006]

Bloom, L. (1970). Language Development: Form and Function in Emerging Grammars. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Bosque, I. (Ed.). (1996). El Sustantivo sin Determinación. La ausencia de determinante en la lengua española. Madrid: Visor.

Botha, R. & Knight, C. (Eds.). (2009)a. The Prehistory of Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Botha, R. & Knight, C. (Eds.). (2009)b. The Cradle of Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Brown, R. (1973). A First Language: The Early Stages. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Burling, R. (2005). The Talking Ape: How Language Evolved. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Burzio, L. (1981). Intransitive Verbs and Italian Auxiliaries. Doctoral Dissertation, MIT.

Burzio, L. (1986). Italian Syntax: A Government-Binding Approach. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Cangelosi, A., Smith A. D. M. & Smith, K. (Eds.). (2006). The Evolution of Language. New Jersey: World Scientific.

Casielles, E. (1996). On the misbehavior of bare nouns in Spanish. In C. Parodi et al. (Eds.), Aspects of Romance Linguistics: Selected Papers from the XXIV Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages (pp. 135-148). Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press.

Casielles, E. (2004). The Syntax-Information Structure Interface: Evidence from Spanish and English. New York: Routledge.

Casielles, E., Andruski, J., Kim, S., Nathan, G., & Work, R. (2006). Syntactic and discourse features of subjects in child Spanish: Evidence from Spanish/English bilingual acquisition. In D. Bamman, T. Magnitskaia & C. Zaller (Eds), Proceedings of the 30th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (pp. 72-83). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.

Chomsky, N. (1995). The Minimalist Program. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Christiansen, M. H. & Kirby, S. (Eds.). (2003). Language Evolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Clark, E. (1985). The acquisition of Romance with special reference to French. In D. Slobin (Ed.), The Crosslinguistic Study of Language Acquisition (pp. 687-782).Volume 1. Hillsdale: Erlbaum.

Contreras, H. (1986). Spanish bare NPs and the ECP. In I. Bordelois, H. Contreras & K. Zagona (Eds.), Generative Studies in Spanish Syntax (pp. 25-49). Dordrecht: Foris.

Deacon, T. W. (1997). The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain. New York & London: W.W. Norton & Company. Erteschik-Shir, N. (2007). Information Structure. The Syntax-Discourse Interface. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Friedmann, M.-A. (2000). Early French postrerbal subiects. In M.-A. Friedmann &L. Rizzi (Eds.), The acquisition of syntax (pp. 63-83). London: Longman.

Fitch, W. T., Hauser, M. D. & Chomsky, N. (2005). The Evolution of the language faculty: Clarifications and implications. Cognition, 97, 179-210.[http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2005.02.005]

Givón, T. (2009). The Genesis of Syntactic Complexity: Diachrony, Ontogeny, Neuro-cognition, Evolution. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Greenfield, P.M., Reilly, J., Leaper, C., & Baker, N. (1985). The structural and functional status of single-word utterances and their relationship to early multiword speech. In M. Barrett (Ed.), Children’s Single-Word Speech (pp. 233-267). London: Wiley.

Greenfield, P. M. & Smith, J. H. (1976). The Structure of Communication in Early Language Development. New York: Academic Press.

Grinstead, J. (2004). Subjects and interface delay in child Spanish and Catalan. Language, 80(1), 40-72.[http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/lan.2004.0024]

Gruber, J. (1967). Topicalization in child language. Foundations of Language, 3, 37-65.

Hale, K., & Keyser, S. J. (2002). Prolegomena to a Theory of Argument Structure. Linguistic Inquiry Monograph 39. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Harves, S. (2002). Unaccusative Syntax in Russian. Doctoral Dissertation, Princeton University.

Heine, B. & Kuteva, T. (2007). The Genesis of Grammar. A Reconstruction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hurford, J. R. (2007). The Origins of Meaning: Language in the Light of Evolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hyams, N. & Wexler, K. (1993). On the grammatical basis of null subjects in child language. Linguistic Inquiry, 24, 421-459.

Jackendoff, R. (1999). Possible stages in the evolution of the language capacity. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 3(7), 272-279.

Jackendoff, R. (2002). Foundations of Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Kitagawa, Y. (1985). Small but clausal. Chicago Linguistic Society, 21, 210-220.

Kitagawa, Y. (1986). Subjects in English and Japanese. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Klein, W. & Purdue, C. (1997). The Basic Variety or couldn’t language be much simpler? Second Language Research, 13, 301-347.

Koopman, H. & Sportiche, D. (1991). The position of subjects. Lingua, 85, 211-258.[http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0024-3841(91)90022-W]

Kuroda, S.-Y. (1972). The categorical and the thetic judgment. Evidence from Japanese syntax. Foundations of Language, 9, 153-185.

Lambrecht, K. (1994). Information Structure and Sentence Form. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Levin, B. & Rappaport Hovav, M. (1995). Unaccusativity at the Syntax-Lexical Semantics Interface. Linguistic Inquiry Monographs 26. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Lieberman, P. (2000). Human Language and Our Reptilian Brain: The Subcortical Bases of Speech, Syntax, and Thought. Cambridge, MA and London, England: Harvard University Press.

Lightbown, P. (1977). Consistency and Variation in the Acquisition of French. Doctoral Dissertation, Columbia University.

Locke, J. L. (2009). Evolutionary developmental linguistics: Naturalization of the faculty of language. Language Sciences, 31, 33-59.

Longobardi, G. (1994). Reference and proper names: A theory of N-movement in syntax and Logical Form. Linguistic Inquiry, 25(4), 609-665.

López, L. (2009). A Derivational Syntax for Information Structure. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Marty, A. (1918). Gesammelte Schriften. vol. II, part 1. Abteilung. Halle: Max Niemeyer Verlag.

Navarro Tomás, T. (1974). Manual de Entonación Española. 3rd edition. Madrid: Guadarrama.

Oller, D. K. & Griebel, U. (Eds.). (2004). Evolution of Communication Systems: A Comparative Approach. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

O’Shea, M. V. (1907). Linguistic Development and Education. New York: Macmillan.

Peirce, A. (1992). Language Acquisition and Linguistic Theory. A Comparative Analysis of French and English Child Grammars. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Perlmutter, D. (1978). Impersonal passive and the Unaccusative Hypothesis. Berkeley Linguistics Society, 4, 159-189. University of California, Berkeley.

Pinker, S. (1984). Language Learnability and Language Development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Progovac, L. (2008)a. What use is half a clause? In A. D. M. Smith, K. Smith & R. Ferrer i Cancho (Eds.), Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 7th International EVOLANG Conference, Barcelona, Spain, 12-15 March 2008 (pp. 259-266). New Jersey: World Scientific.

Progovac, L. (2008)b. Root Small Clauses with unaccusative verbs. In A. Antonenko, J. F. Bailyn & C. Y. Bethin (Eds.), Proceedings of FASL (Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics), 16 (pp. 359-373). Ann Arbor: Michigan Slavic Publications.

Progovac, L. (2009a). Layering of grammar: Vestiges of evolutionary development of syntax in present-day languages. In G. Sampson, D. Gil & P. Trudgill, (Eds.), Language Complexity as an Evolving Variable (pp. 203-212). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Progovac, L. (2009b). Sex and syntax: Subjacency revisited. Special issue of Biolinguistics, 3(2-3), 273-305.

Reinhart, T. (2006). Interface Strategies. Optimal and Costly Computations. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Ridley, M. (1993). Evolution. Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications.

Rizzi, L. (1994). Early null subjects and root null subjects. In T. Hoekstra & B.D. Schwartz (Eds.), Language Acquisition Studies in Generative Grammar. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Rizzi, L. (1997). The fine structure of the left periphery. In L. Haegeman (Ed.), Elements of Grammar (pp. 281-337). Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Roeper, T. & Rohrbacher, B. (2000). Null subjects in early Child English and the theory of economy of projection. In S.M. Powers & C. Hamann (Eds.), The Acquisition of Scrambling and Cliticization (pp. 345-396). Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Rolfe, L. (1996). Theoretical stages in the prehistory of grammar. In A. Lock & C. R. Peters (Eds.), Handbook of Human Symbolic Evolution (pp. 776-792). Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Sachs, J. (1983). Talking about the, there and then: The emergence of displaced reference parent - child discourse. In K. E. Nelson (Ed.), Childern’s Language vol. 4 (pp. 1-28). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.

Sasse, H.-J. (1987). The thetic/categorical distinction revisited. Linguistics, 25, 511-580.

Sasse, H.-J. (2006). Theticity. In G. Bernini & M. L. Schwartz (Eds.), Pragmatic Organization of Discourse in the Languages of Europe (pp. 255-308). Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Stowell, T. (1981). Origins of Phrase Structure. Doctoral Dissertation, MIT.

Stowell, T. (1983). Subjects across categories. The Linguistic Review, 2/3, 285-312.

Strickberger, M. W. (2000). Evolution. Third Edition. Boston: Jones & Bartlett.

Studdert-Kennedy, M. (1991). Language development from an evolutionary perspective. In N. A. Krasnegor, D. M. Rumbaugh, R. L. Scheiefelbusch & M. Studdert-Kennedy (Eds.), Biological and Behavioral Determinants of Language Development (pp. 5-28). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Suppes, P., Smith, R. & Leveille, M. (1973). The French syntax of a child’s noun phrases. Archives de Psychologie, 42, 207-269.

Tallerman, M. (Ed.). (2005). Language Origins: Perspectives on Evolution. Studies in the Evolution of Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Torrego, E. (1989). Unergative-unaccusative alternations in Spanish. MIT Working Papers in Linguistics, 10, 253-272.

Uriagereka, J. (2008). Syntactic Anchors: On Semantic Structuring. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Valian, V. (1991). Syntactic subjects in the early speech of American and Italian children. Cognition, 40, 21-81.[http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0010-0277(91)90046-7]

Vallduví, E. (1990). The Informational Component. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Weil, H. (1844). De l’ordre des mots dans les langues anciennes comparéees aux langues modernes. Paris: Joubert. Translated as The Order of Words in the Ancient Languages compared with that of the Modern Languages. Boston: Ginn & Co. 1887, by Charles W. Super. Reedited: Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins 1978.

Westergaard, M.R. (2008). Verb movement and subject placement in the acquisition of word order. In P. Guijarro-Fuentes, M. P. Larrañaga & J. Clibbens (Eds.), First Language Acquisition of Morphology and Syntax (pp. 61-85). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.


Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.





ISSN 2392-1196 (online)

Partnerzy platformy czasopism