LINGUIST List 14.3374

Mon Dec 8 2003

Review: Syntax/Semantics: Lang, et al.(2003)

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  • Martin Schaefer, Modifying Adjuncts

    Message 1: Modifying Adjuncts

    Date: Mon, 8 Dec 2003 10:57:48 -0500 (EST)
    From: Martin Schaefer <>
    Subject: Modifying Adjuncts

    Lang, Ewald, Claudia Maienborn and Cathrine Fabricius-Hansen, ed. (2003) Modifying Adjuncts, Mouton de Gruyter, Interface Explorations 4.

    Announced at

    Martin Schaefer, Institute of Linguistics, University of Leipzig


    The book presents a collection of papers originating from the Oslo Conference ''Approaching the Grammar of Adjuncts'' in 1999. After an introduction by the editors, the contributions are grouped into 4 sections: the argument-adjunct distinction, adjunct placement, case studies on wieder/again and flexibility of event-related modification.

    The section on the argument-adjunct distinction begins with David Dowty's paper ''The dual analysis of adjuncts/complements in Categorial Grammar'', pp. 33-66. Dowty argues that any complete grammar should provide a dual analysis for complements as adjuncts. Only this, he claims, can account for the fact that most complements have same- category adjunct doubles. For him, the parallel analysis as adjunct and complement allows one ''to formalize [] the two endpoints of a complex psycholinguistic ''continuum'', a psychological phenomenon where we are not ready to try to formalize the intermediate points.''(p. 60)

    In ''Genitives, relational nouns, and argument-modifier ambiguity'', pp. 67-112, Barbara H. Partee and Vladimir Borschev discuss in detail the possibility of providing a unified analysis of genitives for on the one hand those genitives which are often argued to behave like arguments, e.g. ''John's father'', on the other hand those genitives that have modifier-like qualities, e.g. ''John's movie''. After a very careful discussion of the data, which includes mainly English and Russian examples, the authors finally reject a uniform analysis on the basis of ellipsis data.

    Manfred Bierwisch's ''Heads, complements, adjuncts: Projection and saturation'', pp. 113-159, argues that the distinction between complements and adjuncts is an essential property of grammar. According to him, adjuncts discharge while complements receive a Theta-Role provided by an argument position.

    The second section on adjunct placement begins with ''Syntactic conditions on adjunct classes'', pp. 163-209 by Werner Frey. Frey argues that there is a distinction between five classes of adjuncts in German and English, all of which are assigned base positions with distinct structural requirements. The author also argues that adjuncts can undergo scrambling in the middle field of German clauses. Frey devotes a one page footnote to a defense of his base position for manner adjuncts against the analysis proposed by Eckardt in this volume.

    Benjamin Shaer's '''Manner' adverbs and the association theory: Some problems and solutions'', pp. 211-259, discusses whether or not the reading of an adverb correlates with its syntactic position. According to him, this correlation does indeed exist, though it cannot be extended rightaway to fronted, parenthetical and afterthought appearances of manner adverbs.

    ''Manner adverbs and information structure: Evidence from the adverbial modification of verbs of creation'', pp. 261-305 by Regine Eckardt investigates phenomena concerning transitive verbs in combination with indefinite direct objects and manner adverbs. In particular, she argues that the two available orders, manner adverb- direct object vs direct object- manner adverb, are consequences of different information structures assigned to the respective sentences. A reflex of this are a limited number of readings for the indefinite object in its pre-adverb position. Eckardt argues directly against some points in Frey's paper, especially concerning syntactic base positions.

    Thomas Ernst's ''Semantic features and the distribution of adverbs'', pp.307-334 argues that an adverb that carries the lexicosemantic property of being subjective, defined here as being a) gradable and b) whose mapping to a scale is influenced by the speaker's contextually dependent judgement, cannot adjoin to the right in head-initial languages, at least not in non-manner readings.

    ''Clause-final left-adjunction'', pp.335-362 by Inger Rosengren investigates the syntactic behaviour of circumstantials, e.g. cause, time and place modifiers, in German, English and Swedish. According to her, the verbal head parameter is responsible for the reverse ordering of these modifiers in German as opposed to Swedish and English.

    The articles in the third section are all case studies of the ambiguities surrounding wieder/again. ''Process, eventuality, and wieder/again'', pp.365-391 by Karin Pittner argues for a syntactic explanation of the ambiguity of wieder/again. In particular, Pittner argues that ''wieder'' in its restitutive reading minimally c-commands the verb in clause-final base position; in its repetitive reading it minimally c-commands the base positions of all arguments. Pittner believes that the meaning of ''wieder'' can in essence be reduced to its repetitive meaning, the two readings being epiphenomena of which entity ''wieder'' is applied to, either the whole eventuality (=repetitive reading) or part of it (=restitutive reading). Pittner incorporates into her discussion the data and arguments given in the two next contributions.

    ''Competition and interpretation: The German adverb wieder ('again')'', pp. 393-416 by Gerhard Jaeger and Reinhard Blutner can be divided into two parts. On the one hand, the authors hold that the ambiguity of wieder/again cannot be handled by decompositional accounts relying on scope to resolve the ambiguities, arguing directly against von Stechov (1996). On the other hand, they present a bidirectional optimality theoretic framework to account for the ambiguity.

    ''How are results represented and modified? Remarks on Jaeger & Blutner's anti-decomposition'', pp. 417-451, by Arnim von Stechow is a direct reply to the previous contribution. The author discusses in detail the criticism brought forward against the decompositional approach, acknowledging that some data remain problematic. In the second part, he incorporates the presented optimality theoretic account into his decompositional framework.

    The last section on flexibility of eventuality-related modification begins with ''Event arguments, adverb selection, and the Stative Adverb Gap'', pp. 455-474 by Graham Katz. Katz begins with the observation that many adverbs, in particular manner adverbs, cannot be combined with stative verbs, while one the other hand no adverb can exclusively be combined with stative verbs (=the Stative Adverb Gap). Katz then argues that stative verbs do not have an event argument and for this reason do not allow for manner modification.

    Claudia Maienborn's ''Event-internal modifiers: Semantic underspecification and conceptual interpretation'', pp. 475-509 argues for a two-way distinction in which adverbial modifiers are linked to a sentence's eventuality argument. Event-external modifiers, located at the VP periphery, relate to the event argument as a whole, while Event- internal modifiers relate only indirectly to the event argument. Technically, both types of modifiers bring with them a free variable, which is either syntactically specified as the event argument (=event- external modification), or is specified with the help of contextually salient world knowledge, using abductive inference.

    ''Flexibility in adverbal modification: Reinterpretation as contextual enrichment'', pp. 511-552 by Johannes Doelling proposes a multi-level model of meaning representation. This model assumes a level of semantic form, where operations that lead to a strictly grammatically determined, context-independent underspecified meaning operate. A second level is the Parameter-fixed Structure, which results from operations specifying the underspecified meaning with the help of contextual enrichment. This model is then shown to account for reinterpretation phenomena in temporal modification, as well as for secondary predication.

    In ''Secondary predication and aspectual structure'', pp. 553-590, Susan Rothstein proposes to analyse secondary predicates, that is resultatives and depictives, as aspectual modifiers. Secondary predications introduce an additional event (besides the event introduced by the matrix verb, that is). For depictives, the two events in the sentence are subject to the constraint that the two events must have the same running time and share one argument. For resultatives, the same constraint must be met, but this time by the culmination of the event introduced by the matrix verb and the event introduced by the secondary predication.

    ''Real adjuncts in the Instrumental in Russian'', pp. 591-625 by Assinja Demijanow and Anatoli Strigin is concerned with the analysis of adjunct-DPs in the free instrumental case in Russian. After presenting the many different interpretations such an adjunct-DPs can receive, they concentrate on giving a uniform semantics for three of these readings, using an abductive inference system fed by the situations at hand and world knowledge.

    The volume ends with Ilse Zimmermann's paper ''German participle II constructions as adjuncts'', pp. 627-649. Zimmermann takes these participle construction to be reduced sentences. She proposes two different templates for the composition of modifiers with their modificanda, distinguishing modification unifying two predicates relating to participants/situations and modification in which the modifier has operator status.


    The papers in this volume give a comprehensive overview about modifying adjuncts, with a strong emphasis on the semantic side of the analysis. Two issues repeatedly occur in the contributions. First, a major difficulty consists in finding a mechanism that is able to derive all of the many different readings of modifying adjuncts needed, especially when their derivation is context- and world-knowledge-dependent. This problem is addressed in detail by the papers of Doelling, Maienborn, and Demjjanow and Strigin, all of which use inference via abduction (all three cite Hobbs et al. 1993 as a major reference on this) in their derivation mechanisms.

    The second issue is complementary to the first one, and concerns the search for those constraints for such a mechanism that are given by the language system itself, i.e. that are grammaticalized or lexicalized. While two papers give more or less lexicalist constraints on interpretations, or rather, on possible verb-adjunct combinations (Katz, Ernst), many others concern syntactic constraints. Thus, Frey, following up on his joint papers with Karin Pittner (1998,1999), argues that the semantics of an adjunct place it in on of the five different syntactic classes of adjuncts he postulates. If this is correct, the syntactic position of an adjunct can also be used in the derivation of its meaning. This is exactly what two contributors (Maienborn and Pittner) argue for in the case of locative modifiers and for the correct interpretation of wieder/again, respectively. Both make use of the different syntactic classes discussed by Frey. This picture is complicated by the data discussed in other approaches. Thus, Eckardt's paper shows that the position of a manner adverb relative to the direct object can reflect the information-structural status of the direct object rather than a different adverb reading, while Jaeger and Blutner's paper points to the role of accentuation in the disambiguation of readings.

    In addition, the data adduced by Shaer in his discussion of causal readings of ''since'' sentences containing manner adjuncts are support, in my view, for an information-structural account for some instances of the syntactic positioning of pure manner adverbs. An intriguing solution for the incorporation of these multiple factors that play a role in the positioning of adjuncts into a semantic analysis would be to extend the treatment for ''wieder'' offered by von Stechow, which incorporates Jaeger and Blutner's optimality theoretic approach, to the other cases. In this way, the basic insight about the influence of syntactic position on adjunct interpretation can be maintained while the other factors (information structure, reading of the direct object, accentuation) could also be accounted for.

    Overall, the papers in this volume connect very well with each other, be it explicitly or through their topics, and make for very stimulating reading. The only downside is that the book uses endnotes and not footnotes, which makes reading the text unnecessarily complicated.


    Frey, Werner, and Karin Pittner (1998) Zur Positionierung der Adjunkte im deutschen Mittelfeld. Linguistische Berichte 176:489-534

    Frey, Werner, and Karin Pittner (1999) Adverbialpositionen im deutsch- englischen Vergleich. In Sprachspezifische Aspekte der Informationsverteilung. M. Doherty (ed.), 14-40. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.

    Hobbs, Jerry R., Mark E. Stickel, Douglas E. Appelt and Paul Martin.(1993) Interpretation as Abduction. Artificial Intelligence 63:69-142

    Stechow, Arnim von (1996) The different readings of wieder 'again': A structural account. Journal of Semantics 13:87-138


    I work in a DFG ( project on event structures and am currently writing my PhD Thesis on the formal semantics of manner adverbs. Feel free to visit my homepage at: