Workshop on Surface-based Syntax and Romance Languages

Workshop on Surface-based Syntax and Romance Languages

European Summer School in Logic, Language and Information
Prague, Czech Republic
11-23 August, 1996

The workshop is in week 2 of the ESSLLI (19-23 August) in the Language section, in time slot III (90 minutes). To attend the workshop, it is necessary to register for the summer school.


Anne Abeillé (Paris 7)
Paola Monachesi (Tuebingen University)


Monday 19 - Pronominal clitics
Paola Monachesi (Tuebingen University): Italian restructuring verbs and clitic climbing (HPSG)
Esther Kraak (Utrecht University): French and Italian clitics in multimodal categorial grammar (Categorial Grammar)
Philip Miller (Lille University), Ivan Sag (Stanford University): French clitics and morphology (HPSG)

Tuesday 20 - Complex predicates
Anne Abeillé, Danièle Godard (Paris 7): Auxiliary and causative constructions: clitic climbing in French (HPSG)
Benoit Robichaud (Paris 7): French syntactic cliticization (HPSG)
Chris Manning (Carnegie Mellon): Complex predicates in Romance (LFG)

Wednesday 21 - Complex predicates/auxiliary selection
Josep Fontana (Barcelona): Clitic climbing and the semantic interpretation of non-finite VPs in Romance
Anne Abeillé, Danièle Godard (Paris 7): Copula and "be" auxiliary in Romance (HPSG)
Luca Dini (Scuola Normale Superiore): Unaccusative behaviours (HPSG)

Thursday 22 - Reflexives
Danièle Godard (Paris 7), Ivan Sag (Stanford University): Reflexives in French (HPSG)
Paola Monachesi (Tuebingen University) Reflexives in Italian (HPSG)

Friday 23 - Additional issues
Anne Abeillé, Danièle Godard (Paris 7), Ivan Sag (Stanford University): Negation and word order (HPSG)
Luca Dini (Scuola Normale Superiore): Null objects in Italian and Spanish (HPSG)


Italian restructuring verbs and clitic climbing (Paola Monachesi)

Clitics have been the object of much discussion in the linguistics literature, however their definition is still a topic of much debate. I will argue that the behavior of Italian clitics shows that they do not constitute a uniform class. I will take into consideration Italian monosyllabic object clitics and the dative clitic ``loro'' (to them). I will suggest that Italian object clitics exhibit properties of inflectional affixes and I will provide motivations to argue in favor of their affixal status. Under this view, Italian monosyllabic clitics will not be considered lexical items, but featural information which is provided in the lexicon and used in morphology and phonology for the realization of the cliticized verb form. Differently for what concerns the clitic ``loro''; I will show that this element exhibits word like properties and I will consider it a lexical item. In this way, it will be possible to account for the differences in distribution between monosyllabic clitics and ``loro'' while being able to derive the common properties. Italian clitics, both monosyllabic clitics and ``loro'', can undergo ``clitic climbing'', namely they can appear on a verbal head of which they are not an argument, if certain verbs are present. I will propose a lexical analysis of this construction, cast within the HPSG framework, which is based on the idea of ``argument composition'', according to which the subcategorization requirements of the embedded verb are passed up to the clitic climbing trigger verb. I will show that the affix vs. word distinction proposed for monosyllabic clitics and ``loro'', respectively, interacts in the desired way with the argument composition analysis, accounting in an appropriate way for the similarities and differences of these clitics with respect to climbing. I will also be concerned with dialectal variation and I will show that within HPSG, the parametrization of linguistic variation occurs in the lexicon. I will discuss restructuring verbs and clitic climbing in Salentino, a southern Italian dialect; Salentino is particularly interesting since clitic climbing can occur out of finite clauses. I will then show how the analysis proposed for Standard Italian can be extended to account also for dialectal variation.

French and Italian clitics in multimodal categorial grammar (Esther Kraak)

In the talk I will present an analysis of clitic data from the point of view of a multimodal categorial grammar. Different aspects of clitic behaviour will be considered, such as the choice of a host and the order in which multiple clitics appear. I will focus on object clitics in French and Italian, comparing the constructions in which they occur in order to find out to what extent they can be given the same analysis.

French Clitics and Morphology (Philip Miller and Ivan Sag)

This presentation provides a brief overview of the arguments for treating French `clitics' as pronominal affixes, rather than as independent syntactic entities. We outline a lexical and morphological analysis that eliminates the syntactic feature CLTS (or PRAS) that was introduced in earlier HPSG work on Romance cliticization.

French Syntactic cliticization (Benoit Robichaud)

Recent analyses of argument extraction and pronominal cliticization in HPSG describe the aforementioned phenomena by means of lexical rules, (that is, with a mecanism traditionally used for describing paradigmatic variations in the lexicon). Even if this lexical approach does not use empty categories anymore, which is truly beneficial in phrase-structure based theories, such a radical lexicalism does not seem necessary nor appropriate for those two cases.

The analysis which I will present is rather "purely" syntactic and only involves a few well-motivated adjustments to the framework.

On the one hand, argument extraction is not considered as a lexical property but instead as a structural one and it is then taken in charge by the Valence Principle. This principle not only verifies if expected arguments of a head are present in a local tree, but also memorizes the information relative to those that are absent in the [INHER|SLASH] feature value. In this way, subcategorization fulfillment and gap introduction are uniformly handled by the same universal syntactic mecanism in charge of valence checking.

On the other hand, pronominal clitics, which I view as of subtype "specifier", select their lexical host via the [SPEC] attribute. That is, the fact that (pronoun) clitics can appear in a structure is not a lexical property of the host but of the clitics themselves. As they appear as sisters of a head in a "spec-head-schema", weak pronouns then introduce the information (modelized as a [TO-BIND|SLASH] feature value) relative to the particularities of the full argument that they can represent and replace. In this view, pronominal clitics are then lexicaly cross-classified on different partitions that not only distinguish gender, number, case and referentiality but also their "binding" properties.

Finally, because "to-bind" dependencies are now directly introduced in structures by lexical items that are "binders" (for example, relative, interrogative and weak pronouns), the Non-Local Principle needs to be reformulated. This principle will then constrain the value of the "inherited" and "to-bind" [SLASH] attributes of the projection of the head daughter to be the set difference of the "respective union of these attributes on all daughters in a local tree".

Auxiliary and causative constructions : Clitic climbing in French (Anne Abeillé, Danièle Godard)

We argue in favor of a local treatment of clitic placement in French : we show that for tense auxiliary (avoir, etre) and causative constructions (faire, laisser) a flat structure is better motivated than a VP (or S) complementation analysis for all cases where the complement clitic appears on the higher verb. Using HPSG, the tense auxiliaries are analysed as morphosyntactic heads inheriting the subject and the complements of the past participle. The causative verbs are analysed as heading two possible structures : a flat structure where they inherit the subject (= causee) and the complements of the infinitival verb as their complements, and a control structure where they take as complement a clitic or accusative NP (the causee) and an infinitival VP. This distinction between two structures correlates with several syntactic properties: clitic placement (upstairs or downstairs), negation, tough constructions, etc.

Copula and "be" auxiliary in Romance (Anne Abeillé, Danièle Godard)

We show that what has been sometimes called passive auxiliary should be in fact analysed as the copula, on the basis of common syntactic properties. For Romance languages with "be" auxiliary for compound tenses (french, italian, romanian), its properties systematically differ from those of the copula/passive.

Unaccusative behaviors (Luca Dini)

I will present a monostratal, non-derivational analysis of a class of Italian verbal forms/stems which share a set of properties which I will label `unaccusative behavior'. This class includes:

The features that I consider decisive for determining inclusion in this class (whose members will be called either `ergative constructions' or `ergative forms' depending whether unaccusativity emerges at the phrasal or lexical level, respectively) are the following:

The basic idea of the present approach is that the features determining an unaccusative behavior are syntactic in nature, even though they can be semantically derived, as in the case of unaccusatives(Levin & Rapaport, 1995). The justification for such a choice is that whereas a semantic generalization grouping together the verbs traditionally labeled `unaccusatives' can be found, convincing semantic generalizations grouping together all verbs and verbal constructions which manifest an `unaccusative behavior' are still missing.

Contrary to the previous GB literature, I reject the assumption that movement of constituents is at the base of an explanation for the unaccusative behavior. Indeed, I will show that an analysis which refuses movements and relies on the more `economical' hypothesis that unaccusative behaviors is always lexically determined, can fully account for the data in question.

The central claim of such an analysis, which is casted in the version of the HPSG theory described in Chapter 9 of Pollard and Sag (1994), is that while unergative forms are characterized by the presence of the subject within the SUBJ list, ergative forms have an empty SUBJ list, their surface subject being the first member of the COMPS list. Unaccusative behaviours follow from this assumption.


Beth Levin and Malka Rappaport, 1995, "Unaccusativity", MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.

Carl Pollard and Ivan Sag, 1994, "Head Driven Phrase Structure Grammar", University of Chicago Press and CSLI Publications, Stanford: Center for the Study of Language and Information

Complex predicates in Romance (Chris Manning)

I plan to sketch how the main facts of causatives/auxiliaries/light verbs in French/Spanish/Italian can be handled within a complex predicates analysis within LFG of the sort that I and others have developed over the last several years. I will then conclude with some comparison of this account with recent work (Abeille, Godard, Sag, Miller, Monachesi) in HPSG, suggesting that there are at least a couple of facts which I think are better explained under the LFG account.

Clitic climbing and the semantic interpretation of non-finite VPs in Romance (Joesep Fontana)

The idea that so-called 'trigger' verbs (i.e. those that license 'clitic climbing') are part of a phrasal entity that we can characterize as a climbing') are part of a phrasal entity that we can characterize as a complex predicate is not new and has been implemented in one way or another in most available syntactic frameworks. While various formal analyses get some of the 'clitic climbing' facts straight in at least a subset of the Romance languages, what I think is missing in the analyses I will consider is an appropriate general characterization of the kinds of predicates that can be triggers, one that goes beyond simply saying that they are auxiliary-like verbs which can appear in a 'flat structure' where the non-finite verb complements and their arguments are sisters of the tensed verb.

Note, for instance, the differences between the German verb versprochen and the Spanish verb prometer both meaning promise in terms of their possible participation in structures that have been assumed to be flat in recent HPSG analyses. The German data in (1) illustrates the phenomenon described as 'clause union' and has been analyzed in terms of 'argument composition' by some authors (e.g. Pollard, Kasper and Levine 1994).

(1) Dass es ihm jemand zu lesen versprochen hat
Dass ihm es jemand zu lesen versprochen hat
Dass jemand es ihm zu lesen versprochen hat
Dass jemand ihm es zu lesen versprochen hat
Dass es jemand ihm zu lesen versprochen hat
Dass ihm jemand es zu lesen versprochen hat
'That someone has promised him to read it'

However, in Catalan, Spanish, and most Romance languages characterized by exhibiting clitic climbing phenomena, the equivalent verb does not typically participate in structures analyzed in terms of 'argument composition' (by e.g. Monachesi, to appear), in contrast with other predicates such as querer ( want ) or permitir ( allow ) which characteristically permit clitic climbing in most languages. This is illustrated by the contrasts in (2) and (3) obtaining in most Spanish dialects.

(2) a. Lo quiso comer wanted.3Sg eat wanted.3Sg eat

b. Quiso comerlo
'S/he wanted to eat it'

c. *Lo prometio' comer promised.3Sg eat

d. Prometio' comerlo
'S/he promised to eat it'

(3) a. Se lo permitio' dejar en mi casa wanted.3Sg leave in my house

b. Le permitio' dejarlo en mi casa
Cl.him.Dat allow in my house
'S/he allowed him to leave it in my house'

c. *Se lo prometio' dejar en mi casa
Cl.her promised.3Sg leave in my house

d. Le prometio' dejarlo en mi casa
Cl.her promised.3Sg in my house
'S/he promised to read it to her after dinner'

Assuming the argument composition approach to treat these phenomena is in the right direction, if the kinds of differences observed above turn out to be systematic between different languages or language families, it would seem appropriate to try to establish which factors, syntactic and/or semantic, might determine what can count as a verbal complex in a given language.

The task of finding an appropriate unified characterization of trigger verbs in Romance appears to be enormously complicated because there is some variation in the particular predicates that can license clitic climbing and in the specific types of clitic climbing allowed among different dialects and across the various standard varieties in this language family.

There are a number of possible ways to tackle this variation. In the tradition of Transformational Grammar and its subsequent developments, the most popular type of solution has been to propose highly abstract and complex syntactic analyses which derive all these differences in terms of parametrized constraints on possible tree configurations. Within unification-based, lexically oriented frameworks such as HPSG or LFG, one might be tempted to account for this variation by simply listing in the lexicon those predicates that can act as triggers and those that don't. The differences observed across different languages and dialects would then be seen as a result of the different memberships in the class of 'restructuring predicates'. I would like to suggest, however, that such solutions, while doing the job more or less elegantly, miss some important and potentially useful generalizations.

While it might turn out to be impossible to avoid having to state some of the observed idiosyncracies in particular lexicons of particular languages, I believe that a general characterization of trigger verbs in the Romance languages is possible. After a brief discussion of some relevant data from contemporary Spanish and Catalan dialects, I will attempt to sketch out some possible ways in which such a characterization could be implemented within HPSG. This will serve as a basis to extend the basic analysis to other Romance varieties. Within this discussion I will comment on the results of an extensive investigation of the evolution of the clitic system in Spanish, carried out in my dissertation, which will help make sense out of some of the most obvious differences observed between the different Romance languages with respect to clitic climbing.

Reflexives in French (Danièle Godard and Ivan Sag)

Reflexive verbs in French comprise "true reflexive V" ("se laver", to wash oneself/each other), medio-passive V ("bien se vendre", to easily sell) and intrinsic reflexive V ("s'exclamer", to exclaim). While these V's are not homogeneous, and cannot be characterized in terms of a unique relation to basic V's, they have properties in common, which lead us to posit a type "reflexive V", with an associated Feature Structure. We account for the different properties as well as the speakers variation, by positing different Lexical rules, and a type "inherent-clitic-V", from which their puzzling behavior as complement of causative V's can be deduced.

Reflexives in Italian (Paola Monachesi)

The Italian clitic "si" has been the topic of much research because of its intriguing properties; the main characteristic of this clitic is that the same phonological realization is associated with several different functions. In particular, "si" occurs with a reflexive/reciprocal interpretation in "Martina si lava" (Martina washes herself), an impersonal interpretation in "Si mangia spesso le fragole" (One often eats strawberries), a middle interpretation in "le fragole si mangiano spesso" (Strawberries are often eaten), and ergative intepretation in "lo specchio si rompe" (the mirror breakes) and an inherent reflexive interpretation in "Martina si arrabbia spesso" (Martina often gets angry).

The analysis of "si", which I will propose, will distinguish between an argument and a non-argument usage of "si", capturing intuitions similar to those of Cinque (1988). In the reflexive/reciprocal and in the impersonal interpretation, the clitic "si" acts as an argument; it fills the relevant slot in the subcategorization requirements of the verb and it contributes to the semantics with agreement information. In the middle, ergative and inherent-reflexive interpretation, clitic "si" is instead a grammatical marker of the relevant verb form.

Negation and word order in French (Anne Abeillé, Danièle Godard and Ivan Sag)

We outline a treatment of French adverbials and the principles that govern their linear order. The analysis we present builds on several key ideas: (1) `pas' and scalar adverbials (bien, beaucoup, mal, peu, trop) are complements of the finite verb and adjuncts of non finite verbs ; (2) linear precedence rules refer to a distinction between "lexical" (or `tight') and "non lexical" (or `loose') expressions; (3) all ordering variation is analyzed in terms of local LP constraints, rather than head movement.

Null objects in Italian and Spanish (Luca Dini)

The existence and the theoretical status of empty categories is one of the major issues raised by modern linguistics. While certain theories list phonetically null items among the basic devices to describe the behavior of natural language, other theories exhibit a more skeptical approach. For instance in the ``official'' version of HPSG (Pollard and Sag 1994), while there is still room for a small set of phonetically unrealized elements, such as WH-traces or null relativizers, most of the traditional empty categories assumed within the Government and Binding Theory are eliminated. Actually, there is an even more drastic line of research in HPSG (cf., for instance, Sag (1994)) aimed at the total exclusion of empty categories from the inventory of the signs available to any language. The talk will provide further support to this hypothesis by showing that in Italian the behavior of certain phonetically unrealized, but semantically active, complements can be accounted for without introducing empty categories. I will analyze cases where the speaker avoid mentioning one of the participants to the event that he or she is describing, by virtue of the fact that either they can be recovered from the context or they are understood as generic, average participants (pro-arb and PRO-arb). The result of our analysis will be that the proper logical form of this kind of utterances can be derived from independently motivated semantic principles.

I will show how the introduction of a mechanism of unselective binding within the semantic organization of HPSG and the addition of a new type of index (`arbitrary') to the standard index hyerarchy of HPSG can uniformily accont for the syntax (masculine plural inflection) and semantics (genericity) of arbitrary null objects (1), generic subjects of `si'-constructions (2) and non controlled subjects of infinitival clauses (3):

(1) In quel periodo Mario visitava sdraiati
In that period Mario {was visiting-IMP} laying-down-MASC-PL
In that period Mario used to visit people laying down

(2) Si vive contenti
SI live happy-MASC-PL
One lives happy

(3) Spesso partire assonnati puo' causare un incidente
Often {to leave} sleepy-MASC-PL may cause a

It will be proven that the treatment provides the correct results also w.r.t. other romance languages, such as French, Spanish and Catalan. In particular, I will show how a parametric variation of the constraints associated to the `arbitrary' index is responsible for the fact that both plural and singular inflection can be associated to unespressd generic participants in Spanish and Catalan:

(4) SPA: Contra el Milan, no se puede jugar cansado/cansados
Against the Milan, not SI can play tired-MASC-SG/tired-MASC-PL
It is impossible to play against the Milan tired

(5) CAT: Contra el Milan, no es pot jugar cansat/cansats
Against the Milan, not SI can play tired-MASC-SG/tired-MASC-PL
It is impossible to play against the Milan tired
Paola Monachesi <>
Last modified: Tue Aug 6 14:13:17 1996