Linguistic theory and South Asian language

Linguistic theory and South Asian language: Essays in honour of K. A. Jayaseelan. Ed. by Josef Bayer, Tanmoy Bhattacharya, and M. T. Hany Babu. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2007. Pp. x, 282. ISBN 9789027233660. $173 (Hb).

Reviewed by Tommi Leung, United Arab Emirates University

This edited volume written by syntactians and phonologists of Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages is a Festschrift for K. A. Jayaseelan, one of India’s most influential linguists. Eleven of the fourteen papers focus on issues specific to South Asian linguistics, whereas the other three discuss current linguistic theory in general.

In the introduction, Josef Bayer, Tanmoy Bhattacharya, and M. T. Hany Babu present a detailed report of Jayaseelan’s contributions to modern linguistics. Dorothee Beermann, Kalyanamalini Sahoo, and Lars Hellan discuss serial verb constructions (SVCs) in Oriya (an Eastern Indo-Aryan language) and argue that the notion of ‘token-sharing’, although common in the analysis of SVCs, cannot apply to object sharing in Oriya verb phrase serialization.

Two papers deal with pseudocleft constructions: Cedric Boeckx develops a strictly derivational account of syntactic relations in pseudoclefts that makes use of higher functional projections such as topic phrase, remnant movement, and binding conspire to describe specificational pseudoclefts. P. Madhavan claims that in Malayalam cleft constructions, the cleft constituent is overtly raised to the cleft focus, instead of using empty operator movement.

K. Srikumar studies asymmetry in the movements of complements and noncomplements in Malayalam, paying special attention to how clausal pied-piping rescues subjacency violations. Richard S. Kayne analyzes English quantity words and proposes that adjectival modifiers such as many and few modify an overt or empty number, whereas much and little modify an overt or empty amount.

Three papers focus on binding theory. Jacqueline Guéron investigates inverse copula sentences with regard to the Principle B of binding theory. Eric Reuland reexamines pronouns and anaphors in binding theory. He claims that the complexity of binding systems results from the interaction between binding and properties of standard predicate logic and that traditional binding theory is on the wrong track. Yogendra P. Yadava discusses subject-to-subject raising in Maithili. She claims that while Maithili subject raising happens within a tensed embedded clause, which should be ruled out by the binding principle, raising can be accounted for provided that the notion of ‘governing category’ is redefined.

Three papers look at clausal structure of South Asian languages. Probal Dasgupta analyzes the complementizer in Bangla/Bengali. In a related paper, Alice Davison studies how finite subordinate clauses are marked in Indic languages and the relation between word orders and complementizers. Madhumita Barbora studies the clause-final particle ne in direct yes-no questions in Assamese. She claims that in Assamese yes-no questions an abstract question morpheme is present in the complementizer position and that the particle ne is not a question particle but rather a [+wh] disjunctive marker.

The book closes with three phonology papers. Shyamal Das investigates the optimality-theory constraint ‘No nasal plus voiceless obstruent sequence’ in Malayalam and the theory of underspecification in phonology. K. G. Vijayakrishnan examines the disyllabic minimum requirement of the word in Bangla, Punjabi, and Tamil. Finally, Pingali Sailaja explores how orthography influences phonological awareness in the minds of speakers.