Small clauses in Spanish

Small clauses in Spanish: The semantics of transitivity. By Jiyoung Yoon. Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2007. Pp. 177. ISBN 9783895869891. $100.38.

Reviewed by Giorgio Iemmolo, University of Pavia

In this volume, Jiyoung Yoon explores small clauses (SCs) in Spanish using the functional criteria put forward by Paul Hopper and Sandra A. Thompson’s (1980, Transitivity in grammar and discourse. Language 56. 251–99) model of transitivity. These criteria include the semantics of the main verb and the SC predicate as well as properties of the subject and the object. This volume is divided into five chapters plus an introduction and a conclusion.

In the introduction (7–11), Y introduces SCs. In Ch. 1, ‘Previous approaches to small clauses’ (12–46), Y sketches two approaches to SCs (SC theory and predication theory) and classifies SCs in complement and noncomplement positions in Spanish. Y also provides syntactic tests to distinguish between the different types of SCs.

In Ch. 2, ‘Theoretical background’ (47–63), Y lays the groundwork for her analysis by introducing the notion of lexical aspect as well as the distinction between stage-level (SL) and individual-level (IL) predicates. Subsequently, she introduces the theoretical basis of the functional approach (i.e. prototype theory) and the transitivity hypothesis.

In Ch. 3, ‘Adjunct predicates and semantic constraints’ (64–96), Y focuses on semantic constraints on SCs in adjunct position. After presenting the theta criterion and subject- and object-oriented adjunct predicates, Y examines adjunct predicates in terms of lexical aspect and suggests a new analysis. She argues that the licensing of SCs in adjunct position is not captured by appealing to lexical aspect or the SL–IL predicate distinction; rather, licensing is better explained by taking into account other semantic properties, such as the animacy and volitionality of the subject, the definiteness and affectedness of the object, and the telicity of the verb.

Ch. 4, ‘Small clauses in complement position’ (97–159) analyzes four types of SCs in complement position: proposition-taking verbs, practition-taking verbs, perception verbs, and causatives. These verbs  allow a number of complements, including verbal SC predicates, such as nouns, adjectives, and prepositions, and nonverbal SC predicates, such as bare infinitives and gerunds (although, Y’s  survey is only devoted to adjectival predicates). After illustrating the distinction between these verb classes, Y demonstrates that, once again, in addition to the covariation of transitivity parameters, the SL–IL distinction plays a crucial role in licensing SCs in complement position. She argues that some verb types that are higher in transitivity, such as declarative verbs, perception verbs with a direct perception, practition-taking verbs, and causative dejar ‘leave, quit’ with animate and definite direct objects, preferably select SL SC predicates. By contrast, both SL and IL SC predicates are permitted with verbs lower in transitivity, such as perception verbs with an indirect perception and practition-taking verbs with inanimate and indefinite objects. One exception is the causative hacer ‘make’, which only allows IL SC predicates.

The last chapter, ‘Conclusion’ (160–65), summarizes the analysis, addresses unanswered questions, and explores directions for future research.