LINGUIST List 12.1712

Mon Jul 2 2001

Review: Baltin & Collins, Handbook Syntactic Theory

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  1. Radu Daniliuc, Review: Baltin & Collins, Handbook of Contemporary Syntactic Theory

Message 1: Review: Baltin & Collins, Handbook of Contemporary Syntactic Theory

Date: Mon, 2 Jul 2001 21:38:59 +1000
From: Radu Daniliuc <radudaniliuc.com>
Subject: Review: Baltin & Collins, Handbook of Contemporary Syntactic Theory

Baltin, Mark, and Chris Collins, ed. (2000) The Handbook of Contemporary
Syntactic Theory. Blackwell Publishers, hardback ISBN: 0631205071, $124.95
(Blackwell Handbooks in Linguistics).

Reviewed by Laura and Radu Daniliuc
School of Modern Languages
Department of Linguistics
The Australian National University

Blackwell Publishers offer researchers and students an excellent overview
about the current status of research in syntax. Mark Baltin (New York
University) and Chris Collins (Cornell University) are to be congratulated
for the extraordinary job they have done in editing such impressing a book
that can be seen both as a reference work and as an important valuation of
modern thinking in syntax.
The work of an international assembly of leading professionals in the field,
the 23 original articles in this volume provide a wide-ranging and helpful
reference for a variety of grammar areas.
The book is organized in six parts, and the chapters contain meticulous
analyses of issues such as non-configurational languages, a cross-linguistic
comparison of important grammatical features that interface with semantics,
discussions from the perspective of language acquisition theory, a
discussion of thematic roles and relations, and comparisons of derivational
and representational approaches to grammar.
All syntactic theories admit that syntax makes infinite use of finite means,
but there is a fundamental distinction between theories as to how this is
done. This is exactly what Baltin and Collins tried, and succeeded, to
illustrate in Contemporary Syntactic Theory.

Part I deals with Derivation versus Representation, one of the most subtle
and difficult to solve issues in syntactic theory.
Within the representational framework of Optimality Theory syntax, Joan
Bresnan (Stanford University) explains, with evidence from closely related
dialects of English, how the morphosyntactic competition between the members
of a paradigm can receive a natural treatment.
Assuming a derivational theory, Chris Collins (Cornell University) offers an
overview of the economy conditions that have been proposed for syntax. The
main issues he deals with are Last Resort, Minimality, the Shortest
Derivation Requirement, and timing principles, such as ASAP (As Soon As
Possible) and Procrastinate.
Howard Lasnik (University of Connecticut) approaches derivation and
transformation in modern transformational syntax, mainly the Minimalist
Program. His study includes locality constraints on movement and the
property forcing (overt) movement.
Luigi Rizzi (Universite de Geneve) presents Relativized Minimality effects
on the different types of chain through a representational formulation of
the relevant locality principle and explains the complex patterns of
Minimality effects induced by different types of adverbial modifier.

Part II reunites articles on Movement.
Ian Roberts (University of Stuttgart) argues that all the properties of Head
Movement can be deduced from the Head Movement Constraint, namely that
head-movement is Move-alpha for alpha a head. Roberts reformulate this
principal locality condition on Head Movement as Move-F(eature), where the
feature is morphologized on a word.
H�skuldur Thr�insson (University of Iceland) deals with a quite well
documented topic, namely Object Shift and Scrambling constructions. Assuming
a derivational point of view, he considers the apparent similarities and
differences between Object Shift and Scrambling constructions with evidence
from Germanic languages.
Akira Watanabe (University of Tokyo) concentrates on Wh-in Situ languages,
such as Chinese and Japanese, as compared to English-type languages and to
other wh-in-situ languages and suggests that the wh-movement posited for
wh-in-situ languages takes place in overt syntax, contrary to appearances.
Mark R. Baltin (University of New York) focuses on A-Movement which he
perceives as movement to a c-commanding position, typically a specifier
position, of a projection whose head is lexical in nature. Concentrating on
the comparison between the lexical approach and the movement approach,
Baltin investigates three constructions - unaccusatives, passives, and
subject-to-subject raisings - as evidence for A-movements.

Part III reunites articles focusing on Argument Structure and Phrase
Structure.
Jeffrey S. Gruber (MIT) discusses the information content of simple and
complex thematic structures, the significance of aspect, the locus of
thematic information, the nucleus of theta-role projections and the
derivation of linking asymmetries.
Talking about predication, John Bowers (Cornell University) examines
different theories of the syntactic expression of the predication relation
and brings additional evidence for the existence of a Pred Phrase whose
presence must be inferred indirectly from the effects it exerts on other
categories and the syntactic patterns it induces.
Within the framework of Generative Grammar, Hiroyuki Ura (Osaka University)
talks about a universal theory of Case, which he defines as the grammatical
category that mediates between form (morphophonology) and meaning
(semantics). His study is mainly concerned with the role case plays in
syntax.
Following the development of X'-theory, Naoki Fukui (University of
California) discusses the theory of Phrase Structure from its beginning in
the late 1960's up to nowadays. The central idea is that phrase structure
rules can be eliminated and the work done by them can be accommodated with
other devices.
Mark C. Baker (McGill University) tries to identify the natures of
nonconfigurationality, a non-unified phenomenon whose sources are different
in different languages and depend on typological properties such as whether
it is head marking or dependent marking, word order, and basic category
system.
Kyle Johnson (University of Massachusetts at Amherst) looks at what VP
ellipsis can do, and what it can't, but not why. He takes into consideration
the twin problems that VP-ellipsis raises, namely the characterization of
the licensing environments and the nature of the elided VP.

The chapters in Part IV deal with non-lexical, or functional, categories.
Adriana Belletti (Universita di Siena) talks about Agreement Projections
from the perspective of the so-called "Split Infl" hypothesis according to
which a central role is played by Agr nodes and projections in clause
structure. She also comments on Chomsky's attempts to dispense with Agr
projections in favor of multiple specifiers of a light verb node.
Raffaella Zanuttini (Georgetown University) offers an overview of the
strategies employed cross-linguistically to express sentential negation. She
also addresses such issues as how to determine the syntactic category to
which negative markers belong and how to distinguish them from other
elements with similar distributional properties.
Judy B. Bernstein (Syracuse University) deals with the syntax of Determiner
Phrases, particularly the parallels between noun phrases and clauses with
respect to head movement, and with the DP hypothesis, which facilitates the
re-examination of different aspects of noun phrases.
Giuseppe Longobardi (University of Trieste) considers the structure of
Determiner Phrases in terms of both the lexical and the functional structure
surrounding head nouns. He discusses some principles, parameters and
problems and argues for the existence of PRO within noun phrases.

Part V considers the interplay between syntactic structures and semantics,
in particular anaphora and the scope of logical operators.
>From a Minimalist perspective, Anna Szabolcsi (New York University) deals
with the Syntax of Scope, mainly the issue of to what extent independently
motivated syntactic considerations decide, delimit, or interact with scope
interpretation. She also compares different treatments of "inverse scope",
in which a superficially less prominent logical operator takes scope over a
more prominent one.
Eric Reuland (Utrecht Institute of Linguistics) and Martin Everaert (Utrecht
Institute of Linguistics) present a technical description of Binding Theory
and the empirical problems it had to solve. Trying to deconstruct Binding,
they address the issues of long distance anaphora and logophoricity, the
difference between 'coreference' and 'bound variable interpretation', and
reflexivity.
Talking about syntactic reconstruction effects, Andrew Barss (University of
Arizona) shows that reconstruction is fundamentally a property of movement
dependencies. He presents several analyses of the well-known asymmetry
between moved predicative phrases and non-predicative phrases.

Part VI discusses the external evaluation of syntax, particularly its
relationship with domains requiring the formulation of a grammar.
Putting together theoretical concerns and empirical findings, Anthony S.
Kroch (University of Pennsylvania) deals with several problems of diachronic
syntax, such as change and stability, syntactic change and first language
acquisition, language contact and syntactic change, and the diffusion of
syntactic change.
Dealing with the logical problem of language acquisition, Janet Dean Fodor
(City University of New York) tries to set syntactic parameters - 20 binary
syntactic parameters, in her opinion - and investigates the mechanisms by
which children would have to be said to set the parameters of grammar
variation.

Though most of the chapters are written from a Minimalist/GB perspective,
this volume provides a comprehensive view of the current issues in
contemporary syntactic theory.
These cutting-edge, comprehensive articles, together with the editors'
informative introduction and a broad bibliography, grant a wide community of
readers the key to the field of natural language syntax today.
 In the end, the reader cannot but agree with the editors that they have
followed the twin paths of ecumenicalism and comprehensiveness of empirical
coverage by focusing on areas of grammar rather than particular frameworks,
and this way of approaching syntax has resulted in an outstanding volume
that is indeed a reference book in the purest sense.

The Editors:

Mark Baltin is Professor of Linguistics at New York University where he has
been teaching since receiving his Ph.D. from MIT in 1978. He has published
widely on movement and ellipsis, and served on the NSF Advisory Panel for
Linguistics from 1996 to 1999. He is the editor, with Anthony S. Kroch, of
Alternative Conceptions of Phrase-Structure (1989).
Chris Collins served in the Peace Corps before enrolling in MIT's graduate
program in linguistics. He is currently Assistant Professor of Linguistics
at Cornell University and has published widely in the syntax of various
African languages and general syntactic theory. He is the author of Local
Economy (1997).

The Reviewers:

Laura and Radu Daniliuc are the authors of the first Romanian translation of
Ferdinand de Saussure's Cours de linguistique g�n�rale (Curs de lingvistica
generala, Editura Cuv�ntul nostru, Suceava, 1998) and of Descriptive
Romanian Grammar. An Outline (Lincom Europe, Munich, 2000).

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