LINGUIST List 13.2750

Wed Oct 23 2002

Review: Syntax: Frank (2002)

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  1. Vlachou, Evangelia, Frank (2002), Phrase Structure Composition and Syntactic Dependencies

Message 1: Frank (2002), Phrase Structure Composition and Syntactic Dependencies

Date: Wed, 23 Oct 2002 18:48:34 +0000
From: Vlachou, Evangelia <>
Subject: Frank (2002), Phrase Structure Composition and Syntactic Dependencies

Frank, Robert (2002) Phrase Structure Composition and Syntactic Dependencies,
MIT Press, xiv+308pp, hardback ISBN 0-262-06229-1, $40.00.

Book Announcement on Linguist: 

Evangelia Vlachou, 
University of Utrecht (UiL-OTS) and University of Paris IV. 


''Phrase Structure Composition and Syntactic Dependencies'' explores
the role of the Tree Adjoining Grammar (TAG) which provides operations
for composing pieces of tree structures to form larger syntactic
structures. Many different approaches could be taken when attempting
to formalize in syntax. TAG formalism was first defined in 1975 by
Joshi, Levy and Takahashi. Kroch and Joshi (1985) highlighted the
importance of TAG for linguistic theory. Chomsky's (1993) paper on
the Minimalist Program and the introduction of generalized
transformations into the syntactic theory made TAG compatible with a
more widely adopted approach. Frank opts for marrying these two
approaches of transformational grammar, by presenting the TAG syntax,
based on his own work growing out of Kroch and Joshi's earlier
proposals. Robert Frank is a prominent scholar in the field of TAG. He
is the author of ''Syntactic locality and Tree Adjoining Grammar''
(1992) and co-author (with Kulick and Vijay-Shanker) of ''Monotonic
c-command: a new perspective on tree-adjoining grammar'' (2000).

Because of this marriage of all approaches presented above, Frank's
book constitutes a great point of reference for every syntactician who
works in any field of theoretical linguistics. It is therefore
intended for readers with advanced linguistic knowledge. However, the
way in which the author starts his book, explaining what ''mental
grammar'' and ''linguistic expression'' are, makes it a strong
candidate for being used as a supplement for graduate courses intended
to provide syntax-oriented students with an overview on TAG.


The book consists of six chapters: introduction (''setting the
stage''), the nature of elementary trees, a case study: raising, local
constraints and local economy, a case study: wh-dependencies,
conclusion (''looking onward'').

Chapter 1 introduces the author's main claim after a detailed analysis
of Chomsky's approach on the dependencies across boundaries: ''there
is in fact a way to maintain the idea that the locality of
movement-derived syntactic dependencies stems from the derivational
independence of structural units that are bound in size''. He proposes
further that the most optimal way to succeed in this is to make use of
the derivational machinery of TAG. He concludes that this new system
is tightly related to Chomsky's system and other more recent
derivational systems. Based on these assumptions, Frank provides the
reader with a panel of the basic notions of TAG like ''structure of
TAG derivations'' and the relation between ''formal grammar and human

Chapter 2 is dedicated to defining which structural domain can be
represented as an elementary tree. The pilot subject for doing so is
the idea that basic predications and clauses form the foundation of
semantically local domains. The chapter concludes with a number of
well-formedness conditions on elementary trees and their effect on the
TAG derivations. Chapter 3 constitutes an application of the
theoretical frame presented in the previous chapter on a construction:
subject-to-subject raising. Through the demonstration of possible
approaches for this construction, like the conditions on the locality
of movement or the well-formedness of empty categories, the author
ends up arguing that the TAG view is the most optimal for this
case. He gives examples from nonlocal licensing and thematic
assignment, scope reconstruction, contraction, 'there'-insertion, non
raising in nominal and gerunds, raising passives, raising from small
clauses, raising and inversion. In his argumentation, he refers to
other possible solutions given by Kayne (1984), Moro (1997) without
giving an extended account of these proposals. His argumentation on
these points is rather fast. Furthermore, in order to prove the
''puzzling'' character of Moro's account, he claims that languages
like Russian and Hebrew allow predications to be expressed without the
copula. He doesn't give however any example from these
languages. Finally, he concludes that a distinction has to be made
between two types of raising: lexical raising predicates and
copula. To this aim, he refers to Hegarty's (1993) approach claiming
that even in that model we should involve Adjoining. However, no
detailed account is given on this work, though it seems to be very
interesting for the linguist's argumentation.

Chapter 4 turns to the ''there''-insertion and more precisely
discusses the impossibility of ''partial raising'' in English like in
the following example:

*There seemed a man from the CIA to be at the meeting. 

Firstly, the author relates these cases with the raising analysis
presented in chapter 3: the embedded subject does not receive
nominative case within its infinitival nominative tree. Secondly he
gives a reformulated definition of the ?-criterion (part 2) as applied
to chains and proves in a convincing way that in French, English and
Dutch (see examples below) this criterion would lead to two incorrect
predictions: a. simple sentences involving such verbs lack subjects in
the specifier of TP position and b. elementary trees headed by
argumentless predicates are impossible, as the EPP and this criterion
impose conflicting demands.

*(It) is raining.
*(Il)a �t� tir� sur le bateau.
 It has been fired upon the boat 
 ''The boat was fired upon''

After having pointed out the problem of such an approach, Frank
restricts the application of the ?-criterion to semantically
contentful DPs. In a quite quick way which makes his argumentation
rather obscure, the linguist proposes that this solution is not the
best one and turns quickly the discussion to the most optimal one,
based on Chomsky's analysis (1995) on expletive sentences, comparing
the two following phrase structures (in the form of trees):

[T' [T VP [V T']]]

[T' [T VP [DP V' [V T']]]]

His claim is the following: there is an ''extended projection
principle'' following which ''a TP projection in an elementary tree ?
must have a specifier if and only if there is some otherwise licensed
element within ? that can be moved to the specifier of TP''
(p.117). He investigates then how these schemata can be applied to
languages like Icelandic which possess a raising construction
analogous to the English one. This language differs however from
English in that the presence of a dative argument to the Icelandic
''seem'' makes raising of the lowest subject impossible. In this point
Frank's argumentation becomes loose and floating using examples from
English in order to reinforce the value of the extended projection
principle and going back again to Icelandic in order to verify the
results of the English paradigm. Basically, his aim is to show that
elementary trees do not uniformly abide by the standard conception of
the EPP, according to which every TP must have a specifier. Frank
claims that the complexity in the statement of the EPP is only
apparent and shows in a nice way that there is no need for the complex
formulation of the EPP once general processes of elementary-tree-local
feature checking governed by the principle of local derivational

Chapter 5 turns back to another type of dependency as the one
presented in the third chapter related to transformational movement:
wh-movement. Frank claims that from the TAG point of view some
dislocations of wh-elements are treated as the result of the
Adjoining. In the beginning, he gives the basic properties of a
TAG-based analysis of wh-dependencies based on Kroch (1987, 1989) and
Frank (1992). He then shows how the structural hypotheses related to
the elementary trees derive from properties of the system of feature
checking as presented in the previous chapter. The TAG analysis of
wh-movement restricts on movement in Subjacency and the Adjunct
Condition. With a brief demonstration of languages that violate the
principle of wh-islands, he explains it in terms of crosslinguistic
differences. At the last step of his argumentation Frank sheds light
to cases of grammatical extraction from weak islands and pursues a
possible way to deal with them in the framework of TAG.

Chapter 6 is the final chapter, which constitutes an overview of the
study and closes the book with two open, one empirical and one
theoretical, questions. The empirical one concerns a class of
phenomena that exhibit dependency structures that the TAG approach
cannot account for and the theoretical one touches the interface of
the derivations used throughout the previous chapters.


The first impression that the book gives is appealing with the
tree-schemata that Frank uses which makes it easier for the reader to
follow the argumentation. The titles that the author gives to every
chapter reveal the deductive character of his argumentation; starting
from an introduction to the elementary trees, he reinforces his
argumentation by shading some light on a very interesting case where
the TAG can be applied, the wh-dependencies. Finally, instead of
giving to the last section of his book the stereotypical character of
a ''conclusion'', he invites the reader to go back again, to his
initial question and argue again using possible counter-arguments to
the analysis he has presented so far. The author avoids extreme
positions and gives a remarkably neutral account although it is made
clear, from the preface, that he presents his own idea to incorporate
TAG into syntactic theory. By the same token, he doesn't avoid
presenting other possible theories and tries to demonstrate how and to
what extend his own perspective would be the most optimal. What is
very positive about the book is that it provides the readers with new
areas of investigation. However, they are not extensively
elaborated. For instance, he gives no account concerning the process
of interpretation that applies during the derivation of an elementary
tree and requires therefore reference to structure outside the limits
of elementary trees. He explicitly claims that his work leaves open
the problem of ''derivationally anaphoric dependencies'' and he
doesn't attempt to give an answer. It would be appealing however to
see how the linguist would deal with the semantic consequences of his
approach. It would help him to support his initial claim that ''the
system of connections between form and meaning afforded by human
language is taken to derive by mental grammar''.


Chomsky, Noam. 1993. A minimalist program for linguistic theory. In
Kenneth Hale and Samuel Jay Keyser, eds., The view from Building 20,
1-52. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Chomsky, Noam. 1995. Categories and transformations. In The Minimalist
Program, 219-394. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Frank, Robert. 1992. Syntactic locality and Tree Adjoining Grammar:
Grammatical, acquisition, and processing perspectives. Ph. D. thesis,
University of Pennsylvania.

Frank Robert, Seth Kulick, and K. Vijay-Shanker. 2000. Monotonic
C-Command: A New Perspective on Tree Adjoining Grammar, Grammars, 3,

Hegarty, Michael. 1993. Deriving clausal structure in Tree Adjoining
Grammar. Manuscript, University of Pennsylvania.

Joshi, Aravind K., Leon Levy, and Masako Takahashi. 1975. Tree adjunct
grammars. Journal of the Computer and System Sciences 10, 136-163.

Kayne, Richard. 1984. Connectedness and binary branching. Dordrecht: Foris.

Kroch, Antony and Aravind K. Joshi. 1985. The linguistic relevance of
Tree Adjoining Grammar. Technical report MS-CS-85-16, Department of
Computer and Information Sciences, University of Pennsylvania.

Kroch, Anthony. 1987. Unbounded dependencies and subjacency in a tree
adjoining grammar. In Alexis Manaster-Ramer, ed., The mathematics of
language, 143-172. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Kroch, Anthony. 1989. Asymmetries in long distance extraction in a
tree adjoining grammar. In Mark Baltin and Anthony Kroch, eds.,
Alternative conceptions of phrase structure, 66-98. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press.

Moro, Andrea. 1997. The raising predicates; Predicative noun phrases
and the theory of clause structure. Cambridge: Cambridge University


Evangelia Vlachou is a Ph. D. student in the University of Utrecht
(UiL-OTS) and University of Paris IV. Her research interests are
formal semantics, syntax, polarity and free-choice indefinites in
Greek and French. 
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