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Review of  Syntax

Reviewer: Lara Reglero
Book Title: Syntax
Book Author: Andrew Carnie
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Linguistic Field(s): Syntax
Issue Number: 18.257

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AUTHOR: Carnie, Andrew
TITLE: Syntax
SUBTITLE: A Generative Introduction, Second Edition
SERIES: Introducing Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Blackwell Publishing
YEAR: 2006

Lara Reglero, Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics, Florida State

This book is an introduction to syntactic theory which adopts a Principles
and Parameters approach with an occasional eye on Minimalism. The book is
intended for an upper division undergraduate introduction to syntax class
but it could also be used in more advanced courses. The book is divided
into five parts: Preliminaries (Chapters 1-5), The Base (Chapters 6-8),
Movement (Chapters 9-12), Advanced Topics (Chapters 13-15) and Alternatives
(Chapters 16-17). Being a second edition, the book has been considerably
revised and contains quite a few differences with respect to the first
edition. Just to mention a few examples, the chapters on X-bar theory have
been expanded and now contain more trees and examples, the treatment of
passives and locality conditions is different and now there is a new
chapter on 'split VPs' and a new section on 'advanced topics'. In what
follows I provide detailed summaries of the chapters and a critical
evaluation of the book.


Chapter 1 ('Generative Grammar') introduces the theoretical framework for
the book: Noam Chomky's Generative Grammar. Within this theory, the author
adopts the Principles and Parameters approach and some recent developments
from Minimalism. After an overview of some of the main fields in
linguistics, the author focuses on the scientific study of syntax. For
this, the author describes the main steps of any scientific method
(observing data, making generalizations, developing hypotheses or rules and
testing the hypotheses/rules against more data) and illustrates the method
with anaphors in English. Possible sources of data include grammatical
sentences from corpora and more importantly, ungrammatical sentences for
which subconscious knowledge of language needs to be employed. The second
part of the chapter attempts to uncover our subconscious knowledge of
syntactic rules by adopting a perspective from language acquisition. The
main claim is that many parts of language are innate, as proposed by
Chomsky in his Universal Grammar (UG). Evidence for UG comes from different
arguments: the logical problem of language acquisition, the
underdetermination of the data, typological arguments (universals of
language) and biological arguments (language is human-specific). In order
to account for differences across languages, the concept of 'parameter
setting' is introduced. The chapter concludes with an emphasis on the
scientific method whose ultimate goal is to offer an explanatory adequate

In Chapter 2 ('Parts of Speech'), the author discusses the parts of speech
(or syntactic category) words belong to: nouns (N), verbs (V), adjectives
(Adj), adverbs (Adv) and prepositions (P). Given that semantic criteria are
not completely reliable in determining parts of speech, the author suggests
using other tests such as morphological distribution (derivational and
inflectional suffixes) and syntactic distribution. A discussion of open
vs. closed parts of speech follows, which is in turn followed by lexical
vs. functional parts of speech. The author offers a thorough discussion of
functional categories of English such as prepositions, determiners (D),
conjunctions (Conj), complementizers (C), tense (T) and negation (Neg). The
major parts of speech are divided into subtypes, also known as
subcategories (marked through features). Nouns have subcategories such as
plural vs. singular, count vs. mass, proper vs. common or pronoun vs.
lexical noun. Verbs can be divided into two major subcategories:
tense/finiteness and argument structure. As for argument structure,
predicates can be classified as intransitive (one obligatory argument),
transitive (two obligatory arguments) and ditransitive (three obligatory

Chapter 3 ('Constituency, Trees, and Rules') introduces the notions of
'(hierarchical) structure' (as opposed to linear strings) and
'constituency'. These notions can be captured in tree structures (or
bracketed diagrams). A sentence constituent (Tense Phrase (TP)) typically
consists of a Noun Phrase (NP) and a Verb Phrase (VP). These phrases in
turn contain other elements creating a hierarchical arrangement of the
different elements in the structure. Trees are generated by means of phrase
structure rules (PSRs) which adopt the following general format: XP -> XYZ
(where XP stands for the label of the constituent, -> means 'consists of'
and XYZ are the elements that make up the constituent, X being the 'head').
The author discusses the major phrases in detail (i.e. NP, VP, Adjective
Phrase (AP), Adverb Phrase (AdvP), Prepositional Phrase (PP) and TP),
provides examples, trees and the rules generating the tree structures. The
chapter also contains a practical section on how to draw trees from two
different perspectives (bottom-up and top-down) and a section on the
relationship between syntactic trees and ambiguous sentences. At the end of
the chapter, the author discusses constituency tests such as replacement,
stand alone/sentence fragment, movement and coordination/conjunction. The
chapter ends with an appendix on how to solve foreign language problems
with and without word-by-word glosses.

Chapter 4 ('Structural Relations') is a more technical chapter dealing with
the geometry of trees. Syntactic trees consist of branches and nodes (root
node, terminal nodes and non-terminal nodes). These elements enter into
structural relations which include domination, precedence and c-command.
Domination can be of two different types: exhaustive and immediate.
'Precedence' can also be immediate. The more complex notion of c-command is
also defined, illustrated and divided into symmetric and asymmetric
c-command with government being the local version of the term
(phrase-government and head-government). Along with structural relations,
there are grammatical relations, which can be also defined in structural
terms. Examples include the notions of subject, direct object, object of a
preposition and indirect object.

Chapter 5 ('Binding Theory') presents the basics of Binding Theory. For
this, the terms R-expression, anaphor, and pronoun are illustrated and
defined. In order to provide a more comprehensive account of Binding
Theory, the author discusses important notions such as antecedent, indices,
coindexing, coreference and binding (c-command and coindexing). Then,
Principle A (responsible for the distribution of anaphors) is discussed and
defined by appealing to a locality constraint: the binding domain. More
specifically, an anaphor must be bound in its binding domain. In contrast,
a pronoun must be free in its binding domain (Principle B). Finally,
R-expressions must be free (Principle C).

Chapter 6 ('X-bar Theory') initially points to some inadequacies of the
system, that is, it generates flat structures. By using the one-replacement
test in the NP domain, the author shows that we need a more articulated
tree with an intermediate level of structure (N' or N-bar) and a
corresponding theory: X-bar theory. Evidence for the existence of V', Adj'/
Adv' and P' comes from do-so replacement, so-replacement and conjunction,
respectively. In an attempt to simplify and generalize the list of PSRs,
the author notes the following similarities: all phrases have obligatory
heads, all non-head material is phrasal and optional and each major
category contains three rules. In order to capture these similarities, any
part of speech is replaced with the variable X. Then, the author introduces
some new terminology: complements, adjuncts and specifiers. Complements and
adjuncts are compared (especially in the NP and VP domains), differentiated
and located in different positions in the tree. Specifiers (roughly, Ds)
are also shown to be different from complements and adjuncts. Based on all
this, three PSRs are introduced which make use of the variable X (i.e. the
X-bar rules): the specifier rule (XP -> (YP) X'; where YP is a specifier),
the adjunct rule (X' -> X' (ZP) or X' -> (ZP) X'; where ZP is an adjunct)
and the complement rule (X' -> X (WP); where WP is a complement). To
account for cross-linguistic variation, X-bar rules are made a bit more
general by allowing specifiers and complements to appear on either side of
the head. Given these options (i.e. parameters) the child needs to be
exposed to the input and choose the right setting of the parameter. The
chapter concludes with a step-by-step section on tree drawing by using
X-bar theory.

Chapter 7 ('Extending X-bar Theory to Functional Categories') explores the
specifier rule and the problem it raises for the theory: YP is phrasal but
the D is not. In fact, Ds are heads and, as such, head their own
projection: the Determiner Phrase (DP). Following Abney (1987), the
proposal is that Ds are not within the NP. Instead, they take NPs as
complements. The second goal of this chapter is to incorporate the
Complementizer Phrase (CP) and TP rules (CP -> (C) TP and TP -> DP (T) VP),
respectively) into X-bar theory. Under the new rules, the CP has C as its
head and takes TP as its complement. All clauses are CPs including embedded
and main clauses (the evidence for the later is taken from a
cross-linguistics comparison of yes/no questions; Cs can be pronounced or
null). The TP has T as its head, a subject DP as its specifier and VP as
its complement. T can be an auxiliary or an inflectional ending on a verb.
Since inflectional suffixes cannot be pronounced in isolation, the proposal
is that the affix lowers to attach to the verb by means of an operation
called T-affix lowering, whose motivation is morphophonological in nature.

Chapter 8 ('Constraining X-bar Theory: The Lexicon') points to a problem
with X-bar theory: it generates ungrammatical sentences. Since complements
are optional in this theory, we can incorrectly generate transitive
sentences without objects and intransitive sentences with direct objects.
Whether a verb requires an object (or not) needs to be encoded in the
lexicon along with any relevant selectional (semantic) restrictions a verb
may have. Selectional restrictions are encoded in thematic relations (or
theta roles) such as agent, experiencer, theme, goal, recipient, source,
location, instrument and beneficiary. Theta roles can be used to represent
the argument structure of a verb by means of a theta grid. In order to
prevent X-bar Theory from overgenerating, the Theta Criterion is introduced
(if a sentence violates the Theta Criterion, it will be marked as
ungrammatical). In this chapter the author also considers verbs which take
theta role-less expletive 'it' as subjects. This particular pronoun appears
when there is no other subject in the sentence and its presence is forced
by the Extended Projection Principle (EPP).

Chapter 9 ('Head-to-Head Movement') points to another problem raised by
X-bar Theory: it undergenerates (it cannot generate some word orders). To
solve this problem, we need transformations, that is, operations that take
the output of X-bar rules (D(eep)-structure), change the structure, and
give as their output a S(urface)-structure. In this chapter, the author
examines one general transformation (head-to-head movement) and its
different realizations (verb movement, T movement and do-support). For verb
movement, the author compares French and English and notes that an adjunct
can appear between the head and the complement in French (similar facts
obtain with negation). The proposal is that V raises to T in French (verb
movement) but T lowers to V in English (affix lowering). This point of
cross-linguistic variation is captured by the verb movement parameter. To
account for the Verb-Subject-Object (VSO) order in Irish, we need verb
movement combined with the VP-internal subject hypothesis. To explain
subject-auxiliary/verb inversion in yes/no questions, T -> C movement is
postulated. Finally, there is another last resort transformation called
do-support which applies in yes/no questions in English which lack an
auxiliary. In these cases, a dummy verb 'do' is inserted in T to support an
inflectional affix (the same facts obtain in negative sentences). The
chapter concludes with a discussion on multiple auxiliaries and affix
lowering in English and a brief appendix with tests for determining if a
particular language has V -> T or affix lowering.

Chapter 10 ('DP Movement') explores another transformation which accounts
for cases where DPs appear in unexpected positions according to theta
theory: DP-movement. In this chapter, the author examines raising
structures and concludes that DP-subjects receive an agent theta role in
D-structure (specifier of VP) and subsequently undergo DP movement to fill
the specifier position of the main clause TP. This transformation is
motivated by the EPP requirement. Passive sentences can be analyzed in a
similar way: the subject DP receives a theme theta role in D-Structure and
then undergoes DP movement to the specifier of TP to satisfy the EPP. Based
on some additional data from raising structures (expletive insertion does
not satisfy the EPP), the author explains that the motivation for
DP-movement is Case. Nominative case is assigned in the specifier of finite
T and Accusative case is assigned as a sister to the verb. DPs without Case
will be ruled out by the Case Filter. To conclude, the author examines
raising structures with DPs in non-finite T contexts and the properties of
the passive morpheme. The main conclusion is that DPs move from positions
where they can't check Case to positions where they can.

In chapter 11 ('Wh-movement'), the author shows that wh-elements undergo
movement from a Case position to the specifier of CP. This movement
transformation is called wh-movement and is triggered by a [+WH] feature in
C. The chapter provides detailed derivations for different types of
wh-questions with all transformations indicated (wh-movement, T -> C,
do-support, DP-movement). Wh-movement can also occur across clauses with
wh-words stopping in each specifier of CP. In other words, wh-movement is
successive cyclic. The author further shows that wh-movement is
constrained, that is, there are certain contexts (called 'islands') out of
which wh-movement is disallowed. Examples of island contexts include the
Complex DP Island, the wh-island, subjects (the subject condition) and
conjoined structures (the Coordinate Structure Constraint). Island effects
(especially the wh-island) are explained under the Minimal Link Condition
(MLC) which requires that movement be to the first potential position. The
MLC can also account for locality effects with head movement and
DP-movement in raising constructions. The author closes the chapter with a
discussion on echo questions and shows that these questions do not involve
movement and are not subject to the MLC.

Chapter 12 ('A Unified Theory of Movement') explores the possibility of
unifying all movement rules into a single rule: Move. Since all movement is
motivated by locality, it is proposed that movement is constrained by Full
Interpretation. Feature checking needs to occur in a local configuration
such as specifier-head, head-complement or head-head configuration. In
order to capture cross-linguistic variation, the system needs to be
modified. There is only D-structure (and no S-structure), a branching point
of SPELLOUT and two interface levels, phonetic form (PF) and logical form
(LF). Overt movement takes place between D-structure and SPELLOUT and
covert movement between SPELLOUT and LF. Differences between English and
Chinese wh-movement are explained under the wh-parameter (English is overt
and Chinese is covert). The Verb movement parameter captures the
differences between English and French when it comes to verb movement
(French is overt and English is covert). The existence of covert movement
is independently supported by MLC effects in wh-in-situ languages and
quantifier scope in English.

Chapter 13 ('Expanded VPs') examines the problems raised by ditransitive
structures (presence of two complements, c-command, adjacency). A possible
solution involves a modification of the syntactic structure so that DP1
c-commands DP2. For this, an extra projection is needed (labeled vP), which
corresponds to a light verb (CAUSE). Case assignment to DP1 is also
discussed. Based on evidence from Irish, the author explains that DP1
receives accusative case in a new functional category: AgrO (Object
Agreement). This proposal works for ditransitive verbs which take a PP or a
CP as their final argument. Verbs that take two DP complements are more
complex. It is proposed that the direct object is introduced by the light
verb CAUSE and moves to Spec AgrOP. In the same fashion, the indirect
object is introduced by another light verb (LOCATE or POSSESS) and moves to
a different functional category for case reasons: AGRIOP.

In chapter 14 ('Raising, Control, and Empty Categories') the author
discusses raising (subject-to-subject and subject-to-object) and control
(subject and object). Main predicates in raising constructions do not
assign an external theta role. The subject of the embedded clause does not
have Case so it raises to the empty subject position of the main clause to
satisfy Case and the EPP requirement. In contrast, main predicates in
control constructions assign an external theta role and do not involve
raising. The external theta role of the embedded predicate is assigned to a
null pronoun without Case under the name of PRO. The author offers
different tests to distinguish raising from control: theta grids of matrix
predicates, behavior of idioms and the extraposition construction. A
discussion of subject-to-object raising follows. In this case, the subject
of the embedded sentence raises to the object position of the matrix verb
to receive accusative Case. In object control examples, there is a Caseless
PRO and no DP movement for Case. Next, the author considers the nature of
PRO and concludes that it is not subject to binding theory but to a
different module of the grammar called control theory. The chapter closes
with a discussion of 'pro' and the null subject parameter.

Chapter 15 ('Advanced Topics in Binding Theory') starts by summarizing
chapter 5 ('Binding Theory'). Then, the author explains that binding
principles hold at LF. For this, we need to assume the Copy Theory
(Chomsky, 1993) and propose that at least one copy of the chain needs to be
subject to the binding principles. After examining numerous data, the
author refines the notion of 'binding domain' and reformulates the binding
principles as follows. According to Principle A, ''one copy of an anaphor in
a chain must be bound within the smallest CP or DP containing it and a
potential antecedent'' (p. 429). According to Principle B, ''a pronoun must
be free within the smallest CP or DP containing it but not containing a
potential antecedent. If no such category is found, the pronoun must be
free within the root CP'' (p. 431).

Chapters 16 ('Lexical-Functional Grammar') and 17 (Head-Driven Phrase
Structure Grammar') offer a brief overview of two alternative theories of
generative grammar. For Lexical-Functional Grammar (LFG), the author
discusses the mechanisms of c-structure, functions, the lexicon,
F-structure and explains how this theory can account for phenomena such as
head-to-head movement/head mobility, passives, raising and control, and
wh-movement. For Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG), the author
discusses the notion of features and points to one important difference
between HPSG and LFG: HPSG is compositional. The chapter also includes a
discussion of rules (the Head Complement Rule and the Head Modifier Rule),
binding and long distance dependencies.


This textbook is an excellent introduction to syntactic theory. The author
manages to present all the complexities of the Principles and Parameters
framework in a student-friendly way. The book is well-written and the
discussion and argumentation are very clear and surprisingly accessible to
the reader. Each chapter contains several theoretical points, followed by
an extremely useful section on ''ideas, rules, and constraints introduced in
this chapter'', which provides definitions/short summaries of the main ideas
discussed in each chapter. This section is in turn followed by a ''further
reading'' section which contains a list of useful references for the reader.
Each chapter also contains a problem section which is divided into two
parts. The first part corresponds to the ''general problem sets'' and
provides numerous exercises for regular students. The second part is the
''challenge problem sets'' and would be more beneficial for more
advanced/honors students. Each exercise is labeled according to content and
it also indicates the type of skill involved (creative and critical
thinking, application of skills, data analysis) and the level of difficulty
(basic, intermediate, challenge, extra challenge). Without a doubt, all
this information would be very valuable for both instructors and students.
Furthermore, the author indicates in the main text when students should be
ready to solve the relevant exercise(s). The book also has a website with
further resources.

Throughout the book, the author manages to combine theoretical explanations
with numerous examples and trees to illustrate and support the theoretical
claims under discussion. The author uses extremely good visuals and
analogies to facilitate the understanding of complex notions. PS trees are
explained in depth and complete derivations are provided for more complex
examples. The author also added very useful appendixes on tree drawing,
data analysis etc. which make the apparently daunting task of syntactic
analysis much more accessible to the reader. Additionally, the author
included a number of gray textboxes with more advanced information,
clarifications and historical facts, all of which will be of great interest
for students.

In terms of topic choice, the author is influenced by previous textbooks
such as Cowper (1992), Haegeman (1994) or Radford (1988) but adds two new
topics not covered in introductory manuals: LFG and HPSG. This gives
students the chance to compare and evaluate different frameworks. The book
also has a few chapters with more advanced topics which are more open-ended
in nature and show that syntax is an open field where more research needs
to be done. One of the big strengths of this book is the emphasis on
cross-linguistic data and analysis. All chapters contain examples in
English and numerous examples in other languages. The problem sets are
often based on languages other than English. This clearly shows to the
reader how important it is to conduct research in all possible languages
and come up with theories which can account for generalizations across
different languages.

Even though the book is very well organized, some of the terms and
discussion could have been introduced in more detail or connected more
clearly. For example, the author's first illustration of hierarchical
structure is unexpectedly too advanced. It could have been more useful to
discuss hierarchy in a simpler domain such as the NP and then introduce the
more complex TP level (a comparison with a flat structure would have been
useful as well). The author could have also considered discussing hierarchy
without assigning specific labels (NP, VP etc.) to the different nodes in
the tree. This part of the discussion could have been postponed until the
discussion of phrases. In general, the connection between phrases, the tree
structure(s) and the notion of constituency is not crystal clear. All these
crucial notions are discussed in the book but instructors might want to
reorganize part of the material and show more precisely how all these
notions are related. Many of the trees included in the first chapters of
the book contain flat structures (or trees with hierarchical and flat
structure combined). This can be confusing to the reader given that the
author has argued for hierarchical structures. It would have been useful to
include a note explaining that all the flat structures would be revised in
later chapters. As for constituency tests, the author could have provided
ungrammatical counterparts for all tests. This would illustrate better what
constitutes a phrase/constituent and what doesn't. The concept of 'head'
could be made a bit more explicit (its obligatory nature). It might have
helped introduce in more detail the notion of head in earlier chapters
along with the concepts of 'complement', 'adjunct' and 'specifier'.

The author explains island effects under the MLC. The problem is that the
account can only be applied to wh-islands. It would have been useful to
point to a possible direction to account for other cases too or even
mention how previous mechanisms (bounding nodes) explained island effects.
In his discussion of echo questions, the author could have limited the
discussion to cases with only one wh-phrase in situ. Multiple question
contexts can be more confusing given that they can also have a true
question interpretation (in fact, the distinction between echo question and
true question could have been introduced at the beginning of the
discussion). Other points to consider are the following: the division of
binding theory into two separate chapters could be reconsidered (but
instructors can easily explain the two chapters simultaneously or
separately), the addition of a chart for theta roles and finally, the
inclusion of a few more recent references by Chomsky for the interested reader.

In sum, this is an excellent book and I recommend it very highly for
introductory courses to syntactic theory.


Abney, Steven. 1987. The English Noun Phrase in its Sentential Aspect.
Ph.D. dissertation, MIT.

Chomsky, Noam. 1993. A Minimalist program for linguistic theory. In Kenneth
L. Hale and Samuel J. Kayser (eds.), The View from Building 20: Essays in
Honor of Sylvain Bromberger. Cambridge: MIT Press. Pp. 1-52.

Cowper, Elizabeth. 1992. A Concise Introduction to Syntactic Theory: The
Government and Binding Approach. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Haegeman, Liliane. 1994. Introduction and Binding Theory (2nd edition).
Oxford: Blackwell.

Radford, Andrew. 1988. Transformational Grammar: A First Course. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.

Lara Reglero is Assistant Professor of Spanish and Linguistics in the
Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics at Florida State University.
She has done research on wh-movement, information-theoretic notions such as
topic and focus, ellipsis and adjacency effects.

Format: Paperback
ISBN: 1405133848
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 512
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