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Review of  English Syntax and Argumentation, 3rd Edition

Reviewer: Yosuke Sato
Book Title: English Syntax and Argumentation, 3rd Edition
Book Author: Bas Aarts
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Linguistic Field(s): Syntax
Issue Number: 20.1457

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AUTHOR: Aarts, Bas
TITLE: English Syntax and Argumentation, 3rd Edition
SERIES: Modern Linguistics Series
PUBLISHER: Palgrave Macmillan
YEAR: 2008

Yosuke Sato, Department of Linguistics, University of British Columbia

This book is a third edition of the author's successful introductory textbook on
English syntax. It is intended for any interested reader with no previous
experience of the field in a way that invites active, creative participation on
his/her part through intensive exercises with varying degrees of difficulty,
summaries of key concepts learned in each chapter, and further readings. This
edition also incorporates discussion of grammatical indeterminacy informed by
the author's own recent research. The book is written within the framework of
generative grammar.

This book is divided into four parts:
Part I: Function and Form
Part II: Elaboration
Part III: Argumentation
Part IV: Application

Part I: Function and Form
Chapter 1: Introduction
The introductory chapter provides an accessible guide to linguistics, structure,
syntax, and constituency, and states that the goal of this book is to learn the
basics of English syntax and fundamentals of syntactic argumentation.

Chapter 2: Function
This chapter provides detailed exposition of functions played by each element in
sentences (e.g., subject, predicate, predicator, complement, direct object,
indirect object, and adjunct) and develops a variety of diagnostics to identify
and distinguish these functions.

Chapter 3: Form: Words, Word Classes and Phrases
This chapter introduces word classes (noun, determinative, adjective, verb,
preposition, adverb, conjunction, and interjection) with many operational tests
to identify those classes.

Chapter 4: More on Form: Clauses and Sentences
This chapter explains how phrases are combined into sentences, sets up a ranking
scale as a way to analyze sentences at four different levels (word, phrase,
clause, and sentence-levels), and introduces various clause types (declarative,
interrogative, imperative, and exclamative). It also provides discussion of tree
diagrams to represent the internal structure of sentences.

Chapter 5: The Function-Form Interface
This chapter discusses the interplay between function and form of the
constituent parts of a sentence and discusses what forms realize the following
functions in English: subject, predicate, predicator, direct object, indirect
object, and adjunct.

Part II: Elaboration
Chapter 6: Predicates, Arguments and Thematic Roles
This chapter introduces key concepts that are concerned with the
syntax-semantics interface: predicates, arguments, thematic roles, and
selectional restrictions.

Chapter 7: Cross-Categorial Generalization: X-Bar Syntax
This chapter introduces X-Bar Theory (head, complement, specifier, adjunct) as a
theory of how individual constituent parts of a sentence are structured. This
theory is introduced here as a way to capture cross-categorial generalizations,
namely, that all major phrase types behave similarly with respect to certain

Chapter 8: More on Clauses
This chapter adds the I(nflection) node to the inventory of syntactic categories
and shows why it should be analyzed as the head of sentences. This chapter also
discusses various kinds of clauses such as subordinate clauses and
restrictive/non-restrictive clauses.

Chapter 9: Movement
This chapter looks at four types of syntactic movement: verb movement (auxiliary
movement), NP movement (raising and passive), subject-auxiliary inversion, and
wh-movement. It also briefly discusses the syntactic structure of sentences with
multiple auxiliaries.

PART III: Argumentation
Chapter 10: Syntactic Argumentation
This chapter presents three types of arguments, economy of description, elegance
of description, and independent justification, as ways to choose between two
competing analyses.

Chapter 11: Constituency: Movement and Substitution
This chapter develops a number of constituency tests based on syntactic movement
(e.g., topicalization, VP-preposing, through-movement, Heavy-NP-shift,
extraposition from NP) and substitution (proform, one-/do so-substitution).

Chapter 12: Constituency: Some Additional Tests
This chapter develops further constituency tests based on coordination, right
node raising, (pseudo-) cleft sentences, parenthetical expressions, and
fragmentary answers. The author illustrates how constituency tests work with a
case study in secondary depictive predicate constructions.

Chapter 13: Predicates and Arguments Revisited
This chapter discusses cases as in infinitival complements of _persuade_ and
_want_ where it seems hard to tell on the surface whether a particular NP is an
argument of some predicate or not and develops four tests (meaning test, dummy
element test, idiom chunk test, and passivization test) to solve this issue.

Part IV: Application
Chapter 14: Grammatical Indeterminacy
This chapter examines two types of grammatical indeterminacy, i.e., subsective
gradience and intersective gradience, where it is not obvious on the surface to
what syntactic characterization we should assign a particular element.

Chapter 15: Case Studies
This chapter is intended to practice syntactic argumentation with a number of
case studies in English syntax from noun phrase structure (e.g., _a lot of
books_), binominal noun phrases (e.g., _a giant of a man_), various types of
non-finite complementation selected by verbs (e.g., _want_, _believe_,
_consider_, _hear_, _have_), subordination conjunctions, and prepositions.

The book concludes with Glossary, Reference Works: Dictionaries, Encyclopedias,
Grammars and Other Publications on the English Language, Bibliography, and Index.

This book is highly accessible to any reader interested in the formal study of
sentence and phrase structure in modern linguistics. Even for those who have
taken introductory linguistic courses and are familiar with the fundamentals of
syntactic analysis, Part III (Argumentation) and Part IV (Application) should be
quite valuable since they provide a detailed, step-by-step introduction to how
syntacticians argue for or against a particular hypothesis or choose between
several existing accounts based on a number of general methodological criteria
(linguistically significant generalizations, Occam's razor, elegance, and
independent justification). Secondary depictive constructions,
pseudo-partitives, and verb complementation are analyzed in depth in Part III/IV
to practice syntactic argumentation, but I would like to see more case studies
in English syntax other than these phenomena to further invite the active
participation of the reader, a primary goal of the Modern Linguistics Series.
For example, one might want to pick up a few other English constructions that
have not been discussed yet in the generative framework and see what analyses
are consistent with given data, choose among them based on a new set of data,
and how they fare in terms of the general methodological criteria set in Chapter
10. Several constructions discussed in the Construction Grammar framework
(Goldberg 1995, 2006) and/or in the Simpler Syntax Model (Culicover and
Jackendoff 2005) might serve good illustrations for this purpose.

I also expect an introductory syntax book like this one to have a broader
coverage of phenomena and key discoveries in the field (e.g., binding, control,
c-command, locality). One might reasonably object that this makes the book twice
as long as it is now, but it would serve to convince alert readers why we need
structural notions like constituent, domination, precedence in the first place
as well as how they relate to one another, which are just mentioned almost
off-handedly in Chapter 4. In this regard, other introductory textbooks such as
Adger (2003), Carnie (2007) (not mentioned in the Bibliography) and Haegeman
(1994, 2006) provide beneficial complements to the present book.

With this said, what makes this book quite valuable in my opinion is an
impressive range of exercises both within and at the end of each chapter, which
is characteristic of the Modern Linguistic Series publications. Some problem
sets are easy, and others are challenging. This mixture of various types of
problem makes clear a general problem-solving flavor of syntactic argumentation
that has attracted many interested people into current syntactic theory. (As a
minor point, however, I would personally refrain from starring relatively
difficult exercises, as the author of the book does, since that could discourage
readers from actually doing them.)

The book under review is an important addition to the growing series of
introductory syntax textbooks due to its general accessibility, wealth of
English data and extensive exercises, and much needed in-depth discussion of
syntactic argumentation. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has no
previous experience in syntax but wants to learn about it.

Adger, David. (2003) _Core Syntax_. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Carnie, Andrew. (2007) _Syntax: A Generative Introduction_, Second Edition.
Oxford: Blackwell.

Culicover, Peter & Ray Jackendoff. (2005) _Simpler Syntax_. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.

Goldberg, Adele. (1995) _Constructions: A Construction Grammar Approach to
Argument Structure_. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Goldberg, Adele. (2006) _Constructions at Work: The Nature of Generalization in
Language_. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Haegeman, Liliane. (1994) _Introduction to Government and Binding Theory_,
Second Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Haegeman, Liliane. (2006) _Thinking Syntactically: A Guide to Argumentation and
Analysis_. Oxford: Blackwell.

Yosuke Sato obtained his PhD in linguistics at the Department of Linguistics at
the University of Arizona in May 2008. He is currently a Post-Doctoral Teaching
Fellow at the University of British Columbia, teaching undergraduate syntax and
morphology and a graduate seminar on syntax and semantics. His research
interests lie in syntax and its interface with morphology, semantics, and
phonology. He has worked on various issues revolving around linguistic
interfaces from his investigation of the syntax of Indonesian, Javanese,
Japanese and English. His recent thinking on interfaces is available in his
dissertation entitled ''Minimalist Interfaces: Selected Issues in Indonesian and

Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0230551211
ISBN-13: 9780230551213
Pages: 344
Prices: U.K. £ 22.99