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Review of  English Syntax

Reviewer: Jonathan White
Book Title: English Syntax
Book Author: Andrew Radford
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Issue Number: 15.3455

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Date: Thu, 09 Dec 2004 08:57:13 +0100
From: Jonathan White
Subject: English Syntax: An Introduction

AUTHOR: Radford, Andrew
TITLE: English Syntax
SUBTITLE: An Introduction
YEAR: 2004
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press

Jonathan White Högskolan Dalarna, Falun, Sweden


This book aims to introduce recent insights in syntactic theory, and
specifically in Chomsky's (1993, 1995, and other works) Minimalist
Program. It also is intended to describe a range of phenomena in English
syntax without using too much technical terminology. The material is taken
in large part from Radford's (1997) previous introduction to Minimalist

Chapter 1: Grammar
The first chapter takes a general look at Chomsky's theory as compared to
traditional approaches. It presents the idea of Universal Grammar, the
difference between competence and performance and different levels of
adequacy that lie behind theory construction. Radford also presents the
theoretical model of the Minimalist program, where items from the lexicon
enter the syntactic component, a syntactic structure is derived, and we end
up at the interface levels of Phonetic Form (PF) and the semantic component
of Logical Form (LF). Evidence for Universal Grammar from child language
acquisition is then presented. Some sample principles and parameters are
sketched out, and finally the process of parameter setting that underlies the
acquisition process is discussed.

Chapter 2: Words
In this chapter, the grammatical properties of words are discussed. Criteria
for membership of different word-classes are presented. The difference
between lexical and functional categories is dealt with, and then Radford
focuses on the properties of a number of functional categories:
determiners, quantifiers, pronouns, auxiliaries, the infinitival marker "to",
and finally complementizers. The idea of syntactic structure is introduced
through labelled bracketing. Finally different types of grammatical features
are presented: categorial and selectional.

Chapter 3: Structure
Chapter 3 deals in more detail with syntactic structure. The idea of the
phrase and related terminology such head, projection and complement as
well as tests for the different types of phrases are presented. Clauses as
projections of tense and mood properties are explained. Syntactic relations
like sister, etc. are set out, including c-command, and an introduction to
binding is given. Finally bare phrase structure based on proposals by
Chomsky (1994, 1995) is briefly presented.

Chapter 4: Null constituents
Null constituents of various kinds are dealt with in chapter 4. Null subjects
are the first to be covered, both the PRO present in non-finite clauses in
English, and the pro in finite clauses in null subject languages like Italian
and Spanish. Evidence for PRO is given based on anaphor binding. Then
Radford turns to the obligatory presence of tense even when there is no
auxiliary verb. The idea that the finite verb and tense must join up by PF is
presented. Cases where there is either no tense and/or no complementizer
are dealt with. Defective Exceptional Case-marking (ECM) clauses and small
clauses are presented as well. Case-marking is briefly dealt with. Finally null
determiners in Noun Phrases are explained.

Chapter 5: Head movement
This chapter deals with different head-movement processes. Firstly,
movement of auxiliaries to C in questions is presented. This is explained
using strong features. Copy theory of movement is presented as well.
Movement of the main verb to T is also dealt with, and the successive-cyclic
nature of movement is explained. The cases of HAVE and BE in English are
considered, and also do-support. To end with, Radford looks at head-
movement in nominals.

Chapter 6: Wh-movement
A similar copy theory of wh-movement is presented in this next chapter.
The trigger behind this movement is dealt with, and the idea of locality in
the form of the Attract Closest Principle. The possibility of pied-piping extra
material is discussed in various contexts. Wh-movement in exclamatives
and relative clauses is covered, and also island constraints.

Chapter 7: A-movement
The discussion begins with the VP-internal subject hypothesis. Radford
uses some interesting data from Belfast English to illustrate this. Theta
theory is also presented as evidence for the hypothesis. Unaccusative,
passive and raising predicates are all covered. Finally the difference
between raising and control predicates is discussed.

Chapter 8: Agreement, case and movement
Agreement is explained using Chomsky's (1998, 1999, 2001) ideas about
probes (features that need to be checked) and goals (the elements that
check these features). Feature matrices and the interpretability of these
features are discussed. The specific cases of the expletive subjects, "it"
and "there", are presented, and how they get agreement features. Finally the
role of agreement and the Extended Projection Principle (EPP) in movement
is discussed.

Chapter 9: Split projections
The simple clause structure assumed so far with CP, TP and VP is dealt with
in this penultimate chapter. Evidence is presented which suggests that CP
should be split into Force, Topic and Focus projections. Similar proposals
for TP, where an extra Finiteness projection may be needed, and for VP,
with the vP shell are dealt with. The VP shell idea is extended to, for
example, unaccusatives and passive and raising predicates.

Chapter 10: Phases
In this final chapter, Radford presents Chomsky's (1999, 2001) idea of
phases. The Phase Penetrability Condition is covered, which entails basically
that only material at the left edge of a phase is available to further
movement, and how successive-cyclic movement can be allowed under such
assumptions. Wh-movement through vP and CP phases is focused on in


This book is presented as a textbook for people who have minimal
grammatical knowledge and who want to study English syntax, and for
those already with some knowledge of syntax and who want to know about
the Minimalist program. It is an abridged version of a longer work
(Minimalist Syntax), and is aimed for those taking syntax as a minor course
rather than as a major. Not having read the longer version, I cannot
comment on differences between the two versions.

Overall my impression is a positive one. The book presents the issues in a
clear, concise way. The exercises in particular are well presented with good
hints. One comment I can make is that I would have liked to have the
answers in a separate section at the end of the book. Students might well be
too tempted to look at the answers before making a real attempt at the
exercises on their own.

The step-by-step derivation of trees is a particular plus where each
instance of feature checking is presented. A very wide range of phenomena
in English syntax is dealt with, and so I feel that this book really lives up to
its aim of providing an analysis of a wide range of data in English.

I would certainly recommend this as the main textbook on any course, not
just on a minor course in syntax.


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

Chomsky, Noam (1994) Bare phrase structure. MIT Occasional Papers in
Linguistics 5.

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

Chomsky, Noam (1998) Minimalist inquiries: the framework. Reprinted in
Step by step: Essays in minimalist syntax in honor of Howard Lasnik. Martin,
Micheals and Uriagereka (eds.). (2000) Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. 89-

Chomsky, Noam (1999) Derivation by phase. MIT Occasional Papers in
Linguistics 18.

Chomsky, Noam (2001) Beyond explanatory adequacy. Ms. MIT.

Radford, Andrew (1997) Syntactic theory and the structure of English.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


The reviewer's research interests include phrase structure, syntax and
semantics of adverbials, interfaces between syntax and semantics and
between syntax and morphology.

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