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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 syntax.
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 particular.
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- 155.
Chomsky, Noam (1999) Derivation by phase. MIT Occasional Papers in Linguistics 18.