Review of Analyzing Syntax
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 2004 09:47:46 +0800
From: Oliver Streiter
Subject: Analyzing Syntax: A Lexical-functional Approach
AUTHOR: Kroeger, Paul R.
TITLE: Analyzing Syntax
SUBTITLE: A Lexical-functional Approach
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press
Oliver Streiter, National University of Kaohsiung, Taiwan
The book under review, "Analyzing Syntax: A Lexical-functional Approach"
(henceforth AS) has been designed for students of linguistics at advanced
undergraduate or graduate level. It presupposes some familiarity with basic
linguistic concepts, but not more. However, the book is densely written and
in a few paragraphs goes further than other textbooks on syntax might do
in a chapter. The language is clear and unambiguous. Nevertheless it is
technical and reflects the author's intention to prepare students for reading
and understanding the relevant linguistic literature. AS does not assume
native-speaker intuition about English. English example sentences are
glossed wherever needed. A great number of example sentences, maybe
more than a half, are taken from other European and non-European
AS works with the "Lexical Functional Grammar" (LFG) approach and
provides a framework for the analysis and description of grammatical
structure. Thus, the primary focus of the book is not Lexical Functional
Grammar and especially not its formal aspects. With Bresnan (2001) this
topic has been competently covered. Instead, the book shows how language
data can be described and analyzed on the basis of few elementary
assumptions derived from Lexical Functional Grammar (e.g. lexical rules)
and a small set of simple formal notations which describe Argument
Structure, Constituent Structure and Functional Structure.
The student is guided through a limited set of syntax phenomena, such as
passive, control, causative constructions, serial verbs and ergativity. Each of
the phenomena is gently introduced and developed through glossed
example sentences in more than one language. From time to time formal
notations are worked in to explain the observed data. Then, as a general
rule, subclasses of the phenomenon, variants and alternative strategies are
discussed with the same thoughtfulness, creating an overall awareness of
two important dimensions of languages, their comparability and their
First, AS analyzes the a single syntactic phenomenon in more than one
language, making frequent references to language universals, hierarchies
and typologies. It is shown that individual languages select one or more
options from a limited set of strategies. Languages show systematic
parallelism where following the same strategy. We learn, for example,
that 'while'-clauses in Malayalam function as their English equivalents.
Differences between languages reflect the adoption of different strategies.
This makes languages comparable and, with a minor shift, similar.
Resumptive pronouns, for example, are considered ungrammatical in
standard English. However, they are used in some English dialects and in
Hebrew in similar contexts.
Second, AS discusses languages such as Tagalog and Malayalam in more
than one chapter. We thus witness how a particular choice of a language
relates to different phenomena. The reader is invited to think backwards
and forwards from relative clause formation to topicalization, reflexive
pronouns and filler-gap relations. The number and the kind of strategies a
language has chosen and the lexical material used for disambiguation
create the unique syntactic structure which is the object of our studies.
The main difference between AS and competing "Introductions to Syntax"
(e.g. Ouhalla 1994, Carnie 2002) thus does not derive from its bias towards
Lexical Functional Grammar. Instead, while the latter tend to analyze
linguistic data from the perspective of a linguistic theory, AS proposes an
analysis of languages from a more immediate perspective, their systemic
differences and uniqueness.
Chapter 1 provides an easy introduction into the three structures which are
used for syntactic analysis in AS: The Argument Structure, the Constituent
Structure and the Functional Structure. The formal presentations of these
structures are given.
Chapter 2 contains the obligatory chapter which treats constituency and
syntactic categories concisely, advancing however to difficult phenomena
such as mixed categories and the English gerund.
Chapter 3 tackles passives, applicatives and dative shift. Lexical rules are
introduced to account for the observed data. The interaction and ordering
of lexical rules leads to the formulation of the "Mirror Principle". A longer
section motivating the lexical analysis of passives concludes the chapter.
Chapter 4 is dedicated to the analysis of reflexive pronouns. Binding
Principle B is shown to be too strong unless the binding domain is assumed
to be the predicate and its arguments. The relational hierarchy is
introduced to describe prominence in terms other than phrase structure
configuration. A short analysis of Malayalam shows how to distinguish
semantic role, word order and grammatical relation in their contribution to
define the prominence of an NP, thus making an NP an eligible antecedent.
Long-distance reflexives are shown to have mostly subjects as antecedents.
Tagalog serves an example of a languages in which the semantic role and
not the grammatical relation determines the prominence. The analysis of
reflexives, finally, is said to be an important step for the analysis of
languages since this will reveal the system of participant reference.
Chapter 5 introduces lexically determined control relations (subject control
and object control), structurally induced functional control, functional and
anaphoric control, equi- and raising predicates. When it comes to Tagalog
we learn that functional control relations are specified on the basis of
grammatical relations. Anaphoric relations are specified on the basis of
semantic roles (cf. Chapter 4).
Chapter 6 introduces the pragmatic functions of topic and focus, looking at
English topic and focus constructions, topicalization in Mandarin and
Japanese as well as Indonesian and Russian focus marking. Nice to read,
this chapter prepares the ground for the material to come.
Chapter 7 discusses filler-gap dependencies and relativization, first using
English examples of filler-gap relations. Their formalization builds on that
of pragmatic functions. While control relations are local, filler-gap relations
are not. In addition, the controller bears two grammatical relations. The
filler bears one grammatical relation and a pragmatic functions. The
typology of relative clauses (restrictive vs. non-restrictive relatives, gap
strategy, resumptive pronoun, relative pronoun, relativizer, internally
headed relative clauses, correlatives) leads to questions of word order and
the "accessibility hierarchy". This hierarchy not only explains what can be
relativized, but also which strategy may be likely to be used.
Chapter 8 distinguishes periphrastic, lexical and morphological causatives.
The question of the grammatical relation of the causee in causatives derived
from transitive verbs leads to a discussion of Baker's theory. The question of
the grammatical relation of the causee in causatives derived from
ditransitive roots leads to Comrie's generalization of the "next available
Grammatical Relation". The semantics of causative constructions as well as
the structure of causative clauses (monoclausal versus biclausal) complete
Chapter 9 introduces serial verbs and related issues as clause chaining.
These phenomena are difficult to analyze and only loosely related to the
other phenomena treated in AS.
Chapter 10 discusses irregular correlations between morphological
features and grammatical relations, so-called quirky cases, using examples
from German, Icelandic, Malayalam, Hindi and Tamil. Tests on the
subjecthood are employed to distinguish quirky case subjects from non-
subjects. Reflexives and control structures here play a central role.
Chapter 11 starts with a distinction of morphological ergative case marking
(Warlpiri) and syntactic ergativity. In the latter case not only the case
marking but also syntactic properties follow the ergative pattern (Dyribal).
This is shown using relativization, control relations and other tests. The
same is shown for the anti-passive. Finally the case of Western
Austronesian Languages like Balinese and Sama is discussed where
transitive verbs may appear in two forms, one similar to absolutive-ergative
and the other as nominative-accusative.
This book is clearly structured, has an attractive layout and is well written. It
provides a large amount of information in a straightforward argumentation.
Especially it's focus on language data may came as a relieve to many
students of syntax.
However, the book is not easy to read. The dense writing style does not
allow to one to stop at every term and elaborate it. The teacher of syntax
will play a primary role in directing the students' attention to important
statements which otherwise, I fear, they might skip over.
AS provides almost no exercises as competing text books on syntax do (e.g.
Ouhalla 1994, Carnie 2002). Some may find this a disadvantage.
The casual introductions at the beginning of each chapter may be
misleading when students come back to them and read them as containing
valid definitions. We find for example in the introduction to ergativity
that "intransitive subjects are marked in the same way as transitive objects"
(AS, pg.280), while in the body paragraph we read "patients of transitive
clauses get the same case marking as subject of intransitive clauses" (AS,
pg. 281). It might be sufficient to identify the 'real' definition as such.
The immense number of glossed example sentences have been prepared
with greatest care. Most of them have a header, specifying the language,
where spoken and their source. Where these data can be found in the text,
the header has been omitted. There is however a minor flaw in the Italian
example sentences on page 225. Although sentence 9b ("e stato fatto
lavorare") might be grammatical, it is quite odd. The colloquial rendering
would be "hanno fatto lavorare" (active impersonal). Changing the verb
however, the passive becomes natural: "e stato fatto notare". Another
example sentence thus might do the job better. Sentence 10b ("La macchina
fu fatte riparare a Giovanni") is maybe unnatural with "fu" instead of "e
stata"; also "fatte" should be changed to "fatta".
Bresnan, Joan (2001) Lexical-Functional Syntax. Oxford: Blackwell.
Carnie, Andrew (2002) Syntax, A Generative Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell.
Ouhalla, Jamal (1994) Introducing Transformational Grammar, From Rules
to Principles and Parameters. London: Edward Arnold.
| ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Oliver Streiter teaches syntax and corpus linguistics at the National
University of Kaohsiung, Taiwan. His research interests include
computational linguistics, corpus linguistics and computer assisted