This book "asserts that the origin and spread of languages must be examined primarily through the time-tested techniques of linguistic analysis, rather than those of evolutionary biology" and "defends traditional practices in historical linguistics while remaining open to new techniques, including computational methods" and "will appeal to readers interested in world history and world geography."
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 YEAR: 2004 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 languages.
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 uniqueness.
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 the chapter.
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 language learning.