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Date: Tue, 20 Dec 2005 14:23:39 -0500 From: Phaedra Royle Subject: Fundamentals of French Syntax
AUTHOR: Gledhill, Christopher TITLE: Fundamentals of French Syntax SERIES: LINCOM Coursebooks in Linguistics 11 PUBLISHER: Lincom GmbH YEAR: 2003
Phaedra Royle, Ph.D. School of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada; Research Centre, Sainte- Justine Hospital
As stated on the back cover, this book is intended to provide ''accessible syntax of French as well as grounding in the fundamental principles of syntactic theory, unhindered by considerations of theory and cross-linguistic comparisons. The aim is to describe modern French in breadth rather than to analyse problems of theory in depth.... After studying this book, learners should be able to move on to books both in generative theory and comparative studies of French and other Romance languages...''. In the Preface, Gledhill restates the aims of the book which are ''to describe a single model of syntax and then to analyse a variety of structures in French using the model as a rough starting point.'' (p. 4) The model used to describe French is the one outlined in Radford (1997) that is X-bar theory and minimalism. However, following structuralist tradition, Gledhill assumes that the surface form of the sentence corresponds closely to [underlying] syntactic structure. For example, he analyses lexical phrases, such as 'pomme de terre' 'potato', as phraseological constructions.
This book can be used in a B.A. level class on French syntax. However, the teacher might want to supplement it with other more classical readings on X-bar syntax. Because the domains of X-bar and Hallidayan analyses are not well delimited in the text, students may become confused as to which is which.
The book contains a Preface and six main chapters: 1 Grammar and Syntax; 2 Phrases; 3 Clauses; 4 Advanced Phrases; 5 Advanced Clauses; 6 Topics in French Syntax. Each chapter is followed by a section with exercises and one with answers and discussion notes. There is a Glossary containing a Lexicon describing syntactic abbreviations, a section on Functional Symbols and another with examples of Hallidayan Analysis. The book concludes with a Bibliography.
Chapter One outlines the domain of inquiry of this book. It begins with a definition of syntax, sets out the differences between prescriptive and descriptive grammars and presents some basic tenets of generative grammar. Gledhill adds the less traditional (in syntax) domain of phraseology -- the study of idioms -- to his line of research; he includes lexical phrases within the domain of phraseology.
Chapter Two presents basic French phrase structures (S, NP, VP, etc) and vocabulary for their composite elements, along with tables describing different noun types and article functions.
Chapter Three outlines the structures of co-ordinate, subordinate, dependant, relative and complement clause structures in French.
Chapter Four introduces of X-bar theory, NP and VP arguments, determiners and pronouns and the concept of Functional Group (FG), which Gledhill proposes as shorthand for INFL, etc, and which is the repository of such elements as ne (NEG), proclitics, 'en', 'y,' and 'se' (REFL).
In Chapter, Five Gledhill acknowledges that spoken and written French differ enormously, and presents examples of syntactic structures that cannot be described within the previously outlined framework, which has traditionally been based on more formal versions of French. In particular, he discusses ''discontinuities'' that can break up the flow of speech. Although these have traditionally been viewed as performance issues, they have been studied by Blanche-Benveniste (1996) in a discourse analysis context. This approach has led syntacticians to note that some phrasal units are more solidly linked than others. The chapter therefore focuses on some of these. A section on thematic structure discusses theme and rheme (Topic/Comment). Another section is devoted to Dislocation and Cleft clauses, and yet another focuses on interrogatives. There are sections on control and raising clauses, on causatives with 'faire' 'to do' (as in 'Elle l'a fait manger' 'She made it/her/him eat'), on expansion and projection, which is a presentation of Halliday's approach to control and raising, and lastly on extrapolation and extraction.
The final Chapter, entitled Topics in French Syntax, reviews a number of previously published books on French Syntax and presents a brief history of French linguistics. Gledhill discusses the question of register, which is extremely significant in French linguistics. In addition, he mentions a number of ways in which the study of naturalistic corpora has changed the syntactic analysis of French (e.g., clitics, topicalisation, negatives, and so on).
A final section presents further reading on syntax and other languages.
When discussing the fact that grammar and morphology seem to operate similarly in English and French, albeit with some differences (p. 8) Gledhill asserts ''There is no syntactic rule which states that all French sentences must follow the sequence Subject Verb Adverb Object, and so we refer to the term *pattern* to represent a general syntactic tendency rather than a fixed sequence.'' Yet, as the author had just stated in a previous sentence, one cannot separate the subject and verb with an adverb such as 'toujours' ''always'' (see a, below). This is not due to word order patterns but rather because, in French, the proclitic pronoun cannot be separated from the verb by another element. For example, the adverb can appear before the proclitic or after the direct object, as in (b) and (c). The author seems to be missing an important generalization about French, that the verb cannot be separated from its pronoun clitic.
(a) Je *toujours boire toujours du café 'I always drink coffee' (b) Toujours, je bois du café (c) Je bois du café toujours
One might want to argue that it is in fact possible to separate the proclitic from the verb by inserting a negative 'ne' between the two. However, this is a feature of only certain prestigious varieties of French, and even then is variable. (It is stable only in written French).
When discussing the issue of *communicative competence* (i.e., sensitivity to linguistic variation and use of this in context), Gledhill discusses *variables*, that is, the possibility of using different syntactic structures for the same communicative purposes. He gives the example of questions, which can be produced in French by many different means (some non-syntactic). In this context he states that ''[...] the [inverted] interrogative ('que dis-tu?' ['what are you saying?']) serves to distinguish the dialect of Quebec French from European French, since in Quebec, inversion is more widely used in all types of speech'' (p.12). In fact, it is exactly the contrary. Inverted questions are marked in Quebec French as being highly formal. Quebec French does not usually make use of inversion to form questions. Rather, a non-syntactic rising tone or an enclitic 'tu' are preferred. The enclitic is not an inversed agreement marker, since it can appear concurrently with proclitics of all persons and numbers (d- f) (except 'nous' 'we.pl', but this might be related to register, as it appears with 'on' 'we.pl' which is used in the place of 'nous' in colloquial French). In addition, it can be found with an overt subject AND a pronoun clitic (j), so it cannot be interpreted as a form of clitic doubling. (d) Je mange-tu? 'am I eating?' (e) Tu manges-tu? 'are you eating?' (f) Il mange-tu? 'is he eating?' (g) On mange-tu? 'are we eating? (h) Vous mangez-tu? 'are you eating?' (i) Ils mangent-tu? 'are they eating?' (j) Élise, a mange-tu? 'Élise, is she eating?'
It therefore seems that some aspects of French syntax are inadequately described in this book.
Another unsettling aspect of this book is that although Gledhill purports to assume X-bar syntax, he initially draws trees with more than two branches. For example, on page 36, 'Plusieurs grandes personalités sont arrivées' ''Many great personalities have arrived'', is drawn with an NP with three daughters, D, AP and N. He later assigns similar syntactic structures to coordinate, subordinate and relative clauses, where again, three elements are daughters of a common mother node. Only when he gets to Chapter 5, Advanced Clauses, does he discuss the consequences of using X-bar theory and begin to draw appropriate trees. This can be confusing for students. I have found it better to lay the rules of X-bar theory down first and then use them consistently for more and more complex structures (CP, IP etc.).
Finally, although this book is intended for advanced students of French syntax, Gledhill uses the shorthand *Functional Group* as a rough equivalent of IP, and neglects to thoroughly investigate the various permutations this ''group'' exhibits in French, where subject and object clitics as well as negation (in more formal dialects) are found before the auxiliary or the tensed verb. The functional projections above VP and below CP are therefore quite complex. In this book, we alternatively find in Spec of FG, a pro subject (clitic), a pro object (clitic), NEG, a tensed AUX, reflexive pro, or a number of these (as in 'George ne les a pas encore vus' ''George did not yet see them'', where we find 'ne les a' all at the same level as daughters of FG) (p. 95). In addition FG is in Spec of VP and sister of V' rather than in a higher position, as is traditionally held in X-bar syntax. However, even this is not consistent throughout the text, since in some of the trees, clitic pronouns are under NP in Spec of S rather than FG.
Final comments: The bibliography is somewhat sparse. References to a number of eminent recent works by authors focussing on Romance languages or French (e.g., Belletti & Rizzi, 1996; Cinque, 1994; Legendre, 1994; Müller 2002; Roehrs & Labelle, 2003; Tellier, 2003; Valois, 1991, 1996; Vinet, 2001) are not included. There is no subject index. A few typos were found. Lastly, at 50 US dollars for only 190 pages, the book is overpriced.
To sum up, this book should be used with caution. Although I am not primarily a syntactician, as a teacher of an introduction to linguistics course, I found this book more confusing than helpful.
Belletti, A. & Rizzi, L. (1996). Parameters and Functional Heads: Essays in Comparative Syntax. New York, NY: Oxford U Press.
Blanche Benveniste, C. (1997). Approches de la langue parlée. Paris: Ophrys.
Cinque, G. (1994). On evidence for partial N-movement in the Romance DP. In G. Cinque, J. Koster, J.-Y. Pollock, L. Rizzi & R. Zanuttini (Eds.), Paths towards Universal Grammar (pp. 85-110). Georgetown: Georgetown University Press.
Legendre, G. (1994). Topics in French Syntax. New York, NY: Garland Publishing.
Müller, C. (2002). Les bases de la syntaxe : syntaxe contrastive. Pessac: Presses universitaires de Bordeaux.
Picard, M. (1992). Aspects synchroniques et diachroniques du tu interrogatif en québécois. Revue québécoise de linguistique, 21, 2, 65- 75.
Radford, A. (1997) Syntactic Theory and the Structure of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Roehrs, D., & Labelle, M. (2003) The Left Periphery in Child French: Evidence for a Simply-Split CP. In Quer, J., Schroten, J., Scorretti, M., Sleeman, P., & Verheugd, E. (Eds.) Romance Languages and Linguistic Theory: Selected Papers from 'Going Romance' 2001, Amsterdam 6-8 December, 2001. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp 279-294.
Tellier C. (2003). Éléments de syntaxe du français : méthodes d'analyse en grammaire générative. 2e éd. Boucherville, Québec : G. Morin.
Valois, D. (1991 ). The Internal Syntax of DP. Ph.D. Disseration. UCLA disserations in linguistics.
Valois, D. (1996). On the Structure of the French DP. The Canadian Journal of Linguistics/La Revue canadienne de Linguistique, 41, 349- 376.
Vinet, M.-T. (2001). D'un français à l'autre : la syntaxe de la micronarration. Montréal: Fides.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Phaedra Royle holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the Université de Montréal. Her interests lie in psycholinguistics, language disorders (Specific Language Impairment), language acquisition and morphology. Her thesis investigated lexical access in language- impaired French-speaking adolescents and adults. Her postdoctoral research focused on early verb acquisition in French-speaking children with and without language delay at the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University. She is presently carrying out research on language acquisition and processing in French-Speaking populations with and without language disorders, and teaching at the School of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology at Université de Montréal.