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Review of  Phrase Structure Composition and Syntactic Dependencies

Reviewer: Evangelia Vlachou
Book Title: Phrase Structure Composition and Syntactic Dependencies
Book Author: Robert Frank
Publisher: MIT Press
Linguistic Field(s): Syntax
Issue Number: 13.2750

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Date: Fri, 18 Oct 2002 15:44:31 +0200
From: "Vlachou, Evangelia"
Subject: Syntax: Frank, Robert (2002), P hrase Structure Composition and Syntactic

Frank, Robert (2002) Phrase Structure Composition and Syntactic
Dependencies, MIT Press, xiv+308pp, hardback ISBN 0-262-06229-1,

Reviewer: Evangelia Vlachou, University of Utrecht (UiL-OTS) and University of Paris

"Phrase Structure Composition and Syntactic Dependencies" explores the role
of the Tree Adjoining Grammar (TAG) which provides operations for composing
pieces of tree structures to form larger syntactic structures. Many
different approaches could be taken when attempting to formalize in syntax.
TAG formalism was first defined in 1975 by Joshi, Levy and Takahashi. Kroch
and Joshi (1985) highlighted the importance of TAG for linguistic theory.
Chomsky's (1993) paper on the Minimalist Program and the introduction of
generalized transformations into the syntactic theory made TAG compatible
with a more widely adopted approach. Frank opts for marrying these two
approaches of transformational grammar, by presenting the TAG syntax, based
on his own work growing out of Kroch and Joshi's earlier proposals. Robert
Frank is a prominent scholar in the field of TAG. He is the author of
"Syntactic locality and Tree Adjoining Grammar" (1992) and co-author (with
Kulick and Vijay-Shanker) of "Monotonic c-command: a new perspective on
tree-adjoining grammar" (2000).

Because of this marriage of all approaches presented above, Frank's book
constitutes a great point of reference for every syntactician who works in
any field of theoretical linguistics. It is therefore intended for readers
with advanced linguistic knowledge. However, the way in which the author
starts his book, explaining what "mental grammar" and "linguistic
expression" are, makes it a strong candidate for being used as a supplement
for graduate courses intended to provide syntax-oriented students with an
overview on TAG.

The book consists of six chapters: introduction ("setting the stage"), the
nature of elementary trees, a case study: raising, local constraints and
local economy, a case study: wh-dependencies, conclusion ("looking onward").

Chapter 1 introduces the author's main claim after a detailed analysis of
Chomsky's approach on the dependencies across boundaries: "there is in fact
a way to maintain the idea that the locality of movement-derived syntactic
dependencies stems from the derivational independence of structural units
that are bound in size". He proposes further that the most optimal way to
succeed in this is to make use of the derivational machinery of TAG. He
concludes that this new system is tightly related to Chomsky's system and
other more recent derivational systems. Based on these assumptions, Frank
provides the reader with a panel of the basic notions of TAG like "structure
of TAG derivations" and the relation between "formal grammar and human

Chapter 2 is dedicated to defining which structural domain can be
represented as an elementary tree. The pilot subject for doing so is the
idea that basic predications and clauses form the foundation of semantically
local domains. The chapter concludes with a number of well-formedness
conditions on elementary trees and their effect on the TAG derivations.
Chapter 3 constitutes an application of the theoretical frame presented in
the previous chapter on a construction: subject-to-subject raising. Through
the demonstration of possible approaches for this construction, like the
conditions on the locality of movement or the well-formedness of empty
categories, the author ends up arguing that the TAG view is the most optimal
for this case. He gives examples from nonlocal licensing and thematic
assignment, scope reconstruction, contraction, 'there'-insertion, non
raising in nominal and gerunds, raising passives, raising from small
clauses, raising and inversion. In his argumentation, he refers to other
possible solutions given by Kayne (1984), Moro (1997) without giving an
extended account of these proposals. His argumentation on these points is
rather fast. Furthermore, in order to prove the "puzzling" character of
Moro's account, he claims that languages like Russian and Hebrew allow
predications to be expressed without the copula. He doesn't give however any
example from these languages. Finally, he concludes that a distinction has
to be made between two types of raising: lexical raising predicates and
copula. To this aim, he refers to Hegarty's (1993) approach claiming that
even in that model we should involve Adjoining. However, no detailed account
is given on this work, though it seems to be very interesting for the
linguist's argumentation.

Chapter 4 turns to the "there"-insertion and more precisely discusses the
impossibility of "partial raising" in English like in the following example:

*There seemed a man from the CIA to be at the meeting.

Firstly, the author relates these cases with the raising analysis presented
in chapter 3: the embedded subject does not receive nominative case within
its infinitival nominative tree. Secondly he gives a reformulated definition
of the ?-criterion (part 2) as applied to chains and proves in a convincing
way that in French, English and Dutch (see examples below) this criterion
would lead to two incorrect predictions: a. simple sentences involving such
verbs lack subjects in the specifier of TP position and b. elementary trees
headed by argumentless predicates are impossible, as the EPP and this
criterion impose conflicting demands.

*(It) is raining.

*(Il)a été tiré sur le bateau.
It has been fired upon the boat
"The boat was fired upon"

After having pointed out the problem of such an approach, Frank restricts
the application of the ?-criterion to semantically contentful DPs. In a
quite quick way which makes his argumentation rather obscure, the linguist
proposes that this solution is not the best one and turns quickly the
discussion to the most optimal one, based on Chomsky's analysis (1995) on
expletive sentences, comparing the two following phrase structures (in the
form of trees):

[T' [T VP [V T']]]

[T' [T VP [DP V' [V T']]]]

His claim is the following: there is an "extended projection principle"
following which "a TP projection in an elementary tree ? must have a
specifier if and only if there is some otherwise licensed element within ?
that can be moved to the specifier of TP" (p.117). He investigates then how
these schemata can be applied to languages like Icelandic which possess a
raising construction analogous to the English one. This language differs
however from English in that the presence of a dative argument to the
Icelandic "seem" makes raising of the lowest subject impossible. In this
point Frank's argumentation becomes loose and floating using examples from
English in order to reinforce the value of the extended projection principle
and going back again to Icelandic in order to verify the results of the
English paradigm. Basically, his aim is to show that elementary trees do not
uniformly abide by the standard conception of the EPP, according to which
every TP must have a specifier. Frank claims that the complexity in the
statement of the EPP is only apparent and shows in a nice way that there is
no need for the complex formulation of the EPP once general processes of
elementary-tree-local feature checking governed by the principle of local
derivational economy.

Chapter 5 turns back to another type of dependency as the one presented in
the third chapter related to transformational movement: wh-movement. Frank
claims that from the TAG point of view some dislocations of wh-elements are
treated as the result of the Adjoining. In the beginning, he gives the basic
properties of a TAG-based analysis of wh-dependencies based on Kroch (1987,
1989) and Frank (1992). He then shows how the structural hypotheses related
to the elementary trees derive from properties of the system of feature
checking as presented in the previous chapter. The TAG analysis of
wh-movement restricts on movement in Subjacency and the Adjunct Condition.
With a brief demonstration of languages that violate the principle of
wh-islands, he explains it in terms of crosslinguistic differences. At the
last step of his argumentation Frank sheds light to cases of grammatical
extraction from weak islands and pursues a possible way to deal with them in
the framework of TAG.

Chapter 6 is the final chapter, which constitutes an overview of the study
and closes the book with two open, one empirical and one theoretical,
questions. The empirical one concerns a class of phenomena that exhibit
dependency structures that the TAG approach cannot account for and the
theoretical one touches the interface of the derivations used throughout the
previous chapters.

The first impression that the book gives is appealing with the tree-schemata
that Frank uses which makes it easier for the reader to follow the
argumentation. The titles that the author gives to every chapter reveal the
deductive character of his argumentation; starting from an introduction to
the elementary trees, he reinforces his argumentation by shading some light
on a very interesting case where the TAG can be applied, the
wh-dependencies. Finally, instead of giving to the last section of his book
the stereotypical character of a "conclusion", he invites the reader to go
back again, to his initial question and argue again using possible
counter-arguments to the analysis he has presented so far. The author avoids
extreme positions and gives a remarkably neutral account although it is made
clear, from the preface, that he presents his own idea to incorporate TAG
into syntactic theory. By the same token, he doesn't avoid presenting other
possible theories and tries to demonstrate how and to what extend his own
perspective would be the most optimal. What is very positive about the book
is that it provides the readers with new areas of investigation. However,
they are not extensively elaborated. For instance, he gives no account
concerning the process of interpretation that applies during the derivation
of an elementary tree and requires therefore reference to structure outside
the limits of elementary trees. He explicitly claims that his work leaves
open the problem of "derivationally anaphoric dependencies" and he doesn't
attempt to give an answer. It would be appealing however to see how the
linguist would deal with the semantic consequences of his approach. It would
help him to support his initial claim that "the system of connections
between form and meaning afforded by human language is taken to derive by
mental grammar".


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

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

Frank, Robert. 1992. Syntactic locality and Tree Adjoining Grammar:
Grammatical, acquisition, and processing perspectives. Ph. D. thesis,
University of Pennsylvania.

Frank Robert, Seth Kulick, and K. Vijay-Shanker. 2000. Monotonic C-Command:
A New Perspective on Tree Adjoining Grammar, Grammars, 3, 151-173.

Hegarty, Michael. 1993. Deriving clausal structure in Tree Adjoining
Grammar. Manuscript, University of Pennsylvania.

Joshi, Aravind K., Leon Levy, and Masako Takahashi. 1975. Tree adjunct
grammars. Journal of the Computer and System Sciences 10, 136-163.

Kayne, Richard. 1984. Connectedness and binary branching. Dordrecht: Foris.

Kroch, Antony and Aravind K. Joshi. 1985. The linguistic relevance of Tree
Adjoining Grammar. Technical report MS-CS-85-16, Department of Computer and
Information Sciences, University of Pennsylvania.

Kroch, Anthony. 1987. Unbounded dependencies and subjacency in a tree
adjoining grammar. In Alexis Manaster-Ramer, ed., The mathematics of
language, 143-172. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Kroch, Anthony. 1989. Asymmetries in long distance extraction in a tree
adjoining grammar. In Mark Baltin and Anthony Kroch, eds., Alternative
conceptions of phrase structure, 66-98. Chicago: University of Chicago

Moro, Andrea. 1997. The raising predicates; Predicative noun phrases and the
theory of clause structure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER Evangelia Vlachou is a Ph. D. student in the University of Utrecht (UiL-OTS) and University of Paris IV. Her research interests are formal semantics, syntax, polarity and free-choice indefinites in Greek and French. á

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