LINGUIST List 13.1745

Thu Jun 20 2002

Review: Syntax:A Generative Introduction, Carnie (2002)

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  • Alexandra Galani, Carnie (2002) Syntax: A Generative Introduction

    Message 1: Carnie (2002) Syntax: A Generative Introduction

    Date: Wed, 19 Jun 2002 16:26:17 +0000
    From: Alexandra Galani <>
    Subject: Carnie (2002) Syntax: A Generative Introduction

    Carnie, Andrew (2002) Syntax: A Generative Introduction. Blackwell Publishers, xv+390pp, paperback ISBN 0-631-22544-7, $ 34.00

    Book Announcement on Linguist:

    Alexandra Galani, Department of Language and Linguistic Science, University of York, UK


    This textbook is an introduction to syntactic theory. It is mainly written in the Principles and Parameters framework (chapters 1-11), although it briefly covers some of the fundamental notions and ideas of the Minimalist Program (chapter 12) and the frameworks of Lexical-Functional Grammar (chapter 13) and Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar (chapter 14). It aims to provide an introductory guide to students who are unfamiliar with syntactic concepts. It is also supported by an instructor's manual and online resources for both students and instructors. Each chapter is supplemented with the rich use of examples, and contains a summary of the issues raised in that chapter and of the main points that will be discussed in the next one, an appendix explaining the terminology used in that chapter, and references for further reading. Finally problem sets are provided, which enable students to apply the theoretical concepts to the analysis of a variety of languages. The discussion is often accompanied with textboxes presenting issues for further consideration.

    The book is divided into four parts: - Part 1: Preliminaries (pp. 1-104) - Part 2: The Base (pp. 105-186) - Part 3: Transformations (pp. 187-332) - Part 4: Alternatives (pp. 333-376)

    It concludes with a sketch of the main issues discussed throughout and a section entitled "Where to go from here", with references for further reading. A bibliography (pp. 379-384) and subject index (pp. 385-390) are also included. In what follows I aim to provide as many details as possible on what each chapter is about and then proceed to the book's evaluation.

    Part 1: Preliminaries

    Chapter 1: Generative Grammar

    The first chapter of this part introduces the main principles of Generative Grammar. It briefly discusses the notion of big and little "l" language and presents definitions of syntax, phonetics, phonology, morphology, semantics, cognitive science, prescriptive and descriptive grammars, anaphor, grammatical gender, antecedent, number, person, case, nominative, accusative, corpus, semantic and syntactic judgements, learning, acquisition, recursion, observationally, explanatorily and descriptively adequate grammars, innate, universal grammar, the logical problem of acquisition, underdetermination of the data, universal, scientific method and the use of the asterisk. The readers are further referred to Chomsky (1965) and Jackendoff (1993) amongst others. In the problem sets the students are invited to judge whether a number of sentences are grammatical or ungrammatical and define their answers in terms of prescriptive or descriptive judgements as well as whether the ungrammaticality relates to the semantics or syntax. Moreover there are tasks on innateness, prescriptive rules, universals, learning versus acquisition, levels of adequacy and anaphora.

    Chapter 2: Fundamentals: Rules, Trees and Parts of Speech

    In this chapter the syntactic categories of noun, verb, preposition, adverb and adjective as well as open versus closed classes of speech are introduced. The author discusses constituency and constituency tests (movement, clefting, preposing and coordination), trees, hierarchical structure and the phrase structure rules: noun phrase, verb phrase, adverb phrase, adjective phrase, prepositional phrase. He further introduces the notion of recursivity, the principle of modification and the ways for drawing trees. The readers are referred to Chomsky (1957, 1965) and Radford (1988) amongst others. Finally students are asked to deal with a series of questions related to the parts of speech, the drawing of trees and bracketed diagrams and the formulation of phrase structure rules for given English, Nootka, Bambara, Hixkaryana and Irish sentences.

    Chapter 3: Structural Relations

    The aim of this chapter is to discuss the properties of trees: branches, node, label, root node, terminal node, and non-terminal node. He further explores the structural relations: (immediate, exhaustive, axioms of) dominance, mother, daughter, constituent, (axioms of) precedence, (symmetric, asymmetric) c-commanding, binding, no crossing branches constraint and grammatical relations (subject, object, object of preposition, indirect object and obliques). The students are further referred to Chomsky (1975), Higginbothan (1985) and Reinhart (1983) and are invited to discuss the structural and grammatical relations in given English, Tzotzil and Hiaki sentences as well as negative polarity items.

    Chapter 4: Binding Theory

    In this chapter Binding Theory is discussed; anaphors, R-expressions, pronouns, coindex, antecedent, indices, binding, Binding Principles A, B and C as well as the locality conditions (locality constraint, binding domain). Students are further referred to the works of Chomsky (1980), Higginbotham (1980) and Reinhart (1976). The problem sets invite the students to explain the ungrammaticality of some sentences in terms of the binding principles, distinguish the distribution of pronouns/anaphors in Japanese sentences, wh-questions and pronouns in Persian and c-commanding and precedence in English.

    Part 2: The Base

    Chapter 5: X-Bar Theory

    Carnie briefly presents X-Bar theory in this chapter. He introduces the bar-level projections (N', V', A', P'), the 'one'-replacement and 'do-so'-replacement processes, the X-Bar schema, the notions of head, endocentricity, complements, adjuncts (and their rules in NPs, VPs, APs, PPs), specifiers (and the rules), sentence and conjunction rules and the parameters of word order. He finally offers a section on drawing trees in X-Bar notation. The students are referred to Chomsky (1970), Jackendoff (1977), Kayne (1994), Lightfoot (1991), Radford (1988) for further reading on X-bar theory. The problem sets incorporate tree drawing, explanation within X-Bar theory of the ungrammaticality of certain German word orders as well as of the position of complements, adjuncts and specifiers in Japanese sentences.

    Chapter 6: Extending X-Bar Theory: CP, TP and DP

    In this chapter DPs (free-genitive, construct), TPs (clause, subject, predicate phrase, root, embedded, complement, adjunct, specifier, finite, non-finite clauses, Case (nominative, accusative) and T-to-C), CPs (yes/no questions, subject/aux inversion, null complementizer) are discussed. Students are referred to Chomsky (1991) and Pollock (1989) amongst others and are invited to discuss the function of that in English, identify the subjects, predicate phrases, clause types, draw the trees for English sentences by using CPs, TPs and DPs, argue on the possibility that modals are of category T, whereas auxiliaries are verbs and finally identify the possessor DP in a Hungarian sentence.

    Chapter 7: Constraining X-Bar Theory: Theta Roles and the Lexicon

    Theta-roles and the lexicon are discussed in this chapter. In specific the notions of predicate, arguments, argument structure, intransitive, transitive and ditransitive verbs, categorisation and selectional restrictions, thematic relations (agent, experiencer, theme, goal, recipient, source, location, instrument, benefactive), theta grid, external versus internal theta roles and the theta criterion are explored. Furthermore the lexicon (computational component, lexical items, the projection principle), expletives, expletive insertion and the Extended Projection Principle are introduced. The works of Grimshaw (1990) and Haegeman (1990) amongst others are proposed for further reading. In the problem sets students are asked to identify the theta roles and provide the theta grid for Sinhala, Warlpiri, Hiaki and (passive) English sentences as well as identify the problems the theta criterion imposes in Irish sentences and object expletives in English. They are finally asked to work on a comparative analysis on the antipassives in English and Inuriaq sentences.

    Part 3: Transformations

    Chapter 8: Head-to-Head Movement

    The computational component is further discussed in this chapter (the base, D-structure, underlying representation, transformational rules, S-structure) in addition to a discussion on head-to-head movement; V-to-T in French, English and Irish (verb raising parameter, VP internal subject hypothesis), NP movement, T-to-C, and do-support. Finally Carnie provides some tests for determining whether a language has V-to-T or affix lowering. Students are also referred to Emonds (1980) and Koopman and Sportiche (1991) amongst others. The problem sets include exercises on identifying and providing evidence on whether a given language (Persian, German, Italian) has V-to-T or lowering, whether the American versus the British English verb have undergoes movement and finally discuss the Germanic V2, the Hebrew construct state (N-to-D), the Italian N-to-D, the analysis of English quantifiers, proper names and nouns.

    Chapter 9: NP/DP Movement

    NP/DP movement is discussed in chapter 9. Specifically Carnie incorporates raising, Case, the Case filter, passives and their morphology, the VP internal subject hypothesis, the locality condition on theta role assignment, the unaccusatives and Burzio's generalisation in the discussion. Students are further referred to Burzio (1986) and Chomsky (1995) amongst others. The ungrammaticality of certain English sentences, the Persian accusative, middles, unaccusatives, passives, causatives and double object constructions in English, subject-to-subject and subject-to-object raising in English and the raising of Turkish nouns are addressed in this chapter's problem sets.

    Chapter 10: Raising, Control and Empty Categories

    Raising, control and empty categories are the main subjects of the discussion in this chapter: control sentence, clausal subject construction, extraposition, subject-to-subject raising, Exceptional Case Marking, equi, object control, the ways in distinguishing raising from control, control theory, obligatory versus optional control, PRO, pro, arbitrary PRO, the null subject parameter and pragmatics. The works of Chomsky (1965) and Hornstein (1999), amongst others, are introduced for further reading. Finally students are invited to determine whether some predicates in English are control or raising and discuss PRO and pro in Icelandic and Irish respectively.

    Chapter 11: wh-Movement

    Wh-movement is discussed in chapter 11; wh-island, bounding theory, bounding nodes, the subjacency constraint, the doubly filled CP and that-trace filters. Students are referred to Lighfoot (1976) and Rizzi (1982). Wh-words in English, Irish and Serbo-Croatian, binding and scrambling are parts of the problem sets.

    Chapter 12: Towards Minimalism

    The principle of Full Interpretation, local configuration, the Minimal Link Condition, subjacency, universal and existential quantifiers, scope (wide, narrow), economy conditions, Logical form (LF), Phonetic form (PF), movement (overt, covert), functional categories, wh-in situ, strong versus weak features and merge are briefly presented in this chapter. Students are further referred to Chomsky (1993) and Heim and Kratzer (1998) amongst others, and they are invited to discuss PF movement and wh-questions in Serbo-Croatian versus English in the problem sets.

    Part 4: Alternatives

    Chapter 13: Lexical-Functional Grammar

    Lexical-Functional Grammar is briefly outlined in this chapter: movement paradoxes, C-structure, F-structure, A-structure, grammatical function, the attribute value matrix, variables, metavariable, functional equation, F-description, annotated C-structure, unification, uniqueness, completeness, coherence, head mobility, the lexical rule of passives, open function, functional control and raising versus control are the issues presented.

    Chapter 14: Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar

    In the final chapter of this book some of the most fundamental parts of Head-Driven Phrase Structure are presented: features, SYN-SEM structure, coreference tags, the argument realisation principles, the plural, passive, head complement, head modifier, head specifier, head filter rules, compositional, feature satisfaction, head feature, valence, semantic compositionally, semantic inheritance, the GAP principles, and Principles A and B.


    Although this book is an introduction to syntactic theory, it offers a satisfactory discussion of many issues, and imparts fundamental knowledge to students unfamiliar with syntax. It enables them not only to grasp most of the main principles of the Principles and Parameters framework, but also offers an introduction to some of the main notions of Minimalism, Lexical-Functional Grammar and Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar and leads them to become familiar with the process of argumentation. Throughout, common mistakes and pitfalls are pointed out and ways of avoiding them are highlighted. The exercises also enable the students to apply the theoretical concepts not only to English syntax but also cross-linguistically. The book is written in a reader-friendly way, and guides students to grasp complicated syntactic concepts and analyses. As a whole, the book is well-organised, coherent and user-friendly. The discussion is illustrated by numerous examples and the chapters are organised so as to support cross-reference. The introduction and the conclusion of each chapter provide an excellent guide on what each chapter is/was about as well as the contents of the remaining chapters. I also believe that the references to further reading are not only appropriate but also absolutely necessary. In addition the appendices on the terminology used in each chapter are extremely useful. Bearing in mind the intentions of the author to offer an INTRODUCTION to syntactic theory, he takes the most straightforward position on controversial matters in order to avoid confusion. This also applies to the positions he takes on the solutions to the problem sets in the Instructor's Manual which accompanies the book.

    The book does not deal with some syntactic topics that many would consider important. In the Instructor's Handbook, the author lists decisions he has made that account for some of these omissions. For example, he assumes that auxiliaries are generated in T, not Aux, so that they do not have to undergo V-to-T; consequently he does not need to refer to VP-shells. He also acknowledges omitting discussion of government and of VP ellipsis. However, the book would have been even stronger had it included some discussion or references to these and other topics, such as uninterpretable features, linearization principles, argument/adjunct asymmetries in extraction, participles, imperatives, phrasal verbs, small clauses, and 'donkey' sentences. I also feel that more attention could have been paid to modal verbs and negation.

    Here is a listing of some misprints and other infelicities.

    - page 35: example (33b) "the very yellow book". Footnote (3) refers to this sentence: " (33b) an adverb (very) followed by an adjective (big)".

    - page 145: "Determiners like the and 's and are different tokens of the same type".

    - page 157: " is a tree drawn in section 6.2. of chapter 5, this time with CP and TP instead of S' and S, and DP". When you go back to page 137, only S is used in that tree.

    - page 170: "Examples (36-39) show that either having too many or two few arguments results...".

    - page 171: "...we are going allow..."

    - page 189: example (1): Kissed Mary the leprechaun: "In this sentence, the subject (a specifier) intervenes between the subject and the object".

    - page 194: "Before doing looking at an example, consider for a moment..."

    - page 295: "A simple wh-question like (52) violates..." This should be example (47) and not (52).

    -page 307: Further reading: Chomsky (1986) comes before Chomsky (1977).

    - page 315: "Move actually predates Minimalism but it an important part of the theory".

    - page 349: "The movement approach thus correctly predicts that (30a and b) will be ungrammatical, but (31c)..." The correct number of the first set of examples is (31a and b). Example (30) is a tree.

    - INSTRUCTOR'S HANDBOOK: page 33: "The EPP and expletives are also introduced in this chapters".

    - page 48: "I discuss the various syntactic, thematic/semantic, and pragmatic accounts that have been suggest for controlling PRO".

    In addition the topics preposing, clefting and pseudoclefting are missing from the index.


    Burzio, Luigi (1986) Italian Syntax. Dordrecht: Reidel.

    Chomsky, Noam (1957) Syntactic Structures. The Hague: Mouton.

    Chomsky, Noam (1965) Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. Cambridge: MIT Press.

    Chomsky, Noam (1970) Remarks on nominalization. In R. Jacobs and P. Rosenbaum (eds) Reading in English Transformational Grammar. Waltham: Ginn. pp.184-221.

    Chomsky, Noam (1975) The Logical Structure of Linguistic Theory. New York: Plenum.

    Chomsky, Noam (1980) On Binding. Linguistic Inquiry 11:1-46.

    Chomsky, Noam (1991) Some notes on economy of derivation and representation. In R. Friedin (ed.), Principles and Parameters in Comparative Grammar. Cambridge: MIT Press.

    Chomsky, Noam (1993) A minimalist program for linguistic theory. In K. L. Hale and S. Keyser (eds), The View from Building 20: Essays in Honor of Sylvain Bromberger. Cambridge: MIT Press. Pp.1-52.

    Chomsky, Noam (1995) The Minimalist Program. Cambridge: MIT Press.

    Emonds, Joseph (1980) Word order in Generative Grammar. Journal of Linguistic Research 1:33-54.

    Grimshaw, Jane (1990) Argument Structure. Cambridge: MIT Press.

    Haegeman, Liliane (1994) Introduction to Government and Binding Theory. Oxford: Blackwell.

    Heim, Irene and Kratzer, Angelika (1998) Semantics in Generative Grammar. Oxford: Blackwell.

    Higginbotham, James (1980) Pronouns and bound variables. Linguistic Inquiry 11:697-708.

    Higginbotham, James (1985) A note on phrase markers. MIT Working Papers in Lingustics 6:87-101.

    Hornstein, Norbert (1999) Movement and control. Linguistic Inquiry 30:69-96.

    Jackendoff, Ray (1977) X-Bar Syntax: A Theory of Phrase Structure. Cambridge: MIT Press.

    Jackendoff, Ray (1993) Patterns in the Mind. London: Harvester-Wheatsheaf.

    Kayne, Richard (1994) The Antisymmetry of Syntax. Cambridge: MIT Press.

    Koopman, Hilda and Sportiche, Dominique (1991) The position of subjects. Lingua 85:211-258.

    Lightfoot, David (1976) Trace theory and twice moved NPs. Linguistic Inquiry 7:559-582.

    Lightfoot, David (1991) How to Set Parameters: Evidence from Language Change. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Pollock, Jean-Yves (1986) Verb-movement, Universal Grammar and the structure of IP. Linguistic Inquiry 23:261-303.

    Radford, Andrew (1988) Transformational Grammar: A First Course. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press .

    Reinhart, Tanya (1976) The syntactic domain of anaphora. PhD Dissertation, MIT.

    Reinhart, Tanya (1983) Anaphora and Semantic Interpretation. London: Croom Helm.

    Rizzi, Luigi (1982) Issues in Italian Syntax. Dordrecht: Foris.


    Alexandra Galani is a PhD student at the Department of Language and Linguistic Science at the University of York, United Kingdom. She is working on the morphosyntax and the semantics of tense and aspect in Modern Greek within the theoretical framework of Distributed Morphology.