LINGUIST List 18.257

Thu Jan 25 2007

Review: Syntax: Carnie (2006)

Editor for this issue: Laura Welcher <>

Directory         1.    Lara Reglero, Syntax: A Generative Introduction, Second Edition

Message 1: Syntax: A Generative Introduction, Second Edition
Date: 25-Jan-2007
From: Lara Reglero <>
Subject: Syntax: A Generative Introduction, Second Edition

Announced at AUTHOR: Carnie, AndrewTITLE: SyntaxSUBTITLE: A Generative Introduction, Second EditionSERIES: Introducing LinguisticsPUBLISHER: Blackwell PublishingYEAR: 2006

Lara Reglero, Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics, Florida StateUniversity

This book is an introduction to syntactic theory which adopts a Principlesand Parameters approach with an occasional eye on Minimalism. The book isintended for an upper division undergraduate introduction to syntax classbut it could also be used in more advanced courses. The book is dividedinto five parts: Preliminaries (Chapters 1-5), The Base (Chapters 6-8),Movement (Chapters 9-12), Advanced Topics (Chapters 13-15) and Alternatives(Chapters 16-17). Being a second edition, the book has been considerablyrevised and contains quite a few differences with respect to the firstedition. Just to mention a few examples, the chapters on X-bar theory havebeen expanded and now contain more trees and examples, the treatment ofpassives and locality conditions is different and now there is a newchapter on 'split VPs' and a new section on 'advanced topics'. In whatfollows I provide detailed summaries of the chapters and a criticalevaluation of the book.


Chapter 1 ('Generative Grammar') introduces the theoretical framework forthe book: Noam Chomky's Generative Grammar. Within this theory, the authoradopts the Principles and Parameters approach and some recent developmentsfrom Minimalism. After an overview of some of the main fields inlinguistics, the author focuses on the scientific study of syntax. Forthis, the author describes the main steps of any scientific method(observing data, making generalizations, developing hypotheses or rules andtesting the hypotheses/rules against more data) and illustrates the methodwith anaphors in English. Possible sources of data include grammaticalsentences from corpora and more importantly, ungrammatical sentences forwhich subconscious knowledge of language needs to be employed. The secondpart of the chapter attempts to uncover our subconscious knowledge ofsyntactic rules by adopting a perspective from language acquisition. Themain claim is that many parts of language are innate, as proposed byChomsky in his Universal Grammar (UG). Evidence for UG comes from differentarguments: the logical problem of language acquisition, theunderdetermination of the data, typological arguments (universals oflanguage) and biological arguments (language is human-specific). In orderto account for differences across languages, the concept of 'parametersetting' is introduced. The chapter concludes with an emphasis on thescientific method whose ultimate goal is to offer an explanatory adequategrammar.

In Chapter 2 ('Parts of Speech'), the author discusses the parts of speech(or syntactic category) words belong to: nouns (N), verbs (V), adjectives(Adj), adverbs (Adv) and prepositions (P). Given that semantic criteria arenot completely reliable in determining parts of speech, the author suggestsusing other tests such as morphological distribution (derivational andinflectional suffixes) and syntactic distribution. A discussion of openvs. closed parts of speech follows, which is in turn followed by lexicalvs. functional parts of speech. The author offers a thorough discussion offunctional categories of English such as prepositions, determiners (D),conjunctions (Conj), complementizers (C), tense (T) and negation (Neg). Themajor parts of speech are divided into subtypes, also known assubcategories (marked through features). Nouns have subcategories such asplural vs. singular, count vs. mass, proper vs. common or pronoun vs.lexical noun. Verbs can be divided into two major subcategories:tense/finiteness and argument structure. As for argument structure,predicates can be classified as intransitive (one obligatory argument),transitive (two obligatory arguments) and ditransitive (three obligatoryarguments).

Chapter 3 ('Constituency, Trees, and Rules') introduces the notions of'(hierarchical) structure' (as opposed to linear strings) and'constituency'. These notions can be captured in tree structures (orbracketed diagrams). A sentence constituent (Tense Phrase (TP)) typicallyconsists of a Noun Phrase (NP) and a Verb Phrase (VP). These phrases inturn contain other elements creating a hierarchical arrangement of thedifferent elements in the structure. Trees are generated by means of phrasestructure rules (PSRs) which adopt the following general format: XP -> XYZ(where XP stands for the label of the constituent, -> means 'consists of'and XYZ are the elements that make up the constituent, X being the 'head').The author discusses the major phrases in detail (i.e. NP, VP, AdjectivePhrase (AP), Adverb Phrase (AdvP), Prepositional Phrase (PP) and TP),provides examples, trees and the rules generating the tree structures. Thechapter also contains a practical section on how to draw trees from twodifferent perspectives (bottom-up and top-down) and a section on therelationship between syntactic trees and ambiguous sentences. At the end ofthe chapter, the author discusses constituency tests such as replacement,stand alone/sentence fragment, movement and coordination/conjunction. Thechapter ends with an appendix on how to solve foreign language problemswith and without word-by-word glosses.

Chapter 4 ('Structural Relations') is a more technical chapter dealing withthe geometry of trees. Syntactic trees consist of branches and nodes (rootnode, terminal nodes and non-terminal nodes). These elements enter intostructural relations which include domination, precedence and c-command.Domination can be of two different types: exhaustive and immediate.'Precedence' can also be immediate. The more complex notion of c-command isalso defined, illustrated and divided into symmetric and asymmetricc-command with government being the local version of the term(phrase-government and head-government). Along with structural relations,there are grammatical relations, which can be also defined in structuralterms. Examples include the notions of subject, direct object, object of apreposition and indirect object.

Chapter 5 ('Binding Theory') presents the basics of Binding Theory. Forthis, the terms R-expression, anaphor, and pronoun are illustrated anddefined. In order to provide a more comprehensive account of BindingTheory, the author discusses important notions such as antecedent, indices,coindexing, coreference and binding (c-command and coindexing). Then,Principle A (responsible for the distribution of anaphors) is discussed anddefined by appealing to a locality constraint: the binding domain. Morespecifically, an anaphor must be bound in its binding domain. In contrast,a pronoun must be free in its binding domain (Principle B). Finally,R-expressions must be free (Principle C).

Chapter 6 ('X-bar Theory') initially points to some inadequacies of thesystem, that is, it generates flat structures. By using the one-replacementtest in the NP domain, the author shows that we need a more articulatedtree with an intermediate level of structure (N' or N-bar) and acorresponding theory: X-bar theory. Evidence for the existence of V', Adj'/Adv' and P' comes from do-so replacement, so-replacement and conjunction,respectively. In an attempt to simplify and generalize the list of PSRs,the author notes the following similarities: all phrases have obligatoryheads, all non-head material is phrasal and optional and each majorcategory contains three rules. In order to capture these similarities, anypart of speech is replaced with the variable X. Then, the author introducessome new terminology: complements, adjuncts and specifiers. Complements andadjuncts are compared (especially in the NP and VP domains), differentiatedand located in different positions in the tree. Specifiers (roughly, Ds)are also shown to be different from complements and adjuncts. Based on allthis, three PSRs are introduced which make use of the variable X (i.e. theX-bar rules): the specifier rule (XP -> (YP) X'; where YP is a specifier),the adjunct rule (X' -> X' (ZP) or X' -> (ZP) X'; where ZP is an adjunct)and the complement rule (X' -> X (WP); where WP is a complement). Toaccount for cross-linguistic variation, X-bar rules are made a bit moregeneral by allowing specifiers and complements to appear on either side ofthe head. Given these options (i.e. parameters) the child needs to beexposed to the input and choose the right setting of the parameter. Thechapter concludes with a step-by-step section on tree drawing by usingX-bar theory.

Chapter 7 ('Extending X-bar Theory to Functional Categories') explores thespecifier rule and the problem it raises for the theory: YP is phrasal butthe D is not. In fact, Ds are heads and, as such, head their ownprojection: the Determiner Phrase (DP). Following Abney (1987), theproposal is that Ds are not within the NP. Instead, they take NPs ascomplements. The second goal of this chapter is to incorporate theComplementizer Phrase (CP) and TP rules (CP -> (C) TP and TP -> DP (T) VP),respectively) into X-bar theory. Under the new rules, the CP has C as itshead and takes TP as its complement. All clauses are CPs including embeddedand main clauses (the evidence for the later is taken from across-linguistics comparison of yes/no questions; Cs can be pronounced ornull). The TP has T as its head, a subject DP as its specifier and VP asits complement. T can be an auxiliary or an inflectional ending on a verb.Since inflectional suffixes cannot be pronounced in isolation, the proposalis that the affix lowers to attach to the verb by means of an operationcalled T-affix lowering, whose motivation is morphophonological in nature.

Chapter 8 ('Constraining X-bar Theory: The Lexicon') points to a problemwith X-bar theory: it generates ungrammatical sentences. Since complementsare optional in this theory, we can incorrectly generate transitivesentences without objects and intransitive sentences with direct objects.Whether a verb requires an object (or not) needs to be encoded in thelexicon along with any relevant selectional (semantic) restrictions a verbmay have. Selectional restrictions are encoded in thematic relations (ortheta roles) such as agent, experiencer, theme, goal, recipient, source,location, instrument and beneficiary. Theta roles can be used to representthe argument structure of a verb by means of a theta grid. In order toprevent X-bar Theory from overgenerating, the Theta Criterion is introduced(if a sentence violates the Theta Criterion, it will be marked asungrammatical). In this chapter the author also considers verbs which taketheta role-less expletive 'it' as subjects. This particular pronoun appearswhen there is no other subject in the sentence and its presence is forcedby the Extended Projection Principle (EPP).

Chapter 9 ('Head-to-Head Movement') points to another problem raised byX-bar Theory: it undergenerates (it cannot generate some word orders). Tosolve this problem, we need transformations, that is, operations that takethe output of X-bar rules (D(eep)-structure), change the structure, andgive as their output a S(urface)-structure. In this chapter, the authorexamines one general transformation (head-to-head movement) and itsdifferent realizations (verb movement, T movement and do-support). For verbmovement, the author compares French and English and notes that an adjunctcan appear between the head and the complement in French (similar factsobtain with negation). The proposal is that V raises to T in French (verbmovement) but T lowers to V in English (affix lowering). This point ofcross-linguistic variation is captured by the verb movement parameter. Toaccount for the Verb-Subject-Object (VSO) order in Irish, we need verbmovement combined with the VP-internal subject hypothesis. To explainsubject-auxiliary/verb inversion in yes/no questions, T -> C movement ispostulated. Finally, there is another last resort transformation calleddo-support which applies in yes/no questions in English which lack anauxiliary. In these cases, a dummy verb 'do' is inserted in T to support aninflectional affix (the same facts obtain in negative sentences). Thechapter concludes with a discussion on multiple auxiliaries and affixlowering in English and a brief appendix with tests for determining if aparticular language has V -> T or affix lowering.

Chapter 10 ('DP Movement') explores another transformation which accountsfor cases where DPs appear in unexpected positions according to thetatheory: DP-movement. In this chapter, the author examines raisingstructures and concludes that DP-subjects receive an agent theta role inD-structure (specifier of VP) and subsequently undergo DP movement to fillthe specifier position of the main clause TP. This transformation ismotivated by the EPP requirement. Passive sentences can be analyzed in asimilar way: the subject DP receives a theme theta role in D-Structure andthen undergoes DP movement to the specifier of TP to satisfy the EPP. Basedon some additional data from raising structures (expletive insertion doesnot satisfy the EPP), the author explains that the motivation forDP-movement is Case. Nominative case is assigned in the specifier of finiteT and Accusative case is assigned as a sister to the verb. DPs without Casewill be ruled out by the Case Filter. To conclude, the author examinesraising structures with DPs in non-finite T contexts and the properties ofthe passive morpheme. The main conclusion is that DPs move from positionswhere they can't check Case to positions where they can.

In chapter 11 ('Wh-movement'), the author shows that wh-elements undergomovement from a Case position to the specifier of CP. This movementtransformation is called wh-movement and is triggered by a [+WH] feature inC. The chapter provides detailed derivations for different types ofwh-questions with all transformations indicated (wh-movement, T -> C,do-support, DP-movement). Wh-movement can also occur across clauses withwh-words stopping in each specifier of CP. In other words, wh-movement issuccessive cyclic. The author further shows that wh-movement isconstrained, that is, there are certain contexts (called 'islands') out ofwhich wh-movement is disallowed. Examples of island contexts include theComplex DP Island, the wh-island, subjects (the subject condition) andconjoined structures (the Coordinate Structure Constraint). Island effects(especially the wh-island) are explained under the Minimal Link Condition(MLC) which requires that movement be to the first potential position. TheMLC can also account for locality effects with head movement andDP-movement in raising constructions. The author closes the chapter with adiscussion on echo questions and shows that these questions do not involvemovement and are not subject to the MLC.

Chapter 12 ('A Unified Theory of Movement') explores the possibility ofunifying all movement rules into a single rule: Move. Since all movement ismotivated by locality, it is proposed that movement is constrained by FullInterpretation. Feature checking needs to occur in a local configurationsuch as specifier-head, head-complement or head-head configuration. Inorder to capture cross-linguistic variation, the system needs to bemodified. There is only D-structure (and no S-structure), a branching pointof SPELLOUT and two interface levels, phonetic form (PF) and logical form(LF). Overt movement takes place between D-structure and SPELLOUT andcovert movement between SPELLOUT and LF. Differences between English andChinese wh-movement are explained under the wh-parameter (English is overtand Chinese is covert). The Verb movement parameter captures thedifferences between English and French when it comes to verb movement(French is overt and English is covert). The existence of covert movementis independently supported by MLC effects in wh-in-situ languages andquantifier scope in English.

Chapter 13 ('Expanded VPs') examines the problems raised by ditransitivestructures (presence of two complements, c-command, adjacency). A possiblesolution involves a modification of the syntactic structure so that DP1c-commands DP2. For this, an extra projection is needed (labeled vP), whichcorresponds to a light verb (CAUSE). Case assignment to DP1 is alsodiscussed. Based on evidence from Irish, the author explains that DP1receives accusative case in a new functional category: AgrO (ObjectAgreement). This proposal works for ditransitive verbs which take a PP or aCP as their final argument. Verbs that take two DP complements are morecomplex. It is proposed that the direct object is introduced by the lightverb CAUSE and moves to Spec AgrOP. In the same fashion, the indirectobject is introduced by another light verb (LOCATE or POSSESS) and moves toa different functional category for case reasons: AGRIOP.

In chapter 14 ('Raising, Control, and Empty Categories') the authordiscusses raising (subject-to-subject and subject-to-object) and control(subject and object). Main predicates in raising constructions do notassign an external theta role. The subject of the embedded clause does nothave Case so it raises to the empty subject position of the main clause tosatisfy Case and the EPP requirement. In contrast, main predicates incontrol constructions assign an external theta role and do not involveraising. The external theta role of the embedded predicate is assigned to anull pronoun without Case under the name of PRO. The author offersdifferent tests to distinguish raising from control: theta grids of matrixpredicates, behavior of idioms and the extraposition construction. Adiscussion of subject-to-object raising follows. In this case, the subjectof the embedded sentence raises to the object position of the matrix verbto receive accusative Case. In object control examples, there is a CaselessPRO and no DP movement for Case. Next, the author considers the nature ofPRO and concludes that it is not subject to binding theory but to adifferent module of the grammar called control theory. The chapter closeswith a discussion of 'pro' and the null subject parameter.

Chapter 15 ('Advanced Topics in Binding Theory') starts by summarizingchapter 5 ('Binding Theory'). Then, the author explains that bindingprinciples hold at LF. For this, we need to assume the Copy Theory(Chomsky, 1993) and propose that at least one copy of the chain needs to besubject to the binding principles. After examining numerous data, theauthor refines the notion of 'binding domain' and reformulates the bindingprinciples as follows. According to Principle A, ''one copy of an anaphor ina chain must be bound within the smallest CP or DP containing it and apotential antecedent'' (p. 429). According to Principle B, ''a pronoun mustbe free within the smallest CP or DP containing it but not containing apotential antecedent. If no such category is found, the pronoun must befree within the root CP'' (p. 431).

Chapters 16 ('Lexical-Functional Grammar') and 17 (Head-Driven PhraseStructure Grammar') offer a brief overview of two alternative theories ofgenerative grammar. For Lexical-Functional Grammar (LFG), the authordiscusses the mechanisms of c-structure, functions, the lexicon,F-structure and explains how this theory can account for phenomena such ashead-to-head movement/head mobility, passives, raising and control, andwh-movement. For Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG), the authordiscusses the notion of features and points to one important differencebetween HPSG and LFG: HPSG is compositional. The chapter also includes adiscussion of rules (the Head Complement Rule and the Head Modifier Rule),binding and long distance dependencies.


This textbook is an excellent introduction to syntactic theory. The authormanages to present all the complexities of the Principles and Parametersframework in a student-friendly way. The book is well-written and thediscussion and argumentation are very clear and surprisingly accessible tothe reader. Each chapter contains several theoretical points, followed byan extremely useful section on ''ideas, rules, and constraints introduced inthis chapter'', which provides definitions/short summaries of the main ideasdiscussed in each chapter. This section is in turn followed by a ''furtherreading'' section which contains a list of useful references for the reader.Each chapter also contains a problem section which is divided into twoparts. The first part corresponds to the ''general problem sets'' andprovides numerous exercises for regular students. The second part is the''challenge problem sets'' and would be more beneficial for moreadvanced/honors students. Each exercise is labeled according to content andit also indicates the type of skill involved (creative and criticalthinking, application of skills, data analysis) and the level of difficulty(basic, intermediate, challenge, extra challenge). Without a doubt, allthis information would be very valuable for both instructors and students.Furthermore, the author indicates in the main text when students should beready to solve the relevant exercise(s). The book also has a website withfurther resources.

Throughout the book, the author manages to combine theoretical explanationswith numerous examples and trees to illustrate and support the theoreticalclaims under discussion. The author uses extremely good visuals andanalogies to facilitate the understanding of complex notions. PS trees areexplained in depth and complete derivations are provided for more complexexamples. The author also added very useful appendixes on tree drawing,data analysis etc. which make the apparently daunting task of syntacticanalysis much more accessible to the reader. Additionally, the authorincluded a number of gray textboxes with more advanced information,clarifications and historical facts, all of which will be of great interestfor students.

In terms of topic choice, the author is influenced by previous textbookssuch as Cowper (1992), Haegeman (1994) or Radford (1988) but adds two newtopics not covered in introductory manuals: LFG and HPSG. This givesstudents the chance to compare and evaluate different frameworks. The bookalso has a few chapters with more advanced topics which are more open-endedin nature and show that syntax is an open field where more research needsto be done. One of the big strengths of this book is the emphasis oncross-linguistic data and analysis. All chapters contain examples inEnglish and numerous examples in other languages. The problem sets areoften based on languages other than English. This clearly shows to thereader how important it is to conduct research in all possible languagesand come up with theories which can account for generalizations acrossdifferent languages.

Even though the book is very well organized, some of the terms anddiscussion could have been introduced in more detail or connected moreclearly. For example, the author's first illustration of hierarchicalstructure is unexpectedly too advanced. It could have been more useful todiscuss hierarchy in a simpler domain such as the NP and then introduce themore complex TP level (a comparison with a flat structure would have beenuseful as well). The author could have also considered discussing hierarchywithout assigning specific labels (NP, VP etc.) to the different nodes inthe tree. This part of the discussion could have been postponed until thediscussion of phrases. In general, the connection between phrases, the treestructure(s) and the notion of constituency is not crystal clear. All thesecrucial notions are discussed in the book but instructors might want toreorganize part of the material and show more precisely how all thesenotions are related. Many of the trees included in the first chapters ofthe book contain flat structures (or trees with hierarchical and flatstructure combined). This can be confusing to the reader given that theauthor has argued for hierarchical structures. It would have been useful toinclude a note explaining that all the flat structures would be revised inlater chapters. As for constituency tests, the author could have providedungrammatical counterparts for all tests. This would illustrate better whatconstitutes a phrase/constituent and what doesn't. The concept of 'head'could be made a bit more explicit (its obligatory nature). It might havehelped introduce in more detail the notion of head in earlier chaptersalong with the concepts of 'complement', 'adjunct' and 'specifier'.

The author explains island effects under the MLC. The problem is that theaccount can only be applied to wh-islands. It would have been useful topoint to a possible direction to account for other cases too or evenmention how previous mechanisms (bounding nodes) explained island effects.In his discussion of echo questions, the author could have limited thediscussion to cases with only one wh-phrase in situ. Multiple questioncontexts can be more confusing given that they can also have a truequestion interpretation (in fact, the distinction between echo question andtrue question could have been introduced at the beginning of thediscussion). Other points to consider are the following: the division ofbinding theory into two separate chapters could be reconsidered (butinstructors can easily explain the two chapters simultaneously orseparately), the addition of a chart for theta roles and finally, theinclusion of a few more recent references by Chomsky for the interested reader.

In sum, this is an excellent book and I recommend it very highly forintroductory courses to syntactic theory.


Abney, Steven. 1987. The English Noun Phrase in its Sentential Aspect.Ph.D. dissertation, MIT.

Chomsky, Noam. 1993. A Minimalist program for linguistic theory. In KennethL. Hale and Samuel J. Kayser (eds.), The View from Building 20: Essays inHonor of Sylvain Bromberger. Cambridge: MIT Press. Pp. 1-52.

Cowper, Elizabeth. 1992. A Concise Introduction to Syntactic Theory: TheGovernment and Binding Approach. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Haegeman, Liliane. 1994. Introduction and Binding Theory (2nd edition).Oxford: Blackwell.

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


Lara Reglero is Assistant Professor of Spanish and Linguistics in theDepartment of Modern Languages and Linguistics at Florida State University.She has done research on wh-movement, information-theoretic notions such astopic and focus, ellipsis and adjacency effects.