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Review of English Syntax and Argumentation, 3rd Edition
AUTHOR: Aarts, Bas TITLE: English Syntax and Argumentation, 3rd Edition SERIES: Modern Linguistics Series PUBLISHER: Palgrave Macmillan YEAR: 2008
Yosuke Sato, Department of Linguistics, University of British Columbia
SUMMARY This book is a third edition of the author's successful introductory textbook on English syntax. It is intended for any interested reader with no previous experience of the field in a way that invites active, creative participation on his/her part through intensive exercises with varying degrees of difficulty, summaries of key concepts learned in each chapter, and further readings. This edition also incorporates discussion of grammatical indeterminacy informed by the author's own recent research. The book is written within the framework of generative grammar.
This book is divided into four parts: Part I: Function and Form Part II: Elaboration Part III: Argumentation Part IV: Application
Part I: Function and Form Chapter 1: Introduction The introductory chapter provides an accessible guide to linguistics, structure, syntax, and constituency, and states that the goal of this book is to learn the basics of English syntax and fundamentals of syntactic argumentation.
Chapter 2: Function This chapter provides detailed exposition of functions played by each element in sentences (e.g., subject, predicate, predicator, complement, direct object, indirect object, and adjunct) and develops a variety of diagnostics to identify and distinguish these functions.
Chapter 3: Form: Words, Word Classes and Phrases This chapter introduces word classes (noun, determinative, adjective, verb, preposition, adverb, conjunction, and interjection) with many operational tests to identify those classes.
Chapter 4: More on Form: Clauses and Sentences This chapter explains how phrases are combined into sentences, sets up a ranking scale as a way to analyze sentences at four different levels (word, phrase, clause, and sentence-levels), and introduces various clause types (declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamative). It also provides discussion of tree diagrams to represent the internal structure of sentences.
Chapter 5: The Function-Form Interface This chapter discusses the interplay between function and form of the constituent parts of a sentence and discusses what forms realize the following functions in English: subject, predicate, predicator, direct object, indirect object, and adjunct.
Part II: Elaboration Chapter 6: Predicates, Arguments and Thematic Roles This chapter introduces key concepts that are concerned with the syntax-semantics interface: predicates, arguments, thematic roles, and selectional restrictions.
Chapter 7: Cross-Categorial Generalization: X-Bar Syntax This chapter introduces X-Bar Theory (head, complement, specifier, adjunct) as a theory of how individual constituent parts of a sentence are structured. This theory is introduced here as a way to capture cross-categorial generalizations, namely, that all major phrase types behave similarly with respect to certain phenomena.
Chapter 8: More on Clauses This chapter adds the I(nflection) node to the inventory of syntactic categories and shows why it should be analyzed as the head of sentences. This chapter also discusses various kinds of clauses such as subordinate clauses and restrictive/non-restrictive clauses.
Chapter 9: Movement This chapter looks at four types of syntactic movement: verb movement (auxiliary movement), NP movement (raising and passive), subject-auxiliary inversion, and wh-movement. It also briefly discusses the syntactic structure of sentences with multiple auxiliaries.
PART III: Argumentation Chapter 10: Syntactic Argumentation This chapter presents three types of arguments, economy of description, elegance of description, and independent justification, as ways to choose between two competing analyses.
Chapter 11: Constituency: Movement and Substitution This chapter develops a number of constituency tests based on syntactic movement (e.g., topicalization, VP-preposing, through-movement, Heavy-NP-shift, extraposition from NP) and substitution (proform, one-/do so-substitution).
Chapter 12: Constituency: Some Additional Tests This chapter develops further constituency tests based on coordination, right node raising, (pseudo-) cleft sentences, parenthetical expressions, and fragmentary answers. The author illustrates how constituency tests work with a case study in secondary depictive predicate constructions.
Chapter 13: Predicates and Arguments Revisited This chapter discusses cases as in infinitival complements of _persuade_ and _want_ where it seems hard to tell on the surface whether a particular NP is an argument of some predicate or not and develops four tests (meaning test, dummy element test, idiom chunk test, and passivization test) to solve this issue.
Part IV: Application Chapter 14: Grammatical Indeterminacy This chapter examines two types of grammatical indeterminacy, i.e., subsective gradience and intersective gradience, where it is not obvious on the surface to what syntactic characterization we should assign a particular element.
Chapter 15: Case Studies This chapter is intended to practice syntactic argumentation with a number of case studies in English syntax from noun phrase structure (e.g., _a lot of books_), binominal noun phrases (e.g., _a giant of a man_), various types of non-finite complementation selected by verbs (e.g., _want_, _believe_, _consider_, _hear_, _have_), subordination conjunctions, and prepositions.
The book concludes with Glossary, Reference Works: Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, Grammars and Other Publications on the English Language, Bibliography, and Index.
EVALUATION This book is highly accessible to any reader interested in the formal study of sentence and phrase structure in modern linguistics. Even for those who have taken introductory linguistic courses and are familiar with the fundamentals of syntactic analysis, Part III (Argumentation) and Part IV (Application) should be quite valuable since they provide a detailed, step-by-step introduction to how syntacticians argue for or against a particular hypothesis or choose between several existing accounts based on a number of general methodological criteria (linguistically significant generalizations, Occam's razor, elegance, and independent justification). Secondary depictive constructions, pseudo-partitives, and verb complementation are analyzed in depth in Part III/IV to practice syntactic argumentation, but I would like to see more case studies in English syntax other than these phenomena to further invite the active participation of the reader, a primary goal of the Modern Linguistics Series. For example, one might want to pick up a few other English constructions that have not been discussed yet in the generative framework and see what analyses are consistent with given data, choose among them based on a new set of data, and how they fare in terms of the general methodological criteria set in Chapter 10. Several constructions discussed in the Construction Grammar framework (Goldberg 1995, 2006) and/or in the Simpler Syntax Model (Culicover and Jackendoff 2005) might serve good illustrations for this purpose.
I also expect an introductory syntax book like this one to have a broader coverage of phenomena and key discoveries in the field (e.g., binding, control, c-command, locality). One might reasonably object that this makes the book twice as long as it is now, but it would serve to convince alert readers why we need structural notions like constituent, domination, precedence in the first place as well as how they relate to one another, which are just mentioned almost off-handedly in Chapter 4. In this regard, other introductory textbooks such as Adger (2003), Carnie (2007) (not mentioned in the Bibliography) and Haegeman (1994, 2006) provide beneficial complements to the present book.
With this said, what makes this book quite valuable in my opinion is an impressive range of exercises both within and at the end of each chapter, which is characteristic of the Modern Linguistic Series publications. Some problem sets are easy, and others are challenging. This mixture of various types of problem makes clear a general problem-solving flavor of syntactic argumentation that has attracted many interested people into current syntactic theory. (As a minor point, however, I would personally refrain from starring relatively difficult exercises, as the author of the book does, since that could discourage readers from actually doing them.)
The book under review is an important addition to the growing series of introductory syntax textbooks due to its general accessibility, wealth of English data and extensive exercises, and much needed in-depth discussion of syntactic argumentation. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has no previous experience in syntax but wants to learn about it.
REFERENCES Adger, David. (2003) _Core Syntax_. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Carnie, Andrew. (2007) _Syntax: A Generative Introduction_, Second Edition. Oxford: Blackwell.
Culicover, Peter & Ray Jackendoff. (2005) _Simpler Syntax_. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Goldberg, Adele. (1995) _Constructions: A Construction Grammar Approach to Argument Structure_. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Goldberg, Adele. (2006) _Constructions at Work: The Nature of Generalization in Language_. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Haegeman, Liliane. (1994) _Introduction to Government and Binding Theory_, Second Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Haegeman, Liliane. (2006) _Thinking Syntactically: A Guide to Argumentation and Analysis_. Oxford: Blackwell.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Yosuke Sato obtained his PhD in linguistics at the Department of Linguistics at the University of Arizona in May 2008. He is currently a Post-Doctoral Teaching Fellow at the University of British Columbia, teaching undergraduate syntax and morphology and a graduate seminar on syntax and semantics. His research interests lie in syntax and its interface with morphology, semantics, and phonology. He has worked on various issues revolving around linguistic interfaces from his investigation of the syntax of Indonesian, Javanese, Japanese and English. His recent thinking on interfaces is available in his dissertation entitled ''Minimalist Interfaces: Selected Issues in Indonesian and Javanese.''