Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

New from Oxford University Press!


Cognitive Literary Science

Edited by Michael Burke and Emily T. Troscianko

Cognitive Literary Science "Brings together researchers in cognitive-scientific fields and with literary backgrounds for a comprehensive look at cognition and literature."

New from Cambridge University Press!


Intonation and Prosodic Structure

By Caroline Féry

Intonation and Prosodic Structure "provides a state-of-the-art survey of intonation and prosodic structure."

Review of  Postverbal Behavior

Reviewer: Loren A. Billings
Book Title: Postverbal Behavior
Book Author: Tom Wasow
Publisher: CSLI Publications
Linguistic Field(s): Psycholinguistics
Issue Number: 14.2354

Discuss this Review
Help on Posting

Date: Thu, 04 Sep 2003 01:37:08 +0800
From: Loren A. Billings
Subject: Postverbal behavior

Wasow, Thomas (2002) Postverbal behavior. CSLI Publications, paperback ISBN
1-57586-402-9, xiv+185pp, CSLI Lecture Notes 145, $25.00 (also available
clothbound ISBN 1-57586-401-0, $65.00).

Announced at

Reviewed by Loren A. Billings, National Chi Nan University, Taiwan


This monograph serves three interconnected purposes. First, it explores the
factors that influence the order of postverbal constituents in an English
clause (chapters 1 through 4). To do so, Wasow uses statistics from
elicitation experiments and corpus studies. The second aim is to show that
probabilistic factors have a place in the study of syntax (chapter 5). This
supports the book's third purpose (chapter 6): to argue for greater use of
statistical methodology in syntax.

The book "is based entirely on English evidence" (p. 14), although in a few
places Wasow cites works that report how other languages (namely: Japanese,
Korean, and Polish) do not pattern in the same way. Aside from having
access to large and conveniently tagged corpora in--and an ample supply of
native speakers of--English, Wasow has a theoretical reason to select this
language. Although English has relatively fixed order of constituents,
there is a lot of variability in how postverbal noun phrases (NPs) and
other constituents are ordered.

Three related phenomena in English studied by Wasow are heavy-NP shift,
dative alternation, and the particle-verb construction. To begin, heavy-NP
shift describes the positioning of a particularly heavy nominal at the end
of the clause. Dative alternation is characterized by the relative
optionality of ordering of a ditransitive verb's two internal arguments
(as in 'Chris gave the boy a book' and 'Chris gave a book to the boy').
So-called particle verbs allow their direct object to appear on either side
of a preposition-like element (as in 'Pat picked up a book' and 'Pat picked
a book up'). In each of these, the weight of a constituent can affect its
ordering relative to some other constituent.

Wasow's preface discloses a play on words in the book's title: Chomsky’s
(1959) review of Skinner's (1957) 'Verbal behavior' is "generally regarded
as a landmark in the history of linguistics--indeed of the cognitive
sciences more generally." This turning point was characterized by both the
wholesale rejection of behaviorism, Wasow writes, and the subsequent
abandonment of systematic procedures in how data are collected (p. xi).
Wasow's book thus looks back on the generative-syntactic enterprise,
reassessing these two issues. (Incidentally, a .pdf version of the table of
contents, preface, and chapter 1 can be downloaded from the publisher for
free: .)

Many of the studies reported in the book were conducted with others. Among
Wasow's collaborators are Jennifer Arnold, Herb Clark, Jack Hawkins,
Barbara Lohse, and Adam Yarnold. Some of these studies are published
separately as journal articles (e.g., Arnold et al. 2000 and Wasow 1997).


The remainder of this review is organized as follows: I begin by assessing
individual body chapters of the book in the order that Wasow presents them.
I then briefly discuss more technical things. This review ends with a few
comments about salient issues that come up more than once in the book.


Chapter 2 is entirely devoted to exploring, defining, and explaining weight
as a factor in determining the likelihood of heavy-NP shift, dative
alternation, and the separability of a verb from its particle. Weight is
also the one factor against which other factors are compared in subsequent
chapters. Wasow begins with the Principle of End Weight (p. 3, quoting
Quirk, et al. 1972): "Phrases are presented in order of increasing weight."
He then summarizes eight definitions of weight reported in the literature
(pp. 16-17). Some are categorical; others, graduated. (I discuss a few of
these below.) The syntactic definitions mostly refer to whether the nominal
contains a clause or prepositional phrase (PP) or whether there is a
postposed modifier.

While Wasow is generally dismissive of a phonological definition of weight
(about which I have more to say below), he contends that multiple factors
help to determine the order of constituents (p. 23). Much of chapter 1 is
devoted to pinning down which syntactic definition of weight is crucially
relevant: word count or arboreal complexity.

Because his corpus studies fail to decide between these two yardsticks,
Wasow designed an elicitation experiment to decide the question (pp.
32-37). I summarize that study briefly. Although similar in length, 'what
happened' and 'the situation' in a particle-verb context (e.g., 'We talked
... over' and 'We talked over ...') are different in terms of complexity;
only 'what happened' contains a clause. Analogous contexts using dative
alternation and heavy-NP shift were also considered. For all three of these
constructions, based on subjects' responses using four-point acceptability
scales, Wasow finds that participants were more likely to rate sentences as
acceptable if NPs with internal complexity appeared later in the clause
(e.g., after both the verb and particle: 'We talked over what happened'),
whereas NPs without such complexity didn't have to be postposed to be as
acceptable (e.g., 'We talked the situation over'). That is, NP-internal
complexity is a factor--independent of the number of words in the NP.

Using a corpus study, Wasow also shows that PP-internal NPs statistically
are neither more nor less likely to affect the order in a verb-particle
construction than NPs of the same length without internal PPs. At this
point, I think Wasow criticizes Chomsky somewhat unfairly, suggesting that
"Chomsky was wrong about particle position being sensitive to complexity
rather than length" (p. 40), apparently referring to the following passage:

"It is interesting to note that it is apparently not the length in words of
the object that determines the naturalness [...]. Thus 'they brought all
the leaders of the riot in' seems more natural than 'they brought the man I
saw in.' The latter, though shorter, is more complex..." [pp. 15-16,
quoting Chomsky 1975:477]

Nothing in this quotation (not all of which I repeat here) even implies
that an internal PP increases a nominal expression's complexity. In this
sense, Chomsky appears to follow the definition proposed by Ross 1967,
which refers only to NP-internal clauses (p. 16). Wasow is thus pinning the
blame on the wrong theorist; it is Emonds (1976:112) who allows for PPs as
well as clauses in his definition of complex NPs. Still, on the following
page, in connection with dative alternation, Wasow credits Chomsky (as well
as Hawkins 1994) with having observed that structural complexity, not just
length, is relevant.

Wasow concludes that "any weight definition must be graduated, rather than
categorical." He adds that "an explanation of weight effects must take into
account the relative weights of constituents" (p. 57).

Building upon and critiquing Hawkins (1994:57), who writes that grammatical
weight makes it easier for syntactic constituents to be "recognized (and
produced) as rapidly and efficiently as possible in language performance"
(p. 42), Wasow argues at length that postposing heavy constituents is
primarily to the speaker's (as opposed to the listener's) advantage (pp.
42-56; see also Wasow 1997). The details of the corpus studies that Wasow
reports are somewhat complicated, so I only sketch the idea here. In most
cases, what is easier for a speaker to process will ease the listener's
comprehension as well. However, it is possible to find constructions where
processing load differs for these two parties. Wasow reports studies using
(both written and spoken) corpora in which the choice of orders in heavy-NP
shift and dative alternation, he contends, is influenced by planning
(rather than by decoding) an utterance. (Another corpus study involving
particle verbs failed to support either Wasow's claim or an alternative one
put forth by Stallings et al. 1998.) Wasow concludes that "postponing
difficult constituents and keeping options open as long as possible
facilitates planning during utterance production" (p. 56).

Discourse-new constituents also tend to be heavy. Although both information
structure and weight have been studied extensively, according to Wasow the
relationship between the two had not been assessed prior to his studies. In
chapter 3 Wasow reports constructions that tease apart the two properties.
Corpus studies and an elicitation experiment both lead him to conclude that
newness is needed separately from weight.

The literature on information structure is fraught with distinctions and
overlapping definitions (e.g., topic vs. comment, presupposition vs. focus,
theme vs. rheme, and given vs. new). Wasow masterfully boils down the vast
literature--functionalist and generative alike--to just a few paragraphs.
Following Gundel (1988), Wasow sees two distinct claims: "State what is
given before what is new in relation to it" and "Provide the most important
information first" (pp. 62-63).

Several statistical studies, also reported in Arnold et al. (2000), show
that newness to the discourse increases an NP's likelihood to appear later
in the postverbal domain. First, a corpus study--with quite a bit of coding
and culling by hand--was conducted. For both heavy-NP shift and dative
alternation, information structure was found to be highly significant
(independently of weight). In addition, an intricate and rather ingenious
experiment--with subjects telling other participants to give objects of
various sorts to toy animals--was also used to determine the interaction of
newness and weight. Using a logistic regression, Wasow shows that weight
(p[robability of error] < .005) and discourse status (p < .001) are highly
significant, as is the interaction of these two factors with participant
identity (p < .001 for both).

Other factors

Rounding out the empirical part of the book, chapter 4 considers three
additional factors which--in addition to weight and information structure--
appear to influence postverbal ordering. These are semantic connectedness,
lexical bias, and avoiding ambiguity.

Previously unpublished studies (done by Lohse, Hawkins, & Wasow) show that
particles that are dependent on the verb "occur adjacent to the verb more
frequently than independent particles" (p. 86). A particle is dependent on
the verb if its lexical meaning does not contribute to sentential meaning.
(For example, 'I ate the bagel up' does not entail that the bagel went up.)
Semantic connectedness, Wasow reports, is not a very strong effect but
still significant (if weight, itself a stronger effect, is controlled for).

Next, Wasow reports that the choice of lexical verb itself appears to be a
factor in how likely the following constituents are to appear in one order
or the other. For example, among ditransitive verbs, a corpus study shows
that _tell_ invariably uses the V-NP-NP order, while _sell_ almost always
uses the V-NP-PP order. Other verbs fall somewhere in between (namely:
tell > give > show > hand > fax > bring > send > sell ).
Wasow allows for the possibility that this factor may derive from something
else; at this point he admits that he cannot isolate what such a factor is.

The bulk of chapter 4 is then devoted to whether avoiding ambiguity is a
factor influencing postverbal ordering (independent of other factors
mentioned so far). Despite the vast literature showing that ambiguous
sentences are harder to process, Wasow "found no compelling evidence that
speakers use ordering to avoid attachment ambiguities" (pp. 88-89), adding
that his results are not entirely unequivocal.

In some corpus studies of written texts there is apparently an ambiguity
effect. However, Wasow adds (pp. 95-96), "when an interaction factor is
added to the analysis, length and the interaction of length with ambiguity
are both predictors of shifting, but ambiguity is not. These results
suggest that ambiguity avoidance may exert some influence on constituent
ordering, but the influence is quite limited." Wasow conjectures that
writers--and especially editors, who serve as both readers and writers--are
more likely than speakers to anticipate ambiguity in a text (p. 94). For
this reason, he searched the (spoken) Switchboard corpus; here he found not
even one example that could be explained using avoidance of ambiguity. Nor
were two experiments he ran able to detect an ambiguity factor in spoken
situations. Wasow correctly (in my view) conjectures that prosodic cues
often disambiguate speech; 'we send the faculty lists' can be read as mono-
or ditransitive: 'we send [the faculty lists]' or 'we send [the faculty]
[lists]' (respectively). These two parses are not homophonous, however. The
bracketed part of the latter parse contains a compound noun with more
prosodic prominence on the first lexical word: [the FA.cul.ty lists].

The issue of prosodic cues aside, however, I think that Wasow is missing an
opportunity to support his claim elsewhere (chapter 2 and Wasow 1997) that
End Weight serves the speaker's planning, not the listener's recognition.
Although I am not that familiar with the psycholinguistic literature on
ambiguity and processing, it seems to me that ambiguity is mainly relevant
to recognition (i.e., listening and reading), not production--especially
not natural, spoken production; see, e.g., Ferreira & Dell (2000) or
Snedeker & Trueswell (2003). If the listener's and the speaker's tasks are
truly distinct, as Wasow argues quite plausibly, then avoiding ambiguity
shouldn't necessarily be relevant to a speaker's algorithm for determining
the order of postverbal constituents.

Wasow is careful to hedge himself when discussing increasingly less robust
factors in the determination of postverbal ordering. Weight is certainly a
factor (chapter 2), as is newness--independent of weight (chapter 3). The
additional factors assessed in chapter 4--semantic connectedness, lexical
bias, and avoiding ambiguity--are only plausible candidates. Whether these
turn out to be separate factors or not is beside the point. Throughout the
book, Wasow maintains that just one or two factors alone fail to account
for all postverbal-ordering data fully.

Theoretical and methodological issues

Chapters 4 and 5 shift the discussion back to syntactic theory. These two
chapters also ask whether the kind of findings of the previous chapters
have a place in such a theory.

Wasow begins chapter 4 (called "Theoretical and metatheoretical issues") by
summarizing in detail one influential work on double-object constructions
in English, Larson (1988), and how it fails to account for certain more
probabilistic aspects associated with weight. Among other things not
adequately handled by generativists (although in this case Wasow does not
criticize Larson 1988 as such), sentences like *'Mike talked to about
politics yesterday my friends' (Ross 1967:125) are not unacceptable in
every instance. The following is an attested counterexample: '[...] a
landowner's right to rely on, in good faith, a city's representation' (p.
128, quoting the Orlando Sentinel). While such counterexamples are rare,
Wasow writes (p. 129), "they are acceptable and do occur. Consequently, any
analysis that rules them out is inadequate. The challenge is to come up
with a theory that permits such examples while also addressing their
infrequency." (I might add that Wasow's four counterexamples, all taken
from newspapers, involve an adjunct separating the preposition from its
complement.) Wasow later writes that "generative grammarians need to
provide a justification for the systematic exclusion of frequency
information from their models of linguistic competence." At the same time,
"there is clearly a heavy burden of proof [on the part of anti-formalists]
to show how a purely probabilistic system of constraints can capture the
many discoveries that have come out of the generative tradition" (p. 133).

Primarily in chapters 4 and 5, Wasow cites no less than 20 works by Chomsky
in connection with the related issues of probability and statistical
methodology, almost always citing exact page numbers and often quoting
lengthy excerpts and interacting with them. (However, I find it interesting
that Wasow doesn't actually interact with Chomsky 1959, despite that review
being so influential in the field and instrumental in the choice of the
book's title.) Among the many issues Wasow raises are the distinction
between I(nternal)- and E(xternal)-language and the nearly parallel issue
of competence vs. performance. Keeping (categorical) grammar separate from
probabilistic factors, Wasow claims, is a conceptual issue that appears to
inhibit descriptive adequacy (p. 140); "Chomsky's extensive writings on I-
language vs. E-language seem to presuppose that linguists must choose one
or the other as the definition of language" and then adds forcefully (p.
146): "I reject that presupposition."

What makes one theory better than another? Chapter 5 (which Wasow entitles
"Methodological issues") boils the answer down to simplicity, generality,
and coverage. That is, generative syntacticians use these three criteria
as guidelines. Although Wasow is clearly sympathetic to the idea that a
child learns a language in a very short time span, he writes that appeals
to rapid learnability "simply have no basis without some formal foundation"
(p. 152); these things must be confirmed empirically, he implies. Regarding
generality, Wasow attempts to point out an inconsistency in Chomsky's
writings about language as a biological system on the one hand and
redundancy on the other. If language is an organ that has adapted into its
present form, then it is bound to have parts that perform identical
functions. Wasow's discussion of coverage is more autobiographical. Writing
about his own work, Wasow (1972), he stresses that some crossover phenomena
are absolutely unacceptable while others are merely degraded. (Since that
work, generativists have made a clear distinction between strong and weak
crossover primarily because strong-crossover violations were thought to
derive from a different principle.) Wasow's point is that hardly anyone has
mentioned that weak-crossover violations are not absolutely unacceptable;
generative syntacticians just aren't interested in graduated judgments.

Wasow asks why more generativists don't confirm their theories empirically.
He comes up with two answers. First, many analyses are formulated too
imprecisely to be testable against corpora. I find this claim a little
far-fetched. In his own studies, Wasow had to make many judgment calls in
order to allow statistical measurement. Some judgments were reasonable;
others, quite a matter of preference. Regardless of whether it makes sense
to me or anyone else, a judgment call is still a weakness in the process of
empirical verification. Wasow's other answer is that theorists suspect that
their models won't stand up to empirical scrutiny. I would add a third
reason: laziness. Many linguists are comfortable with philosophizing about
language or (at most) being introspective about it. Enough linguists agree
that ideas count for more than the facts, making for the current situation.

Considering that Wasow is apparently trying to win over generativists in
this regard, it might help if some additional readings were presented
clearly. Some of these are scattered throughout his bibliography: Abney
(1997), Manning & Schütze (1999), and Schütze (1996). However, at least one
important work is not cited at all in the book: Cowart (1997). And Sorace &
Keller (to appear) is worth mentioning as well. All these are listed in my
references below.
More technical matters

As in every review, there are details that need to be addressed. Generally,
the book is handsomely put together. Here are some additional details:

The front matter contains Library of Congress cataloging-in-publication
data, the acid-free standard of the book's paper, and a relatively complete
table of contents. At the back of the monograph, following the American
Psychological Association (APA) style used by psycholinguists in general,
Wasow's references list authors' and editors' surnames but only initials of
their given names. (In a sense, this choice between APA and the styles used
in the general-linguistics journals is another indicator of how divided the
theorists and psycholinguists are from each other.) Just a few citations
in the book do not appear in the references: Erteschik-Shir 1979 (p. 8),
Givón 1983 (p. 68), Manning and Schütze 1999 (p. 132, fn. 7). In addition,
Hawkins (2001) has now appeared. Citations for all of these are listed my
references below. I also found the name and subject indexes to be mostly
(but not entirely) complete.
The only truly confusing typo that I found involved the labels under pairs
of bars in a graph (p. 56); based on the accompanying text's numbers, the
labels "Brown Corpus" and "Switchboard Corpus" should just be swapped. The
remaining typos--I counted about a dozen--were not that distracting; many
refer to the wrong example/footnote/volume/page number or year.

Regarding the statistics, I did not detect any serious flaws in the design
and methodology. However, the level of detail in how the elicitation and
corpus studies reported in chapters 2 through 4 should not qualify the book
as the primary report of a piece of social-science research. I say this not
so much as a criticism of the book but to prepare some readers familiar
with such research who may expect more detail. Some of the studies reported
in the book have appeared separately as peer-reviewed articles in journals.
Despite Wasow's longstanding interaction with psycholinguists, this book is
nonetheless aimed at mainstream syntacticians. As such, the way some of the
statistics is reported might raise a social scientist's eyebrow. In one
case, however, I also found some inconsistencies in how the findings are
reported. In addition to other justification of internal complexity in
determining grammatical weight, Wasow ran (apparently two-way) analysis-of-
variance (ANOVA) tests. I repeat his prose and the following quantitative
findings (reformatted here with line numbers for expository purposes):

"Analyses of variance also reveal that complexity significantly affects
preferences in ordering. For heavy NP shift and the dative alternation, the
results are significant by both subjects and items. For the verb-particle
construction, they are significant only by subjects. [...]

1. [Heavy-NP shift]. F1(1,87)=13.5, p<.001; F2(1,3)=10.6, p<.05.

2. Verb-Particle. F1(1,87)=53, p<.001[;] F2 p>.1.

3. Dative alternation (goal). F1(1,86)=14, p<.001[;] F2(1,1)=625, p<.05.

4. Dative alternation (theme). F1(1,86)=17, p<.001[;] F2 p>.1." [p. 38]

I will spell out only the technical notations relevant to my critique. The
two factors are the subjects (F1) and the data items being compared (F2).
I see some problems with this excerpt. The first is a matter of convention:
Wasow twice lists statistically insignificant findings: "F2 p>.1" (in both
instances). I can understand reporting figures that are close to being
significant, but here the probability of error is over twice that of .05
(= statistical significance). Again, this is not an error as I see it but
rather just a deviation from notational convention; perhaps Wasow lists
these figures just for ease of comparison. The second problem is more
substantial, however: Wasow writes, "For [...] dative alternation, the
results are significant by both subjects and items." However, this is not
consistent with the findings on line 4. The results were significant for
both subjects and items only for line 3, in which the goal (or indirect
object) was manipulated for complexity. One final qualm I have with this
excerpt is the number of subjects. Earlier (p. 34), Wasow mentions that
there were 88 completed questionnaires, one of which was discarded; "one
(randomly selected) participant's responses to each of the other
questionnaires were also thrown out." It appears that this balancing was
performed for the follow-on ANOVA tests discussed only within the two
dative-alternation comparisons on lines 3 and 4--i.e., "(1,86)"--and not
for lines 1 and 2, with "(1,87)"; the number after the comma in these
formulas is the number of subjects (88 or 87) or items (four) minus one.

This passage aside, however, I found the level of detail sufficient to
guide a grammarian through the statistics without too much discussion of
methodological matters. In addition, jargon (e.g., the name of statistical
tests) was generally spelled out clearly for the uninitiated.

Recurrent issues

In the remainder of this review, I touch on some issues that come up more
than once in Wasow's book. These topics are the rift between experimental
and theoretical linguistics, extrasyntactic issues overlooked in the
monograph, and "Why only after the verb?"

In a number of places, especially the somewhat autobiographical preface,
Wasow talks about his transformation from grammarian to psycholinguist.
(See also Wasow's early empiricist leanings in connection with his work on
weak crossover, discussed above.) The following is also a telling vignette:
"My change in methodology was quite naturally accompanied by a change in
the questions I tried to answer. In particular, instead of seeking to
formulate and justify formal analyses (rules, lexical entries, parameters,
or what have you) within some generative theory, I asked, more straight-
forwardly, what led speakers (and writers) to select one constituent
ordering rather than the other.

"I quickly discovered that most generative linguists had little interest in
the new question I was asking. Psycholinguists--especially those trained as
psychologists--thought it was worth pursuing [...]. I observed that
psychologists spend most of their time and effort on insuring the quality
of their data--that is, on experimental design and analysis. That emphasis
is strikingly different from generative linguists', and I have on occasion
found myself wondering why psychologists give so little attention to
developing high-level theories. It seems to me that both fields would
benefit from acting a little more like the other." [pp. xiii-xiv]

Just as Wasow argues that probabilistic and categorical effects should not
be isolated, I'm surprised that he continues to isolate the fields of
psycholinguistics and theoretical linguistics. Perhaps this is just sad
commentary on his part. If empirical confirmation of theoretical claims is
necessary, then perhaps the wall between the two fields needs to come down.

Moving next to extrasyntactic factors, I found some of the discussion of
phonology and semantics--and the lack of attention to morphology
altogether--a bit worrysome. I address these three subdisciplines in
reverse order. To begin, Wasow generally ignores the morpholexical
effects of dative alternation. To be fair, one can't discuss everything in
in a single monograph. Still, some references might have been useful.
Turning next to semantics, I found the discussion scant and erratic. For
example, Wasow briefly considers spray/fill verbs as in the following
alternation: 'Pat sprayed the wall with red paint' and 'Pat sprayed red
paint on the wall' (p. 9). However, because of "meaning differences"
between the variants, this construction isn't investigated further. Agreed,
there are meaning distinctions, but aren't equally elusive semantic
differences to be found in dative alternation (i.e., between 'Pat bought
the boy a book' and 'Pat bought a book for the boy')? Turning finally to
phonology, there was quite a bit of discussion of prosody, although what
Wasow does mention disquiets me somewhat. In this respect, Wasow is a bit
hasty in dismissing the one definition of weight based on prosody: "the
dislocated NP [in heavy-NP shift] is licensed if it contains at least two
phonological phrases" (p. 16, quoting Zec & Inkelas 1990:377). As a
counterexample, Wasow offers the following (witnessed at a recent meeting
in Chicago of graduate-school deans): 'Can you clarify for me this business
of bringing into the degree requirement teaching?' He adds that 'teaching'
here, the lone word in the shifted nominal, "was destressed" (p. 21). I'm
not sure what Wasow means. Surely, if rising intonation (characteristic of
yes/no questions in General American English) had been pronounced, it would
be very difficult for this word to be pronounced without some degree of
prosodic prominence. Because the other, syntactic definitions of weight
also have counterexamples, it would have been more fair for Wasow to have
subjected this test, by Zec & Inkelas (two graduates of Wasow's department,
no less), to the same level of empirical scrutiny. These quibbles aside,
this book is aimed at syntacticians and--ably--discusses primarily syntax.
Yet another niggling aspect of Wasow's book left me wanting. What is it
about the verb phrase that allows noncategorical factors to creep into the
ordering of constituents? Maybe the predicate must be uttered before
planning of subsequent elements' arrangement (p. 56). My own work is on
Tagalog (Austronesian), where the verb is generally initial and all other
elements are arranged by weight and discourse factors. (This is the reason
I became interested in Wasow's book.) Kroeger (1993) argues for a flat,
exocentric structure for VP (which includes the subject and other NPs) as
opposed to normal projection for other categories in the clause. Although
Kroeger's analysis seems a bit ad hoc, at least it attempts to codify
constituent-order freedom formally. Wasow neglects this issue--aside from
pointing out a few constructions in chapter 1 (pp. 6-7, 9-11) in which some
otherwise-preverbal heavy elements can appear at the end of the clause).

Closing comments

Wasow is careful to say that he is no Skinnerian (pp. xi, esp. xiv). In a
way, however, this book signifies a swing of the pendulum toward empirical,
scientific linguistics. In this connection, Wasow's book has also shown me
scientific linguistics. In this connection, Wasow's book has also shown me
how much of a philosopher's role Chomsky has taken in the past half century,
preparing the way for the advent of true science in the study of language.
In a sense, it is futile to expect scientific rigor from Chomsky (no more
than Solzhenitsyn can be expected to show political savvy). Still, I cannot
accuse this work of being mere methodological moaning--as (meta)bemoaned by
Pullum 1983--because Wasow puts forth several concrete studies as a way to
strengthen _existing_ methodology. As a generativist with longstanding and
solid credentials, Wasow is in a very good position to present this kind of
proposal. Wasow and his colleagues at Stanford and other universities in
California have given the Chomskyan movement a run for their money, mainly
in their theories' applicability to teaching computers to use language. Now
we see a chance for computational ideas like corpus searching (and other
statistical methods) to teach syntacticians to be scientists as well.


Abney, Steven (1997) "Statistical methods and linguistics." Judith L.
Klavans & Philip Resnik, eds. The balancing act: combining symbolic and
statistical approaches to language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1-26.

Arnold, Jennifer, Thomas Wasow, Anthony Losongco, & Ryan Ginstrom (2000)
"Heaviness vs. Newness: The effects of complexity and information
structure on constituent ordering." Language 76, 28-55.

Chomsky, Noam (1959) "A review of Skinner's Verbal Behavior." Language 35,
26-58. (Prefaced and reprinted in Leon A. Jakobovits & Murray S. Miron,
eds. Readings in the psychology of language. Prentice-Hall, 1967, 142-143.)

Chomsky, Noam (1975) The logical structure of linguistic theory. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press.

Cowart, Wayne (1997) Experimental syntax: applying objective methods to
sentence judgments. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Emonds, Joseph (1976) A transformational approach to English syntax. New
York: Academic Press.

Erteschik-Shir, Nomi (1979) "Discourse constraints on dative movement."
Talmy Givón, ed. Discourse and syntax. (= Syntax and Semantics, 12.) New
York: Academic Press, 441-467.

Ferreira, Victor S., & Gary S. Dell (2000) "The effect of ambiguity and
lexical availability on syntactic and lexical production." Cognitive
Psychology 40, 296-340.

Givón, Talmy. (1983) "Topic continuity in discourse: an introduction."
Talmy Givón, ed. Topic continuity in discourse: a quantitative cross-
language study. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1-41.

Gundel, Jeanette K. (1988) "Universals of topic-comment structure." Michael
Hammond et al, eds. Studies in syntactic typology. Amsterdam: John
Benjamins, 209-239.

Hawkins, John A. (2001) "Why are categories adjacent?" Journal of
Linguistics 37, 1-34.

Kroeger, Paul (1993) Phrase structure and grammatical relations in Tagalog.
Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.

Larson, Richard (1988) "On the double object construction." Linguistic
Inquiry 19, 335-391.

Manning, Christopher D., & Hinrich Schütze (1999) Foundations of
statistical natural language processing. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Pullum, Geoffrey K. (1983) "The revenge of the methodological moaners."
Natural language and Linguistic Theory 4, 583-588. (Reprinted in 1991:
Geoffrey K. Pullum. The great Eskimo vocabulary hoax and other irreverent
essays on the study of language. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.)

Quirk, Randolph, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, & Jan Svartvik (1972) A
grammar of contemporary English. London: Longman.

Ross, John Robert (1967) Constraints on variables in syntax. Doctoral
dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Schütze, Carson T. (1996) The empirical base of linguistics. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press.

Skinner, B.F. (1957) Verbal behavior. New York. Appleton-Century-Crofts.
(Reprinted in 1992 and 2002, B.F. Skinner Foundation.)

Snedeker, Jesse & John Trueswell (2003) "Using prosody to avoid ambiguity:
effects of speaker awareness and referential context." Journal of Memory
and Language 48, 103-130.

Sorace, Antonella, & Frank Keller (to appear) "Gradience in linguistic
data." Lingua.

Stallings, Lynne M., Maryellen C. MacDonald, & Padraig G. O'Seaghdha (1998)
"Phrasal ordering constraints in sentence production: phrase length and
verb disposition in heavy-NP shift." Journal of Memory and Language 39,

Wasow, Thomas (1972) Anaphoric relations in English. Doctoral dissertation,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Wasow, Thomas (1997) "End-weight from the speaker's perspective." Journal
of Psycholinguistic Research 26, 347-361.

Zec, Draga, & Sharon Inkelas (1990) "Prosodically constrained syntax."
Sharon Inkelas & Draga Zec, eds. The phonology-syntax connection. Stanford,
CA: CSLI Publications, 365-378.


As a linguist who does not work very much with statistics or at all on
processing, I have relied on the following kind colleagues: Hsi-chin Janet
Chu (National Taiwan Normal Univerisity), T. Florian Jaeger (Stanford
University), and Irina A. Sekerina (City University of New York); although
their comments have been extremely helpful, only I am to blame for any
lapses in interpreting their sage advice or for any other errors that
remain in this review. I also contacted the book's author, who was kind
enough to confirm the missing references.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER Loren A. Billings (Ph.D., Princeton, 1995) is associate professor of linguistics at the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, National Chi Nan University, Taiwan. Concentrating on the Slavic (Indo-European) and Central Philippine (Austronesian) languages, he specializes in the interfaces of syntax, morphology, and phonology. His publications also look at the interactions of animacy and referentiality on constituent order.

Amazon Store: