Most people modify their ways of speaking, writing, texting, and e-mailing, and so on, according to the people with whom they are communicating. This fascinating book asks why we 'accommodate' to others in this way, and explores the various social consequences arising from it.
Adger, David (2003) Core Syntax: A Minimalist Approach, Oxford University Press.
Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/14/14-1782.html
Jonathan White, Högskolan Dalarna, Sweden
Chapter 1: Core Concepts
The first chapter introduces the reader to the study of syntax, and to the idea that linguistic knowledge is fundamentally different from other types of knowledge. The difference between acceptability and grammaticality is covered. Then Adger moves on to look at what a theory of syntax should involve. Different levels of adequacy are covered. Theory should account for structural facts like recursion, the problem of language acquisition (the poverty of the stimulus argument), and also language variation.
Chapter 2: Morphosyntactic Features
Adger turns now to different kinds of features that are relevant to syntax. Features may have an effect on the morphological form of words (although this is not necessarily the case), and also on semantics. The latter is a core distinction in Minimalist syntax between interpretable and uninterpretable features. Adger than presents a basic inventory of such features, including categorial features, and also semantic and phonological features. Case and agreement features finish off the chapter.
Chapter 3: Constituency and Theta Roles
The third chapter starts dealing with phrase structure. Constituency tests are presented, illustrating the notion of phrase. How trees are put together by means of the Merge operation comes next. Merge is argued to use the properties of heads to generate binary branching trees. The issue of the labelling of nodes (a central problem in Chomsky 1993 and later work) is dealt with as well. Selectional properties of predicates, both semantic and categorial (s-selection and c-selection features), are discussed, and also how they are satisfied through feature checking.
Chapter 4: Representing Phrase Structure
Different phrase structure relations between elements are covered in this chapter. Basic relations such as complement, specifier and adjunct are introduced, as is their implementation in phrase structure. A variety of problematic cases are discussed, such as the structure of the Verb Phrase for ditransitive and causative verbs. Tests for c-command are introduced and used to decide on structures. Adger follows Chomsky (1993) in proposing shell structures which contain a light verb. Related problems such as verb raising and the representation of one-place predicates are discussed as well.
Chapter 5: Functional Categories I - TP
The first functional category, Tense (T), is introduced. The idea of having T as the head of the clause is discussed including the place of auxiliary verbs in this system. Agreement between the verb and subject as a sister-hood relation is introduced. Variation between languages in terms of verb position is explained in terms of strong and weak features. Finally, do-support in English is dealt with.
Chapter 6: Subjects and Objects
This chapter turns to the VP-internal subject hypothesis. Evidence for this is presented, and using Case and the Extended Projection Principle (EPP) as triggers for movement of the subject. Movement of the object to vP for Case checking is also presented. Finally, movement of the subject from a complement position in cases such as passives and unaccusatives is discussed.
Chapter 7: Functional Categories II - the DP
The idea that the nominal phrase and clause can be seen as similar syntactic entities is the subject of the next chapter. The idea of the determiner as the head of the NP is presented (stemming from Abney 1987). Problematic cases like bare nouns, possessives and mass nouns are dealt with. The internal structure of the DP is looked at next. The structure is argued to parallel that of the VP, with a little n projection proposed. Finally the place of modifiers of nouns is discussed.
Chapter 8: Functional Categories III - CP
The fact that clause mood is located in a final functional category, CP, is the focus of this chapter. The structure of questions in English is dealt with. Differences between finite and non-finite clauses are presented, and also structural differences between control and raising constructions. Finally, verb second languages are discussed, including the idea that the verb in such languages is located in C in overt syntax.
Chapter 9: Wh-movement
What wh-expressions are and their interpretation are the first topics in the penultimate chapter. Feature checking and its application to wh-movement are the next issue. What happens with the movement of subjects, where no movement can be discerned, is dealt with next. The successive cyclicity property, where wh- movement must move through each intermediate specifier of CP position, is next. Wh-in-situ, superiority effects and cross- linguistic variation within wh-movement are the final topics.
Chapter 10: Locality
The final chapter deals with Locality of movement. Evidence for successive cyclic wh-movement is presented, and how it is ensured through feature checking. Finally the different island types are presented and explained through Chomsky's (2000, 2001) notion of phase.
This book is intended as an introduction to three things. Firstly, the fact that syntax should be carried out using a consistent set of theoretical assumptions. Secondly, as the title says, 'core' areas of syntax are covered. Finally, the methodology of theory formation is emphasised as well. Overall I would say that the book has accomplished these aims admirably. I have found this to be an excellent introduction to Minimalist syntax, and to syntactic theorising in general. All the ideas are presented clearly. Something I found particularly good was the way examples are worked through in detail, with each instance of feature checking specified. Also, the exercises were well presented, with some particularly difficult areas such as binding dealt with clearly. The only minor downside I would identify is that there is no real comparison with Principle and parameters theory. This will mean that students who have learnt such an approach before starting with this book will have to find out for themselves, or with the help of a teacher, what the major differences are. Taken on its own, though, this is a high quality textbook, which I would certainly recommend.
Abney, Stephen (1987) The English Noun Phrase in its sentential aspect. PhD thesis, MIT.
Chomsky, Noam (1993) A minimalist program for linguistic theory. In _The view from Building 20_. Hale and Keyser (eds.). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. 1-52.
Chomsky, Noam (2000) Minimalist inquiries: the framework. In _Step by step: Essays in minimalist syntax in honor of Howard Lasnik_. Martin, Micheals and Uriagereka (eds.). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. 89-155.
Chomsky, Noam (2001) Derivation by phase. In _Ken Hale: A life in language_. Kenstowicz (ed.). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. 1-52.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER The reviewer's research interests include Phrase structure, syntax and semantics of adverbials, interfaces between syntax and semantics and between syntax and morphology.