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Review of  The Antisymmetry of Syntax

Reviewer: Milena Slavcheva
Book Title: The Antisymmetry of Syntax
Book Author: Richard S. Kayne
Publisher: MIT Press
Linguistic Field(s): Syntax
Issue Number: 6.1651

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Kayne, Richard S. [1994] The Antisymmetry of Syntax. Linguistic
Inquiry Monograph Twenty-Five. The MIT Press: Cambridge.

Reviewed by Milena Slavcheva, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

The monograph consists of ten chapters grouped in four
parts. In Chapter 1, "Introduction and Proposal", R. Kayne
formulates the basic statement of his theory, the Linear
Correspondence Axiom (LCA).
The formalized syntactic structure of natural languages
contains several groups of relations that are represented
differently in the different theories, thus determining the
various kinds of approaches to syntactic phenomena.
A fundamental relation is that between a hierarchical
representation of sentential elements and their linear order,
i.e., between phrase structure and word order. It is exactly
here that R. Kayne's innovation lies. Contrary to the
standard assumption that a given hierarchical representation is
associated with more than one linear order, and the wide spread
separate treatment of phrase structure and linear order, the
author formulates the following hypothesis:
"I will argue that phrase structure in fact always
completely determines linear order and consequently that if two
phrases differ in linear order, they must also differ in
hierarchical structure." [p.3]
This idea is developed as a formal representation where
the following relations are considered: the relation of linear
ordering of terminals, the dominance relation of nonterminals,
the relation of c-command of nonterminals, the dominance relation
between nonterminals and terminals.
Each one of the relations has specific properties. The
linear ordering of terminals is transitive, total, and
antisymmetric. The dominance relation on nonterminals is not a
linear ordering, and it is transitive and antisymmetric, but is
not total, i.e., there can be two nodes in a given phrase marker
such that neither dominates the other. R.Kayne finds the point
where all the properties of dominance and linear ordering
coincide, that is when dominance is restricted to the set of
nodes dominating a given node. In this sense dominance becomes
locally total and consequently, a locally linear ordering. [p.4]
The relation of c-command of nonterminals is transitive,
but neither antisymmetric (two sister nodes can c-command each
other and that is symmetry), nor total. R.Kayne first adds
antisymmetry to c-command and then restricts phrase structures to
binary-branching ones, thus turning c-command into a locally
total, and hence into a locally linear relation. In this way,
the author gets two locally linear relations on nonterminals,
i.e., dominance and asymmetric c-command, thus providing the
possibility for "pursuing the intuition that there should be a
very close match between the linear ordering relation on the set
of terminals and some comparable relation on nonterminals. By
comparable, I now mean locally linear." [p.5] R. Kayne takes the
locally linear relation of asymmetric c-command of nonterminals
"to be the one that is closely matched to the linear ordering of
the set of terminals." [p.5] The relation of dominance between
nonterminals and terminals is responsible for transmitting the
correspondence between linear ordering of nonterminals and
terminals. This matching is the Linear Correspondence Axiom
The LCA is the central statement in the monograph, it
is the basis for all syntactic representations in the rest of the
After the formulation of his central proposal, the Linear
Correspondence Axiom (LCA), in Chapter 2 R.Kayne illustrates the
application of LCA within the phrase markers of X-bar theory
providing some of the main postulates of that theory with
explanations directly derived from the LCA.
Chapter 3 treats the fundamental problem of adjunction.
R.Kayne introduces some refinement to his theory of phrase
structure in order to include specifiers and adjoined phrases
into the phrase markers. That is achieved by the introduction of
segments in phrase structures and the distinction between a
segment and a category. In such a way, the author ensures
antisymmetry, the main property of phrase structures necessary
for the correspondence between the hierarchical structure of
nonterminals and the linear order of terminals. R. Kayne
considers adjunction as an operation involving heads, nonheads,
clitics, specifiers, and formulates rules about what can be
adjoined to what, in how many and what kind of steps. He gives
several generalizations about the adjunction of syntactic units
which are important for the further development of the theory in
the following chapters:
1. A nonhead cannot be adjoined to a head. [p.19]
2. Multiple adjunction to a head is not allowed, thus,
for example, in the adjunction of heads to heads "sequences of
clitics must not be analyzed as successive adjunctions to the
same head". [p.21] Empty functional heads are used as a
device for building the phrase structures.
3. The adjunction of more than one nonhead to a given
nonhead is impossible. [p.22]
4. Adjunction of a head to a nonhead is systematically
unavailable. [p.32]
Chapter 4, "Word Order", contains basic assumptions of the
theory represented in the monograph. It is in this chapter that
R.Kayne formulates in the form of linguistic universals the
linear orderings of the main syntactic constituents. R.Kayne
claims that a specifier and a complement are always on the
opposite sides of the head. What is more, he concludes that
"specifier-head-complement, and not the reverse, is the only
order available to the subcomponents of a phrase". [p.36] In the
mapping between a phrase marker and its terminals, the ordering
of terminals is understood as linear precedence, not subsequence.
Another generalization about linear order concerns the adjunction
of heads. "The present theory has as a necessary consequence
that an adjoining head will invariably precede the head that it
adjoins to." [p.38] It is also derived from here that a clitic
always precedes the head that it adjoins to.
In the same chapter, the author turns to the structure
below the word level and tries to explore how the theory works at
the morphemic level. The rules of the presented syntactic theory
are applied to subword structure and the linear ordering of
morphemes is considered.
We can define the chapters from 1 to 4 as those
representing, so to say, the static part of the syntactic model.
Word order is extremely abstract and fixed, thus the main goal of
the author is achieved: the formulation of a theory of syntax
that is as restrictive as possible. The range of possible phrase
structures, as statements of Universal Grammar, is reduced to
a minimal set. But the word order variations of natural languages
must be expressed. How is that done?
Once the underlying order is fixed, there come into use
different combinations of movements. Here again the basic
principle of restrictiveness is observed. In the rest of the
chapters R.Kayne tries to find the most plausible movement rules.
As a natural consequence to the uniquely imposed
specifier-head-complement order, movements are also highly
restricted to given positions in the role of suitable landing
sites for moving constituents. The principles of structure, word
order and movement require the introduction of a great number of
abstract heads as an important device for constructing the
phrases of the formal description according to the basic
assumptions of the theory.
In chapter 5 R.Kayne makes the important conclusion that
the Linear Correspondence Axiom applies to all syntactic
representations having in mind that in the tradition of
transformational grammar there are several levels of
representation such as D-structure, LF, and PF.
In accordance with the universal word order of heads and
complements, R.Kayne claims that head movement is always
leftward. Structures in different languages, including the so
called head-final languages, are derived in such a way that this
generalization is preserved. In fact R.Kayne concludes that "no
movement rule can adjoin anything to the right of anything"
[p.71], since rightward adjunction is generally prohibited in the
Chapters 6, 7, 8, and 9 are dedicated to the application
of the theory represented in the previous chapters to different
syntactic phenomena. Arguments are given for the acceptance of
one phrase structure or another as the formal description of
certain facts of natural languages. Syntactic structures from
English, French, Spanish, Italian, Hungarian, Japanese, Dutch are
Chapter 6 deals with coordination. The role of
coordinating conjunctions in the phrase markers is considered. A
principled account is given for the coordination of heads,
including clitics, for the coordination with "with", for right
node raising. All considerations obey the basic statement that
right-adjunction is forbidden.
Chapter 7 treats complementation. Here the basic
assumptions determining the representation of structures are the
following: a head is not permitted to have more than one
complement; small clause analysis is included as a possible
representation of phrase structure; heavy NP shift is
reinterpreted involving leftward, not rightward movement, with a
special consideration of what exactly is moved; right-dislocation
constructions are also reinterpreted according to the rules of
the theory entirely prohibiting any type of rightward movement.
Relatives and possessives are the topic of Chapter 8,
namely, postnominal possessives in English, relative clauses in
English, N-final relative clauses, reduced relatives and
adjectives, nonrestrictive relatives. The chapter deals with
very concrete issues, all of them illustrating how the Linear
Correspondence Axiom and the accompanying principles work in
Chapter 9, entitled "Extraposition", describes relative
clause extraposition, result clauses and comparatives. Relative
clause extrapositon is reanalyzed as relative clause stranding.
R.Kayne reveals the advantages of this analysis and proves its
compatibility with his theory. That is achieved through the
detailed analysis of concrete syntactic structures. Result
clauses are represented in terms of LF raising of some sentential
elements, for example "so". Comparatives are considered to
display double behaviour: some comparative sentences are an
illustration of stranding, and others of LF movement, for
example, of "more".
Chapter 9 is a conclusion where R. Kayne sums up the basic
ideas of his theory and points out the advantages of the proposed

R.Kayne's monograph treats a fundamental issue in formal
linguistic theories: word order. He first poses his original
underlying approach to the problem: he assumes that the linear
order of terminals "turns out to be more fundamental to syntax
than is normally thought" [p.131], and he claims that it is
present at all levels of syntactic representation. He not only
makes his general statements, but also gives solutions to
word order issues in a number of concrete cases applying his
basic proposals about the place of word order in the derivation
of syntactic structures.
In the monograph, syntactic representation is understood
in terms of the research framework of transformational grammar
(let's use this name for the well known framework) with its
specific levels of structure and operations. The high degree of
restrictiveness, an important part of which is antisymmetry,
makes R.Kayne's theory extremely configurational with a great
number of movement rules and abstract functional heads. The
theory is an interesting, clearly defined approach to linguistic
structure within the tradition of the big trend of
transformational grammar. Undoubtedly, it is a contribution to
the armoury of competing formal approaches to natural language.
Let me finish with the last sentence of R.Kayne's
monograph, revealing the flavour of his formal linguistic
"To a significant extent, the LCA-based theory of syntax
proposed here allows us to have the all too infrequent pleasure
of seeing the theory choose the analysis." [p.132]


Milena Slavcheva - researcher

Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
Linguistic Modelling Laboratory
25A, Acad.G.Bonchev St.
1113 Sofia, Bulgaria
phone: (+359 2) 713 2812
e-mail: slavchev@bgearn.bitnet

A proponent of the nontransformational approach to natural
language, especially of HPSG. Writing a dissertation on the
valency frames of Bulgarian verbs within the framework of HPSG.
Having a lot of experience in modelling morphological
knowledge and the creation of a large grammatical computer
dictionary of Bulgarian.