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The Cambridge Handbook of Generative Syntax
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Book description

Syntax – the study of sentence structure – has been at the centre of generative linguistics from its inception and has developed rapidly and in various directions. The Cambridge Handbook of Generative Syntax provides a historical context for what is happening in the field of generative syntax today, a survey of the various generative approaches to syntactic structure available in the literature and an overview of the state of the art in the principal modules of the theory and the interfaces with semantics, phonology, information structure and sentence processing, as well as linguistic variation and language acquisition. This indispensable resource for advanced students, professional linguists (generative and non-generative alike) and scholars in related fields of inquiry presents a comprehensive survey of the field of generative syntactic research in all its variety, written by leading experts and providing a proper sense of the range of syntactic theories calling themselves generative.


‘This magisterial overview of the historical development and current state of generative syntax is balanced, wide-ranging, intermittently controversial, always constructive, and consistently useful to neophyte and seasoned researcher alike.’

Neil Smith - Professor Emeritus of Linguistics, University College London

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Page 1 of 2

  • 5 - Minimalism and Optimality Theory
    pp 122-161
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    This introductory chapter of the book The Cambridge Handbook of Generative Syntax provides aim, structure and what is and is not included in the book. The book is designed to be a handbook in the truest sense of the term and the primary focus is the theory of generative syntax. The book is divided into six major parts and rich in empirical detail covering a broad range of different phenomena from a wide variety of the world's languages. In early generative grammar, statements enable anyone to synthesize or predict utterances in the language resurfaced as the phrase-structure (PS) rules that codified the well-formed underlying syntactic representations. With the introduction of the X-bar Theory of phrase structure, linear order was no longer automatically built into the phrase-structure component. Finally the book looks at linguistic variation, language development, and language production and processing, respectively.
  • 6 - Lexical-Functional Grammar
    pp 162-201
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    This chapter discusses the earliest generative approaches, namely those explicated in Syntactic Structures and Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. It examines some relevant differences between these two theories and discusses some general properties of transformations. The chapter reviews the syntax/semantics interface in early generative grammar and beyond. It also discusses the role in the evolving theories of rules and filters versus principles. In Principles and Parameters theory, Chomsky explicitly introduced economy principles for the first time. A major Minimalist concern involves the driving force for syntactic movement. The chapter also offers two economy principles: Relativized Minimality and the Extension Condition. It illustrates Rizzi's groundbreaking work by way of a phenomenon called Superiority, which has often been analyzed as a Relativized Minimality effect. Another potential example of an economy condition relates to the Extension Condition. This condition requires that a transformational operation extends the tree upwards.
  • 7 - Phrase structuregrammar
    pp 202-225
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    Generative syntax embodies three complementary goals, two of which are adopted by all practitioners. The first two goals characterize what a 'possible human language' might be and provide formal grammars of individual languages. Generative syntacticians have not been very concerned with methodology. Chomsky set the tone for this lack of interest in Syntactic Structures. The generative methodology section focuses on the relative merits of introspective versus conversational data. The methodology section evaluates the recent trend to admit more and more types of semantic data as evidence in syntactic theorizing. All formal generative approaches to syntax outside of P-and-P have their roots in the lexicalist hypothesis, first proposed in Chomsky. The typological goal has in general played a much more important role in Cognitive-Functional Linguistics than in generative grammar. Cognitive-functional linguists tend to prioritize conversational and experimental data over introspective, though their day-to-day practice generally relies on the latter.
  • 9 - Argument structureand argument structure alternations
    pp 265-321
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    This chapter discusses the relation between the Minimalist Program (MP) and Optimality Theory (OT) and shows that, contrary to popular belief, MP and OT are not inherently incompatible or competing frameworks/theories. The second section of this chapter provides some background on some characteristic features of MP and OT. The third section of this chapter shows that the hybrid system makes it possible to eliminate the EPP-features from MP by replacing them by an OT-evaluation of the output of the computational system. The third section discusses certain aspects of Scandinavian Object Shift. By splitting up the Minimal Link Condition into two separate conditions, we can derive Burzio's Generalization, and also capture differences between languages (and between constructions within a language) in whether nominative case can be licensed on an object in dative and ergative subject constructions.
  • 10 - The syntax of predication
    pp 322-352
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    Lexical-Functional Grammar (LFG) starts from the idea that grammatical knowledge is factored into different levels of representation, which encode different kinds of information, and are in not in a one-one mapping relation. LFG makes a sharp distinction between some grammatical information (at f-structure) and the overt structure which expresses that information (the c-structure). The c-structure encodes phrasal dominance and precedence relations, represented as a phrase structure tree. In contrast, the f-structure encodes information about the functional relations between the parts, such as what is the subject and what is the predicate, what agreement features are present, and so on. F-structure presents all of the grammatically relevant information about a sentence or other unit of analysis. C-structure is a representation of constituency, categorial labeling, and linear precedence relations. One central idea of the LFG approach is that the truly universal aspects of syntax are determined with regard to f-structure information.
  • 11 - Lexical categories and (extended) projection
    pp 353-424
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    To understand the properties of modern phrase structure grammars, it is useful to place their development in a wider formal and historical context. Phrase structure grammars and associated notions of phrase structure analysis have their proximate origins in models of Immediate Constituent (IC) analysis. Extended phrase structure models could exploit the descriptive value of feature information for describing local and nonlocal grammatical dependencies. Extended phrase structure models began to incorporate insights and perspectives from other monostratal approaches. In the subsequent development of phrase structure grammars, the interpretation of rules as partial descriptions of trees provided the model for a more comprehensive constraint-based or model-theoretic perspective. The models of Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG) develop a number of revisions in the context of a broad constraint-based conception of grammar. The current models of Sign-Based Construction Grammar (SBCG) integrate key empirical insights from the Berkeley Construction Grammar tradition.
  • 12 - The functional structure of the sentence, and cartography
    pp 425-457
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    A fundamental question for syntactic theory concerns the nature of the basic computations that are used to construct grammatical representations. This chapter is devoted to a framework, Tree Adjoining Grammar (TAG). TAG is a formalism that builds grammatical representations through the composition of smaller pieces of syntactic structure. The interest of TAG for linguistic theory comes not only from the prominence it assigns to structural recursion, but also from the perspective it offers on the nature of syntactic dependencies. The author explores the implications of TAG for the nature of the grammar, specifically in the domain of long-distance dependencies. The use of TAG in syntactic theory is also motivated by questions of formal complexity. The author explores the role that TAG can play in discussions of the computational constraints on grammar. Chomsky adopted a more powerful system for grammatical representation, one incorporating grammatical transformations.
  • 14 - Economy of derivation and representation
    pp 487-514
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    Predication is typically thought of as a (linguistic) semantic notion: the construction of a proposition from two components, a subject and a predicate. This chapter attempts to outline the main ways in which predication has been analyzed in the generative syntactic literature. The discussion here is limited to 'primary' predication. One of the seminal works on the syntax of predication is Edwin Williams. For Williams, predication is a mode of Θ-role assignment. Expletive or pleonastic subjects constitute perhaps the strongest argument that there is a need to invoke a notion of predication independent of theta Θ-role assignment. The syntax of predication was inspired by the pioneering work of Williams, Rothstein, and John Bowers. Predication, as a syntactic licensing relation, sat uncomfortably within earlier generative frameworks. The Minimalist abandonment of D-structure has opened the way for a better integration of the theory of predication into syntactic theory more generally.
  • 15 - Syntax, binding, and patterns of anaphora
    pp 515-576
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    The dichotomy between lexical categories and functional categories raises a number of questions from the perspective of syntactic projection of lexical information. The author presents the answers by stating that much generative research on syntactic projection takes the view that projection is symmetric (i.e. parallel) across syntactic categories. The chapter discusses the projection of phrasal structure, and deals with some X-bar theoretic issues. The chapter reviews a number of phrase structural properties, including (multi-) dominance, precedence, binary branching, and multiplanar phrase structure. The chapter deals the projection of thematic information within the lexical projection, the regulating roles of the Theta Criterion and the Extended Projection Principle, and, finally, the so-called VP internal Subject. The chapter deals with the nature of functional categories and the concept of extended projection. The chapter discusses the extended nominal projection, the extended adjectival projection, and the extended adpositional projection.
  • 16 - Raisingand control
    pp 577-606
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    The study of the functional structure of the clause has changed the theoretical and descriptive study of natural language syntax. The lexical verb looked like a plausible candidate for the head of the sentence, but clearly the sentence potentially contained more material than a single X-bar schema could integrate. The V-to-I movement operation is not a formal trick to align syntax and morphology: it predicts that certain changes in word order should be produced by the movement of the verbal root. The close connection between syntax and morphology is confirmed by other cases of microcomparison. One domain which has been extensively investigated in this connection is the comparison between Icelandic and the Continental Scandinavian languages. The structural maps of the different zones of the clause have provided a model for pursuing on a large scale and on a fully systematic basis the project of a detailed cartography of syntactic structures.
  • 17 - Agreementand Case
    pp 607-654
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    The chapter offers an overview of certain issues that have been extensively discussed in the literature on the syntax of adjectival and adverbial modification. It presents discussion on the lexical status of modifiers, distributional and semantic classifications of adjectives and adverbs. The chapter also discusses a number of proposals concerning the licensing of modifiers and one influential proposal that adjectives and adverbs are specifiers of designated functional projections and the problems this faces. An influential view holds that both adverbs and adjectives are specifiers of designated functional projections in the verbal and nominal extended projections, respectively. The antisymmetry-based approaches to adverbial and adjectival modification opened up a very fruitful way to deal with this issue that led to a number of fine-grained descriptions of the behavior of adjectives and adverbs across languages as well as significant cross-linguistic comparisons.

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