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  • The emergence of order in syntax
  • Michael T. Putnam
The emergence of order in syntax. By Jordi Fortuny. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2008. Pp. viii, 210. ISBN 9789027255020. $158 (Hb).

In this monograph, Jordi Fortuny embarks on a detailed study of the syntactic component of the faculty of language, with regard to its responsibility for how grammatical categories are ordered and how hierarchies are generated. To be a bit more precise, two main questions are posed by this study: first, what are the basic elements of the syntactic component, and second, why do syntactic patterns have the shape they seem to have? In many respects, F's work can be seen as a 'house cleaning' in that purported 'essential' components of derivational syntactic theory—especially in light of recent advancements in the minimalist program (MP)—are brought under scrutiny, objectively evaluated, and, in many cases, shown to be conceptually faulty and, as a result, expendable. As a matter of fact, the following properties and assumptions are a handful of those that F throughout this text argues are in some way, shape, or form able to be expunged from core minimalist desiderata: the linear correspondence axiom (LCA), suicidal greed (i.e. the idea that movement in the MP is driven by the requirement of a higher head possessing an attracting feature requiring valuation), the existence of uninterpretable features, the extended projection principle (EPP), the existence of merely occurrential features (e.g. EPP/OCC), and the vacuous movement hypothesis. In the words of F himself, 'No more than a recursive procedure responsible for creating nests by successive Merge and for ordering and instantiating type features driven by the morpholexical characterization of words and constrained by the Full Interpretation legibility condition and the Maximize Matching Effects principle of structural efficiency is required, thereby supporting the idea that the syntactic component is an optimal solution to legibility conditions' (192–93).

Ch. 1 suggests that the basic elements of the syntactic component are features and a combinatorial operation known as Merge. A feature is defined as an instruction for a particular level of interpretation of the faculty of language, and Merge is defined as an operation that takes as input two categories or sets included in an alphabet and yields as output the union of these sets. Accordingly, F argues that the hierarchical properties of syntactic objects derive from the derivational record, a set K (a nest) where the outputs of successive Merge operations are linearly ordered by the strict inclusion relation. Following this logic a step further, hierarchy in syntax is a [End Page 223] natural by-product of the successful creation of structure by keeping the derivational information in a record (thus making notions such as Kayne's (1994) linear correspondence axiom and phrase structure rules such as X´-theory nothing more than a description rather than an explanation for empirical facts). To account for displacement phenomena, F suggests 'It may be the case that two different categories are assigned to two different slots (analytic pattern), that two different categories are assigned to a single slot (syncretic pattern) or finally, that a single category is assigned to two different slots (discontinuous pattern)' (14). Applications of both Internal and External Merge are argued to be triggered by the requirement and matching of [+type] categories and [+token] categories. One clear advantage to such an understanding of movement in a derivational framework is that it eliminates the necessity of a special device in the grammar solely responsible for displacement, which, according to F, suffers from three main problems: the problem of generality, the problem of determinacy, and the problem of consistency (26–28) (see also Levine & Hukari 2006 for similar arguments).

Chs. 2 and 3 begin the implementation of F's system with regard to the particular shape of syntactic objects generated according to the system established in Ch. 1. Here is explored how syntactic derivations carried out by Merge are triggered by the morpholexical characterization of lexical items (i.e. clusters of features) that are constrained by the semantic-legibility conditions imposed by 'full interpretation' and by the 'maximize matching effects' principle of structural minimalization. In Ch. 2, F explicates the relationship between C...


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