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Reviewed by:
  • The syntax of Hungarian by Katalin É. Kiss
  • Marcel den Dikken and Anikó Lipták
The syntax of Hungarian. By Katalin É. Kiss. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Pp. xii, 278. ISBN 0521660475. $70 (Hb).

This excellent book is a wonderful kaleidoscope brimming with the phenomenal results of concentrated research conducted by a fairly small group of mostly generative linguists (primarily but not quite exclusively made up of native speakers of Hungarian) over the past three decades. The author herself has, from the outset, been one of the leading contributors to the study of Hungarian syntax, in many instances having been the first to study the key facts. Her scope over the empirical and scholarly playing field is admirable, and this book is an outstanding reflection thereof—not least because of her generous acknowledgment and candid discussion of other people’s work on the syntax of the language (and some of the semantics as well).1 What follows, including the critical remarks about the weaknesses of the book, should be read, therefore, against the backdrop of the three opening sentences of this review.

Major highlights of the ten chapters include the very methodical and comprehensive overview of the topic-predicate structure of the Hungarian sentence (§§2.5–2.6); the excellent treatment of the difficult subject of agreement (§3.5); the careful handling of the empirical facts and skillful sailing between the head- and phrasal-movement accounts in the discussion of the (in)famous ‘verbal modifier’ (VM) and its aspectual role (§3.6);2 the concise and accessible survey of quantifiers and their syntactic properties (Ch. 5); the critical précis of the extensive literature on the structure of the Hungarian noun phrase (Ch. 7); the quick wrap of the intricate facts of verbal [End Page 777] clustering in Hungarian and their theoretical implications (§9.3);3 and the meticulous unraveling (Ch. 10) of the empirical and analytical intricacies of argumental and adjunct subordinate clause types, relative and adverbial clauses, their distribution in the matrix clause, and the role of sentential pronouns connected to them, a discussion which devotes much space to extraction possibilities out of CPs, so-called long operator movement, and detailed analyses thereof. And the cherry on top of it all is the nice little argument (§10.6) for a unified (‘forking’) chain approach to parasitic gap constructions, contra Chomsky’s (1986) Barriers. In addition, the book features discussions of the structure of the minimal predicate, focusing, negation, and the postpositional phrase. The book’s empirical coverage, therefore, is extensive; É. Kiss has done a remarkable job in making the sometimes extremely intricate facts, their analysis, and their theoretical consequences accessible to the generative syntax community at large.4 This book should thus serve as an outstanding starting point for anyone interested in but not yet intimately familiar with aspects of the syntax of Hungarian.

In many sections, the level of detail of the discussion actually goes well beyond initiating the novice: though at the outset she states that it is the goal of her ‘empirical rather than technical approach . . . to present the theoretically relevant facts of Hungarian explicitly, but without necessarily providing accounts in terms of the most recent theoretical innovations’ (7), É. Kiss often actively engages in debates on controversial issues. A particularly striking example of this is her discussion (§4.2) of the well-known adjacency of a focused constituent and the finite verb in Hungarian. Focusing (in single-focus constructions) involves the obligatory fronting of the focused constituent to a position in the left periphery (SpecFP; Brody 1990) and placing the finite verb to the immediate right of the focused constituent. This immediately post-focus placement of the verb is commonly analyzed in terms of a Verb Second-like derivation: The focus raises into the specifier of a functional projection whose head comes to host the fronted verb. É. Kiss deviates from the mainstream in pushing an account that, instead of raising the verb to Foc0, stranding its verbal modifier in SpecAspP (1a), keeps both the verb and the verbal modifier in their base positions, inside the VP (1b).5 That the verbal modifier must follow the verb then follows from the assumption that, within...


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