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  • Syntactic derivations: A nontransformational view by Ulf Brosziewski
  • Kleanthes K. Grohmann
Syntactic derivations: A nontransformational view. By Ulf Brosziewski. (Linguistische Arbeiten 470.) Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2003. Pp. vii, 101. ISBN 3484304707. €34.

Ulf Brosziewski’s study introduces and investigates a model of syntactic derivations that is based on a new concept of dislocation without invoking movement. A derivation is conceived of as a compositional process that constructs larger syntactic units out of smaller ones without any phrase-structure representations, as in categorial grammars. B shows that a simple extension of this view can account for dislocation without gap features, chains, or structural transformations. Basically, B assumes that movement ‘splits’ a syntactic expression into two parts which form a derivational unit but enter separately into the formation of larger constituents. After a brief ‘Overview’ (1–2) and setting the project into perspective in the ‘Introduction’ (3–16, Ch. 1), B outlines conceptions of ‘Phrase structure’ (17–35) in Ch. 2, in which he summarizes the current state of affairs and introduces the main nonderivational conditions he works with. Ch. 3, ‘Syntactic derivations’ (36–94), is the core part of the book both empirically and theoretically. The final one-page ‘Summary’ (95) concludes this study.

The nonderivational model B develops combines certain characteristic properties of transformational as well as feature-based theories, but it avoids various problems and redundancies associated with both of them and gives a simpler and more coherent explanation of fundamental properties of dislocation phenomena. With transformational approaches, it shares the assumption that thematic relations and formal licensing relations must be established within uniform and local constituent configurations. With categorial grammar, it shares the purely derivational view of constituent structure. Constituency reflects only the stages of a derivation, and there are no phrase markers. Syntactic expressions, whether lexical or derived, are taken to be triples of a phonological representation, a semantic representation, and a specification of categorial, selectional, and morphosyntactic features. The basic derivational operation constructs a syntactic expression by merging two others, one of which it projects. Dislocation involves a second derivational operation that generates two syntactic expressions from a single one by dividing it into the features and components that must be present in its ‘base position’ and those that can or need not be. The resulting two expressions are linked derivationally; that is, they are not parts of a single, larger syntactic structure but only form a ‘group’ of categories, a derivational unit. Further combinatorial steps will affect one of the members of the group while the other remains unchanged until, at some stage of the derivation, the expressions belonging to the group must be combined with each other.

In this approach, the number of feature-, representation-, and rule-types required in the syntactic system can be reduced to a minimum. Like transformational theories and their representational variants, it is able to treat dislocated heads—‘X0-categories’— in the same way as dislocated phrases and to subsume VSO- and V2-patterns, for example, under the same principles as phrasal dislocation. The theoretical problems arising from the concept of head movement in transformational systems do not occur; there is no C-command condition and the ‘extension requirement’ is fulfilled trivially.

The study concentrates on theoretical questions, mainly those that arise directly from the elementary premises and concern the derivational mechanism, constituency, and dislocation. Fundamental generalizations that the government and binding theory expresses by means of the X-bar-scheme can be rendered without projection levels, nonbranching projections, and the segment/category distinction. It is possible to derive the ‘structure-preserving’ nature of dislocation, its ‘economical’ character, elementary bounding phenomena, and the effects of the C-command condition and the head movement constraint from a few elementary assumptions about the combinatorial properties of groups.

Thanks to his intelligent summary of ‘transformational problems’ that B homes in on (especially from a minimalist perspective), this book is valuable even to ‘standard minimalists’ (such as the reviewer) as it forces one to consider some issues often swept under the rug. Whether one agrees or not, this clear and well-written study is an interesting contribution to the field and can be recommended to anyone with a theoretical inclination...


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