- The syntax of Spanish by Karen Zagona
The syntax of Spanish is part of the relatively new series ‘Cambridge syntax guides’. It consists of six chapters. Ch. 1 (1–72) provides a good descriptive overview of Spanish syntax. Ch. 2 (73–117) deals with noun phrases (NPs); it examines their role as arguments and as predicates and analyzes their internal constituent structure. Ch. 3 (118–57) covers the [End Page 825] structure of verb phrases (VPs); it distinguishes between arguments and adjuncts, contrasts direct and indirect objects, and deals with the analysis of ‘unaccusative’ verbs. Ch. 4 (158–201) handles ‘functional categories’: tense, aspect, and negation, and their interaction with auxiliaries and clitics. Ch. 5 (202–40) comes to grips with the language’s flexible constituent order and surveys various attempts to account for this flexibility in terms of pragmatic notions like topic and focus. Finally, Ch. 6 (241–72) deals with different types of movement and the constraints that operate on them.
The book downplays dialectal variation and therefore presents Spanish syntax as being fairly uniform despite its wide geographic spread. While this may be controversial, it is nevertheless intentional, judging from the author’s observation that there is in Spanish ‘a rich range of phonological and morphological variations in the grammar, but less variation in the syntax’ (4–5).
In the preface, it is claimed that the book assumes no familiarity with current theory. This is true only if current theory is taken to be the latest word on minimalism; though accessible, it would be difficult reading without at least passing familiarity with the principles-and-parameters framework. For example, there is talk of ‘base-generated traces’ (110) a few pages before the concept receives any explanation, and even in the descriptive overview a good deal of generative language is used (for example, talk of functional categories ‘governing’ lexical categories).
As is still the case in most of the generative literature, the majority of the example sentences in the book are artificial, and it is not always clear where they originate (presumably with the author in most cases). Better identification of sources would be desirable. Furthermore, the exclusive reliance on invented examples is methodologically questionable, especially for the material covered in Ch. 5, which deals with the analysis of constituent order.
All things considered, The syntax of Spanish is a good overview of its subject matter and a welcome addition to a worthwhile series.