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Reviewed by:
  • The syntax of Russian by John Frederick Bailyn
  • Egor Tsedryk
John Frederick Bailyn. The syntax of Russian. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. xvii + 373 pp.

Rich case morphology and word order flexibility are two interrelated properties of Russian that have long intrigued syntacticians from various schools and traditions. In The syntax of Russian, Bailyn dismisses anything that could potentially be qualified as “optional” or “non-configurational” in Russian. In a nutshell, he claims that: (i) Russian has the same major constituents as English, including verb phrase (VP) and determiner phrase (DP); (ii) case marking is a by-product of syntactic configurations, and it is attributed to a limited number of categories; (iii) basic word order is Subject-Verb-Object (SVO), while other patterns are derived by movement; (iv) discourse-related movement occurs at the level of Functional Form,1 which is “a point of interface between linguistic and non-linguistic [discursive] systems” (320).

As Bailyn notes in the preface, his general goal is to describe the main structural properties of modern Russian. Thus, he targets a large readership, including anyone interested in Russian or in syntax more generally. At the same time he has a narrower goal of highlighting those aspects of Russian that represent a particular interest in current syntactic theory. In my opinion, this book is more successful in achieving its narrower goal. A reader who does not have a back-ground in minimalism, or more generally in generative syntax, may find it difficult to follow, especially parts two and three.

The book contains seven chapters organized into three parts. The first part (Basic configurations, chapters 1–3) follows the logic of an introductory textbook in syntax: it outlines the internal structure of phrases, describes constituency tests applicable to Russian, and presents the minimal structure of main and subordinate clauses. The second two parts (Case, chapters 4–5, and Word order, chapters 6–7) reveal the syntactic nature of core cases (Nominative, Accusative, Dative, [End Page 341] Genitive, and Instrumental) and uncover movement processes deriving various word order patterns in Russian.

In the remainder of this review I will first go through each chapter, highlighting the key ideas, claims, and assumptions. Then I will provide my comments, focusing on specific issues that caught my attention, and I will finish with a general assessment of the book.

1. Chapter Summary

Chapter 1 (Verb phrases, 3–33) presents Bailyn’s assumptions about phrase structure, focusing on selectional properties of verbs and their extended projections. Bailyn follows Adger (2003) in assuming that the basic syntactic operation Merge is triggered by the necessity to eliminate an uninterpretable categorial feature. This chapter also presents classical constituency tests, such as coordination, fronting, and ellipsis, which motivate the existence of VP. Binding tests further support a constituent structure, in which the subject asymmetrically c-commands the object. In addition, Bailyn illustrates the difference between arguments and adjuncts and at the end of the chapter provides the minimal sentence structure for Russian.

Chapter 2 (Nominal phrases, 34–72) extends the idea of a hierarchical structure to the nominal domain. Special attention is paid to adnominal complements expressing possession, identification, and event participants, such as Agent and Theme. As expected, nominalizations, featuring a variety of adnominal Genitives and Obliques, constitute the bulk of the discussion on argument structure. Another important theme of this chapter is the DP-hypothesis. Even though Russian is an article-less language, Bailyn supports this hypothesis by analyzing a variety of prenominal elements such as demonstratives, possessives, numerals, and quantifiers. He also discusses the data that could potentially refute it (e.g., left-branch extraction, following Bošković 2005), and suggests an account in terms of an enriched functional structure of Russian DPs (65). Finally, Bailyn presents his analysis of adjectival modification, focusing on long and short form adjectives.

Chapter 3 (Types of clauses, 73–119) closes the first part of the book, offering a detailed overview of Russian clauses. It is subdivided into five parts: (i) independent declarative, interrogative, and imperative clauses; (ii) subordinate indicative and subjunctive clauses, (iii) wh-structures, (iv) small clauses, infinitives, and gerunds, and (v) impersonals. [End Page 342] Bailyn starts with a presentation of the...


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