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  • Clause structure by Elly van Gelderen
  • Tor A. Åfarli
Clause structure. By Elly van Gelderen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Pp. 238. ISBN: 1107659817. $31.49.

This book is the second title in the series ‘Key topics in syntax’, which, according to the text facing the title page of the book, aims to ‘bridge the gap between textbooks and primary literature’ and ‘consists of accessible yet challenging accounts of the most important issues, concepts, and phenomena to consider when examining the syntactic structure of language’. The key topic treated in this book is clause structure. This topic is viewed from the point of view of contemporary generative syntax, which means the minimalist program, broadly understood. Thus, this book traces the developmental paths of minimalist syntax, highlighting the various theoretical shifts and problems, and the empirical data that led to them. Sometimes, substantial research findings are pointed out and described, but quite often no well-founded theoretical conclusions are reached and the issue at hand remains unresolved, albeit still illuminated.

In the preface, the author mentions (x) that the book ‘is more of a textbook than a monograph’, and it is stated (xi) that the intended audiences for the book are advanced students and colleagues. Also, it is mentioned that a familiarity with the basics of generative and minimalist syntax is presupposed. The book focuses on clause structure in English, other languages being considered whenever it is appropriate, which happens quite frequently. In addition, all of the central chapters contain a substantial section titled ‘Cross-linguistic observations’, which broadens the empirical perspective further. Even though the theoretical focus clearly is on contemporary minimalist theory, facts and analyses from the history of generative syntax are often considered as well, which is welcome, since it adds depth to the discussion.

The book contains seven chapters. Each chapter (except Ch. 7, the conclusion) has a section called ‘Discussion points’ and suggestions for further reading. The introductory chapter (Ch. 1) provides a compact introduction to generative syntax, including a short history of the role of universal grammar in generative syntax, the change from rule-based to principles-and-parameters-based syntax, and phrase structure theory from phrase structure rules, via X-bar principles, to features and bare phrase structure. There are brief discussions on topics like VP-shells, Agree, probe-goal checking, Merge, minimalism vs. cartography, the linear correspondence axiom, phases, and the nature of features, to mention some of the topics that are covered. Chs. 2–6 comprise the core of the book. Ch. 2 discusses some of the basics concerning the clause and presents the three structural layers of the clause, viz. the VP-layer, the TP-layer, and the CP-layer, which provide the organizing arrangement for the chapters that follow. Thus, Chs. 3–5 are devoted to each of the three layers, starting with the VP-layer, and Ch. 6 is concerned with the connection between the layers.

Ch. 2 starts out with an examination of the main clause, focusing on main clauses in English. The basic characteristics of the main clause in English are said to be that it has a certain mood and [End Page 986] contains a tensed verb and a subject that agrees with the verb—properties that together anchor the clause to a speech event and are known as finiteness. Mood, tense, and agreement, as well as case, are examined very briefly, and it is shown how the mood and tense properties of the clause are analyzed structurally as the core of the CP and TP layers, respectively. The basic distinction between the semantic role contra the grammatical function of a phrase/clause is discussed in some detail, including the argument vs. adverbial (adjunct) distinction and subordinate vs. coordinate clause functions. This is followed by a quite detailed discussion of types of subordinate clauses and their complementizers. The chapter is wrapped up with a more systematic presentation of the three layers, where the CP is characterized as the pragmatic layer, the TP as the grammatical layer, and the VP (or vP) as the layer for argument and event structure.

Ch. 3 is devoted to the VP-layer, namely the layer where argument...


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