- Syntax and Spell-Out in Slavic by Steven Franks
Big and novel ideas come into the universe of syntactic research constantly, and many of these disappear completely, undeservedly so, because they are not communicated and delivered in a way accessible not only to the microcommunity of experts on backward control in Tsez or Differential Object Marking in South Saami but to larger audiences, including advanced students of syntax and linguistic apprentices from all walks of linguistic life. It is a genuinely rare skill to be able to write clearly and lucidly about complex issues without losing the interest of the (less expert) reader after a few pages (paragraphs in the extreme case). The volume lying in front of me is absolutely astonishing in this respect: if you are looking for a primer on the multidominance (multiattachment) approach, pick this volume and use chapter two as perfect classroom material for your students, even if your course does not concern Slavic at all. Steven Franks does a great job of discussing and comparing the most crucial aspects of current minimalist theories of syntactic "movement", with the aim of juxtaposing them with his view of how multi-attachment structures of his own design capture the traditional characteristics of movement, eschewing many problems that the "copy and merge" theories grapple with: locality of movement, identity of intermediate movement sites, wh-copying phenomena, etc.
Following the introductory chapter one, where core notions from the realm of generative syntax are introduced and discussed, chapters two and three form the core of the book, presenting the details of the multi-attachment approach and its application to the problem of the relationship between movement and its PF reflex. The first two chapters constitute an ideal introduction to minimalist syntax for advanced students, as Franks not only reviews the basic notions of phrase structure and projection of arguments and adjuncts in different positions but also forcefully argues for a particular view of these processes, sometimes different from the received truth in the field. So, for instance, he argues for both subject- and direct-object raising out of their thematic positions in overt syntax in English (pp. 24–25), following work by Howard Lasnik.
Chapter 2 is crucial for understanding Franks' theory of multi-attachment, and starting with diagram (32) on p. 50, the author carefully leads the [End Page 167] reader through the meandering ways of the conversion from the "standard" minimalist structure and terminology used in the copy theory of movement and phase theory to the novel addresses, pointers, and three basic steps in (metaphorical) movement: Agree, direct, and unconstrained probing down the structure (ex. 33, p. 51); pied-piping driven by the needs of the Spell-Out of the target of Agree (ex. 34, p. 54); and, ultimately, movement seen as multi-attachment (ex. 35, p. 55). One of the key differences between Franks' multi-attachment and the standard copy theory is that movement as such, that is Step III, does not target intermediate positions. So this step takes the goal right to its final destination. The key element in detecting trouble on the way is Step II, surveying every category identical to that of the target (C), and checking for compatible/conflicting features. Should the features conflict, the search under Step I terminates, as diagrams (38) and (54) in the text illustrate for appropriate examples. Wh-islands, and other Minimal Link Condition effects, I gather, show exactly the conflicting features on the relevant probing heads. Franks sets off to explore attributes of "copy theory" movement through intermediate positions that show certain idiosyncratic and less welcome properties. For instance, he amply borrows from the theory of linearization in Nunes (2004) to argue that wh-copying in movement in certain German dialects shows that it is not the full copy of the moved wh-phrase that is involved here but a C-head which bears wh-features. The gist of the theory of wh-movement is concisely presented in (50–52) on p. 64:
a. Step I: [+Q] is freely linked with any [uQ].