Simpler Syntax

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Simpler Syntax is the title of a 2005 book by Peter Culicover and Ray Jackendoff. The authors argue that minimalist syntax is going in the wrong direction, adopting ever more complex structures and derivations, and making overly strong assumptions about linguistic universals. Richard Kayne's theory of antisymmetry (1994) is one example they cite. Antisymmetry proposes specifier-complement-head as the "basic" branching order, based on the notion of an asymmetric c-command. This leads to rather complex derivations of certain phenomena, such as heavy NP shift. For Culicover and Jackendoff (2005), the difference in order between (1) and (2) is simply a different possibility of the ordering of the verb phrase, which is lexically encoded in the verb.

(1) I gave the books I bought yesterday to John
(2) I gave to John the books I bought yesterday

In antisymmetric theories, a number of movements are required to derive both structures, with the "shifted" structure in (2) being derived by one or more additional movements.

Culicover and Jackendoff (2005) propose that the syntactic, semantic and phonological components of the language faculty are all generative. In contrast, minimalist theories traditionally assume that syntax is the only generative component, while the function of the semantic and phonological components is merely to "interpret" syntactic structures logically and phonologically respectively. Culicover and Jackendoff suggest that there is a flexible, constraint-based mapping between these different components, which does not privilege any one over the others. In this, they are following the earlier proposals of Jerrold Sadock in his Autolexical Syntax model.


  • Culicover, Peter and Ray Jackendoff (2005). Simpler Syntax. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-199-27108-5.
  • Kayne, Richard. (1994). The Antisymmetry of Syntax. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. ISBN 9780262111942
  • Sadock, Jerrold (1991). Autolexical Syntax: A Theory of Parallel Grammatical Representations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-73345-9.

External links[edit]