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Syntactic Relations
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  • Page extent: 224 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.5 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 415.01
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: P291 .M356 2007
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Grammar, Comparative and general--Syntax

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521845762)


Accounts of syntax are usually based on two assumptions: firstly, that a sentence comprises a hierarchy of phrases, forming a ‘tree’ structure; and secondly, that phrases have ‘heads’, on which subordinate units depend. These fundamental assumptions are questioned in this critical new survey, which argues that neither concept is as important as is claimed, and that syntactic relations are in fact far more varied. Drawing on data from English as well as other major European languages, it summarises earlier accounts of syntactic structure and looks at the different ways in which specific constructions have been described – the subject of much disagreement between linguists. It explores the problems faced by particular analyses, and raises the question of whether syntax should be described as simpler than it is. Suitable for non-specialists and complete with a clear and useful glossary, Syntactic Relations will become an essential and thought-provoking read for students and researchers in linguistic theory.

PETER MATTHEWS is Emeritus Professor of Linguistics and Fellow of St John's College, University of Cambridge. He has previously published Inflectional Morphology (1972), Morphology (first edition 1974, second edition 1991), Syntax (1981), Grammatical Theory in the United States (1993), and A Short History of Structural Linguistics (2001) (all with Cambridge University Press), as well as The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Linguistics (1997) and Linguistics: A Very Short Introduction (2003).

In this series

69 R. M. W. DIXON:Ergativity
70 YAN HUANG:The syntax and pragmatics of anaphora
71 KNUD LAMBRECHT:Information structure and sentence form: topic, focus, and the mental representation of discourse referents
72 LUIGI BURZIO:Principles of English stress
73 JOHN A. HAWKINS:A performance theory of order and constituency
74 ALICE C. HARRIS and LYLE CAMPBELL:Historical syntax in cross-linguistic perspective
75 LILIANE HAEGEMAN:The syntax of negation
76 PAUL GORREL:Syntax and parsing
77 GUGLIELMO CINQUE:Italian syntax and universal grammar
78 HENRY SMITH:Restrictiveness in case theory
79 D. ROBERT LADD:Intonational morphology
80 ANDREA MORO:The raising of predicates: predicative noun phrases and the theory of clause structure
81 ROGER LASS:Historical linguistics and language change
82 JOHN M. ANDERSON:A notional theory of syntactic categories
83 BERND HEINE:Possession: cognitive sources, forces and grammaticalization
84 NOMT ERTESCHIK-SHIR:The dynamics of focus structure
85 JOHN COLEMAN:Phonological representations: their names, forms and powers
86 CHRISTINA Y. BETHIN:Slavic prosody: language change and phonological theory
87 BARBARA DANCYGIER:Conditionals and prediction
88 CLAIRE LEFEBVRE:Creole genesis and the acquisition of grammar: the case of Haitian Creole
89 HEINZ GIEGERICH:Lexical strata in English
90 KEREN RICE:Morpheme order and semantic scope
91 APRIL MCMAHON:Lexical phonology and the history of English
92 MATTHEW Y. CHEN:Tone Sandhi: patterns across Chinese dialects
93 GREGORY T. STUMP:Inflectional morphology: a theory of paradigm structure
94 JOAN BYBEE:Phonology and language use
95 LAURIE BAUER:Morphological productivity
96 THOMAS ERNST:The syntax of adjuncts
97 ELIZABETH CLOSS TRAUGOTT and RICHARD B. DASHER:Regularity in semantic change
98 MAYA HICKMANN:Children's discourse: person, space and time across languages
99 DIANE BLAKEMORE:Relevance and linguistic meaning: the semantics and pragmatics of discourse markers
100 IAN ROBERTS and ANNA ROUSSOU:Syntactic change: a minimalist approach to grammaticalization
101 DONKA MINKOVA:Alliteration and sound change in early English
102 MARK C. BAKER:Lexical categories: verbs, nouns and adjectives
103 CARLOTA S. SMITH:Modes of discourse: the local structure of texts
104 ROCHELLE LIEBER:Morphology and lexical semantics
105 HOLGER DIESSEL:The acquisition of complex sentences


General editors:


Syntactic Relations: A Critical Survey




University of Cambridge

Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo

The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 2RU, UK

Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
Information on this title:

© P. H. Matthews 2007

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without
the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2007

Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge

A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library

ISBN-13 978-0-521-84576-2 hardback
ISBN-10 0-521-84576-9 hardback
ISBN-13 978-0-521-60829-9 paperback
ISBN-10 0-521-60829-5 paperback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy
of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and
does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or


Preface page ix
1 Introduction 1
Relations 1
Where shall we start? 9
2 What beginners are told 11
The doctrine of phrases 11
What is a head? 23
3 Heads and dependents 27
Dominance 27
Where arguments are complementary 30
Markers 35
‘Complementisers’ 39
Prepositions 49
Verb phrases 55
4 Must phrases have heads? 61
‘Determiners’ 61
Determiners and pronouns 69
Where does this lead us? 75
‘Universals’ 78
What is universal? 81
5 Asymmetries 90
Types of construction 90
One head or two? 95
Types of dominance 100
Subjects 104
6 Constituents 110
Phrase structure 110
Phrase structure and dependency 112
How far is there equivalence? 115
Layering in noun phrases 119
Why should constituency be thought fundamental? 126
Structures and categories 133
‘Movement’ 137
7 Must constructions reduce to tree structures? 143
How reduction is achieved 143
Compositionality 149
Group-verbs 156
Complex predications 159
‘Small clauses’ 163
Coordination 169
8 Simplicity 178
Should syntax not be simpler? 178
‘Theories’ 181
Glossary 186
References 199
Index 205


This book owes its origin to three things. One was a remark by Jeremy Mynott, then linguistics editor of the University Press, on reading my introduction to syntax in 1981, that I had failed to make clear what I meant by ‘dependency’. Another was the suggestion by Andrew Winnard, the present linguistics editor, that after twenty years my introduction needed a second edition, and my vain attempts, in the midst of other projects, to see how I could do it. A final inspiration has been the magisterial Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, which has scarcely been off my desk for nearly three years.

I am grateful to Ian Roberts and Lucienne Schleich for reading the initial drafts of Chapters and , and making clear to me the kind of book it had to be; and to Rosanna Sornicola, whose acute and persistent comments on what is now the whole of Chapters to forced me to rethink quite radically what I was saying. Ian Roberts also read the whole book when it was submitted to the Press, and made several very useful suggestions

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