Syntax can be frustrating, because there are multiple schools that seem to fight over inessential things. I hope I can show you that this is normal for a new field, and that it actually makes syntax fun. New discoveries are being made, and you can participate— something that’s a lot harder to do in, say, quantum mechanics. The emphasis here is on doing syntax-- learning how to make and how to evaluate syntactic arguments.
What’s in it?
- An introduction to the Chomsky Hierarchy, a classification of grammars that’s used both in linguistics and computer science, as well as a comparison to other generative techniques, such as Markov text generators.
- A tour of Chomsky’s methods— production rules and transformations— with overnight stays in the Syntactic Structures, X-bar, and Minimalist stages in his thought.
- A leisurely stroll through interesting bits of syntax: the English verbal complex, pronouns and other anaphors, relative clauses, quantifiers and more. The emphasis is on doing syntax— not just learning rules and drawing trees, but learning how syntactic arguments are made.
- An overview of alternatives to Chomsky's approach: generative syntax, cognitive linguistics, relational grammars, word grammar, construction grammar, Jackendoff's Simpler Syntax, and Comrie's universals.
- A chapter on production which asks, how real are these grammars? Do we really have syntactic categories and transformations in the brain, or in the genome?
- A chapter on how you can apply all this to your conlangs.
- The Syntactic Bestiary— an annotated list of transformations and constraints, which you can think about for conlanging, or use to evaluate syntactic theories.
Plus, unlike most syntax textbooks, this one comes with a set of web toys so you can see the rules in action and write your own. It makes the ideas come alive much more than mere diagrams can.