Parameters of Slavic Morphosyntax

Parameters of Slavic Morphosyntax

Parameters of Slavic Morphosyntax

Parameters of Slavic Morphosyntax


Focusing on issues of case theory and comparative grammar, this study treats selected problems in the syntax of the Slavic languages from the perspective of Government-Binding theory. Steven Franks seeks to develop parametric solutions to related constructions among the various Slavic languages. A model of case based loosely on Jakobson's feature system is adapted to a variety of comparative problems in Slavic, including across-the-board constructions, quantification, secondary predication, null subject phenomena, and voice. Solutions considered make use of recent approaches to phrase structure, including the VP-internal subject hypothesis and the DP hypothesis. The book will serve admirably as an introduction to GB theory for Slavic linguists as well as to the range of problems posed by Slavic for general syntacticians.


In order to fully appreciate the contribution of Steven Franks book Parameters of Slavic Morphosyntax to both Slavic and theoretical linguistics, it is necessary to understand the relation between generative theory and Slavic linguistics in the United States since 1957.

There is virtually complete agreement now that the publication of Noam Chomsky's Syntactic Structures in 1957 was a revolution: linguistics would never be the same again. in the early years, the focus of attention was discovering the rules of English syntax, the assumption being that it was sufficient to thoroughly analyze a single language in order to understand the essential syntactic structure of any human language. a result of this approach was that the subject matter of syntactic analysis was dictated by and large by the structure of English; the specific problems of highly inflected languages like the Slavic languages (e.g., case) were more or less ignored. It was assumed that case assignment, agreement phenomena, and so on were relatively superficial phenomena that could be accounted for by late, superficial rules. Thus, in Chomsky Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (1965), only a few pages at the end of the book are devoted to inflectional processes (e.g., p. 170); one German example is discussed.

While the rapid development of generative theory all but ignored the kinds of problems that are at the heart of the Slavic languages, the field of Slavic linguistics itself, which was dominated by the theories of Roman Jakobson, proceeded with little or no concern for the goals and accomplishments of generative theory. Jakobsonian theory, with its extensive use of privative binary oppositions, was concerned primarily with phonological analysis and the feature decomposition of grammatical categories; it did not lend itself to syntactic analysis and little if anything of lasting value dealing with Slavic syntax was produced in Jakobson's framework. Thus the concerns of generative theory and Slavic linguistics were far removed: each developed without regard for the other--to the detriment of both.

The rapprochement of Slavic linguistics and generative theory began with a . . .

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