The history of syntax

Authored by: Peter W. Culicover

The Routledge Handbook of Syntax

Print publication date:  May  2014
Online publication date:  April  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415533942
eBook ISBN: 9781315796604
Adobe ISBN: 9781317751045


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The history of thinking about and describing syntax goes back thousands of years. But from the perspective of theorizing about syntax, which is our concern here, a critical point of departure is Chomsky’s Syntactic Structures (Chomsky 1957; henceforth SS). 2 I begin with some general observations about the goals of contemporary syntactic theory. Then, after briefly summarizing the main ideas of SS, and discussing methodology, I review some of the more important extensions, with an eye towards understanding where we are today and how we got here. 3 I touch on some of the more prominent branch points later in the chapter, in order to preserve as much as possible a sense of the historical flow. For convenience, I refer to the direct line of development from SS as “mainstream” generative grammar (MGG). This term reflects the central role that the Chomskyan program has played in the field, in terms of the development of both his proposals and alternatives to them.

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