The complementizer phase: Subjects and operators

The complementizer phase: Subjects and operators. Ed. by E. Phoevos Panagiotidis. (Oxford  studies in theoretical linguistics.) Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Pp. xv, 285. ISBN 9780199584369. $55.

Reviewed by Abhishek Kumar Kashyap, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

This book, arising out of the ‘Edges in Syntax’ conference (Cyprus, 2006), deals with the syntactic behavior of the complementizer phrase (CP) and presents a rich range of data from  a number of languages, including English, Bavarian, (Brazilian) Portuguese, Italian, Danish, Greek, Hebrew, Dutch, German, and several Romance dialects. The book comprises ten chapters: an introductory chapter and nine empirical studies. The introduction reflects on the history of the emergence of the CP, highlights its syntactic potential, and introduces the issues that forthcoming chapters of the book explore. The chapters are thematically organized and distributed between two sections.

The first section, which concentrates on subject extraction, addresses a number of issues that relate to the most controversial phenomena of grammatical theories involving the subject (e.g. extraction, control, phi-features, and raising). Luigi Rizzi begins this section with an exploration of the properties of criterial freezing, and he seeks to stimulate further research by posing questions in the conclusion and throughout the chapter. Drawing on data from Greek, George Kotzoglou addresses a few important issues that relate to subject condition and how languages manage to escape its effect. Angel J. Gallego, in his chapter, examines what Chomsky calls edges and Chomsky’s hypothesis that ‘subextraction from edges gives rise to CED effects’, with reference to what Gallego and Juan Uriagereka call edge condition, drawing on earlier research and building on earlier findings.

In a detailed discussion, Anna Roussou investigates finite and non-finite complements in English and explores the implications for the properties of the subject with particular reference to to– and that-clauses. Clemens Mayr’s chapter is concerned with exploring the significance of phi-features (i.e. person, number, and gender) in Bavarian, with a focus on how complementizer agreement interacts with long distance subject extraction. Ana Maria Martins and Jaira Nunes, in the last chapter of the section, discuss another significant aspect of subject extraction,–raising, where they focus on ‘hyper-raising’ constructions (i.e. impersonal constructions involving A-movement out of finite clause).

The second section of the book builds on the discussions in the first section to complement an understanding of the syntactic behavior of the complementizer and provide insight into its features and structures. The three contributions in this section include one on the structure of complementizers in general and two devoted to the position of wh-constituents. M. Rita Manzini studies the structure and interpretation of complementizers in several Romance languages, and Omer Preminger studies nested interrogative constructions and the position of wh-constituents in Hebrew. Jeroen van Craenenbroeck, in his chapter, explores the differences between simple and complex wh-phrases, with central attention to the idea that there are two complementizer positions: the higher phrase head and a lower one dedicated to hosting operators.

This book will be of interest primarily to generative (morpho-)syntacticians. Individual chapters will also be of significance to researchers working on and interested in the individual languages included in the book.