Edge-Based Clausal Syntax

Edge-Based Clausal Syntax

A Study of (Mostly) English Object Structure

By Paul M. Postal

An argument that there are three kinds of English grammatical objects, each with different syntactic properties.
Hardcover $74.00 S £60.00
Paperback $19.75 S £15.99





An argument that there are three kinds of English grammatical objects, each with different syntactic properties.

In Edge-Based Clausal Syntax, Paul Postal rejects the notion that an English phrase of the form [V + DP] invariably involves a grammatical relation properly characterized as a direct object. He argues instead that at least three distinct relations occur in such a structure. The different syntactic properties of these three kinds of objects are shown by how they behave in passives, middles, -able forms, tough movement, wh-movement, Heavy NP Shift, Ride Node Raising, re-prefixation, and many other tests.

This proposal renders Postal's position sharply different from that of Chomsky, who defined a direct object structurally as [NP, VP], and with the traditional linguistics text's definition of the direct object as the DP sister of V. According to Postal's framework, sentence structures are complex graph structures built on nodes (vertices) and edges (arcs). The node that heads a particular edge represents a constituent that bears the grammatical relation named by the edge label to its tail node. This approach allows two DPs that have very different grammatical properties to occupy what looks like identical structural positions. The contrasting behaviors of direct objects, which at first seem anomalous—even grammatically chaotic—emerge in Postal's account as nonanomalous, as symptoms of hitherto ungrasped structural regularity.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262014816 488 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 49 line drawings, 1 table


$19.75 S | £15.99 ISBN: 9780262512756 488 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 49 line drawings, 1 table


  • Edge-Based Clausal Syntax puts the study of English objects on new footing. A gold mine of hitherto unrecognized generalizations, it provides a rigorous and unflinching account within Metagraph Grammar and thereby challenges more widely accepted approaches to do equally well. Like Cross-over Phenomena and On Raising, this book will set an agenda for syntactic theory for decades to come.

    Judith Aissen

    Department of Linguistics, University of California, Santa Cruz

  • Edge-Based Clausal Syntax represents the culmination of Paul Postal's career as a distinguished syntactician and relentless gadfly. Postal does a variety of things that are almost unheard of in mainstream theorizing: he sets out in the most careful details the content of his formal apparatus; he applies it to a very wide range of data, both familiar and novel; he reexamines widely assumed previous analyses and shows where and how they fail; and he formulates precise generalizations whose denotations are completely explicit.

    Against the background of vagueness, appeals to authority and speculation posing as theorizing, Postal's book stands out as a model of intellectual integrity. The book's combination of broad and deep scholarship, painstaking attention to the details of argumentation, and his penchant for exposing the weaknesses in standard treatments of grammatical phenomena sets a standard that one can only hope the rest of the field will rise to in responding to his work.

    Robert Levine

    Department of Linguistics, Ohio State University