Edwin Williams

Edwin Williams is Professor of Linguistics at Princeton University.

  • Representation Theory

    Representation Theory

    Edwin Williams

    In this theoretical monograph, Edwin Williams demonstrates that when syntax is economical, it economizes on shape distortion rather than on distance. According to Williams, this new notion of economy calls for a new architecture for the grammatical system—in fact, for a new notion of derivation. The new architecture offers a style of clausal embedding—the Level Embedding Scheme—that predictively ties together the locality, reconstructive behavior, and "target" type of any syntactic process in a way that is unique to the model. Williams calls his theory "Representation Theory" to put the notion of economy at the forefront. Syntax, in this theory, is a series of representations of one sublanguage in another.

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  • Thematic Structure in Syntax

    Thematic Structure in Syntax

    Edwin Williams

    This important monograph summarizes, rethinks, and extends a decade of the author's work on therole assignments—the ways in which the roles implied by verbs of a given type play out in terms of position and other syntactic functions. The study of theta roles and the locality of theta-role assignment leads into many interesting areas of linguistic theory, such as scope, the ECP, X-bar theory, binding theory, and the weak crossover condition; Williams's reconstruction thus offers a systematic integration of a remarkably wide range of syntactic phenomena.

    Williams starts by outlining a theory of the clause, specifically, of the distribution of Nominative Case and Tense. He then develops a formalism for the notion of"external argument" that is used throughout the rest of the book. Subsequent chapters review the issues surrounding the syntactic expression of the subject-predicate relationship, extend the notion of external argument to include NP movement, and reanalyze the verb movement constructions as deriving from the calculus of theta roles rather than movement.

    The last chapter distinguishes referential dependence and coreference, showing that a general Leftness condition governs the former, while the binding theory restated in terms of theta relations governs the latter.

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  • On the Definition of Word

    Anna Maria Di Sciullo and Edwin Williams

    On the Definition of Word develops a consistent and coherent approach to central questions about morphology and its relation to syntax. In sorting out the various senses in which the word word is used, it asserts that three concepts which have often been identified with each other are in fact distinct and not coextensive: listemes (linguistic objects permanently stored by the speaker); morphological objects (objects whose shape can be characterized in morphological terms of affixation and compounding); and syntactic atoms (objects that are unanalyzable units with respect to syntax). The first chapter defends the idea that listemes are distinct from the other two notions, and that all one can and should say about them is that they exist. A theory of morphological objects is developed in chapter two. Chapter three defends the claim that the morphological objects are a proper subset of the syntactic atoms, presenting the authors' reconstruction of the important and much-debated Lexical Integrity Hypothesis. A final chapter shows that there are syntactic atoms which are not morphological objects.

    On The Definition of Word is Linguistic Inquiry Monograph 14.

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  • Introduction To The Theory Of Grammar

    Henk van Riemsdijk and Edwin Williams

    In the last 30 years, linguists have built a considerable and highly sophisticated body of work on generative grammar. Today the field is more active than ever before. Introduction to the Theory of Grammar makes available to teachers and students of syntax a comprehensive critical review of the main results of present day grammatical theory and shows how they were achieved. It presents the central questions, shows how and why they were asked, what the answers were, and how these have led to new questions.

    Part I discusses the way in which the overly rich, descriptive rule systems of the fifties and sixties have gradually been replaced by simpler, more constrained rule systems. Much of the work originally done by stipulations in the rules themselves has been taken over by general, universal principles which govern the form and functioning of these rules and the properties of their inputs and outputs. The establishment of such a theory of principles is the main topic of Part II. Part III addresses the problem of how semantics fits into grammar and elaborates a conception of how the syntactic properties of logical representations can be integrated into the overall theory of grammar. The rules and principles of grammar developed in these parts account for grammatical phenomena in an essentially modular way, and this system of modules, which constitutes the study of grammar today, is established in Part IV. An Epilogue describes such current developments as generalized binding, phrase structure, small clauses, tree geometry and NP-structure.

    Introduction to the Theory of Grammar is twelfth in the series Current Studies in Linguistics.

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  • Foundational Issues in Linguistic Theory

    Foundational Issues in Linguistic Theory

    Essays in Honor of Jean-Roger Vergnaud

    Robert Freidin, Carlos P. Otero, and Maria Luisa Zubizarreta

    Essays by leading theoretical linguists—including Noam Chomsky, B. Elan Dresher, Richard Kayne, Howard Lasnik, Morris Halle, Norbert Hornstein, Henk van Riemsdijk, and Edwin Williams—reflect on Jean-Roger Vergnaud's influence in the field and discuss current theoretical issues

    Jean-Roger Vergnaud's work on the foundational issues in linguistics has proved influential over the past three decades. At MIT in 1974, Vergnaud (now holder of the Andrew W. Mellon Professorship in Humanities at the University of Southern California) made a proposal in his Ph.D. thesis that has since become, in somewhat modified form, the standard analysis for the derivation of relative clauses. Vergnaud later integrated the proposal within a broader theory of movement and abstract case. These topics have remained central to theoretical linguistics. In this volume, essays by leading theoretical linguists attest to the importance of Jean-Roger Vergnaud's contributions to linguistics. The essays first discuss issues in syntax, documenting important breakthroughs in the development of the principles and parameters framework and including a famous letter (unpublished until recently) from Vergnaud to Noam Chomsky and Howard Lasnik commenting on the first draft of their 1977 paper “Filters and Controls.” Vergnaud's writings on phonology (which, the editors write, “take a definite syntactic turn”) have also been influential, and the volume concludes with two contributions to that field. The essays, rewarding from both theoretical and empirical perspectives, not only offer insight into Vergnaud's impact on the field but also describe current work on the issues he introduced into the scholarly debate.

    Contributors Joseph Aoun, Elabbas Benmamoun, Cedric Boeckx, Noam Chomsky, B. Elan Dresher, Robert Freidin, Morris Halle, Norbert Hornstein, Richard S. Kayne, Samuel Jay Keyser, Howard Lasnik, Yen-hui Audrey Li, M. Rita Manzini, Karine Megerdoomian, David Michaels, Henk van Riemsdijk, Alain Rouveret, Leonardo M. Savoia, Jean-Roger Vergnaud, Edwin Williams

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