Syntactic Gradience: The Nature of Grammatical Indeterminacy

Author Bas Aarts. Edition First. Publisher Oxford University Press. Pages 280. Price £65.00. ISBN 9780199219261.

May 22, 2008

Last year, the journal Studies in Language featured an animated, and animating, exchange between Bas Aarts and the American linguist William Croft. Croft criticised Aarts's attempt to explain away apparent fuzziness between syntactic categories. Then and now, Aarts defends the essentially Aristotelian idea that categories have sharp boundaries, and the structuralist/Chomskyan method of assigning words or constructions to categories, namely distributional criteria and "weighing up the evidence" if the criteria point in different directions.

The book is well written and impressive in its coverage of literature and present-day English data. Deciding on the winner of Aristotle/Aarts vs Croft should be a great exercise for students and professional linguists alike.

Who is it for? Grammar students who really like to stretch their brains.

Presentation - Excellent diagrams; the author index shows that OUP can get it right.

Would you recommend it? Yes, but read Croft as well to get the complete intellectual workout.

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