John Frederick Bailyn: The Syntax of Russian



Rich case morphology and word order flexibility are two interrelated properties of Russian that have long intrigued syntacticians from various schools and traditions. In The syntax of Russian, Bailyn dismisses anything that could potentially be qualified as "optional" or "non-configurational" in Russian. In a nutshell, he claims that: (i) Russian has the same major constituents as English, including verb phrase (VP) and determiner phrase (DP); (ii) case marking is a by-product of syntactic configurations, and it is attributed to a limited number of categories; (iii) basic word order is Subject-Verb-Object (SVO), while other patterns are derived by movement; (iv) discourse-related movement occurs at the level of Functional Form,1 which is “a point of interface between linguistic and non-linguistic [discursive] systems" (320).

As Bailyn notes in the preface, his general goal is to describe the main structural properties of modern Russian. Thus, he targets a large readership, including anyone interested in Russian or in syntax more generally. At the same time he has a narrower goal of highlighting those aspects of Russian that represent a particular interest in current syntactic theory. In my opinion, this book is more successful in achieving its narrower goal. A reader who does not have a background in minimalism, or more generally in generative syntax, may find it difficult to follow, especially parts two and three.




How to Cite

Tsedryk, E. “John Frederick Bailyn: The Syntax of Russian”. Journal of Slavic Linguistics, vol. 21, no. 2, July 2013, pp. 341-57,



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