In looking for a good introductory textbook on Generative Syntax, I came across this StackExchange comment, which mentions, among others, Radford's "Transformational Grammar, A First Course". I perused Radford's bibliography and found out he has written several textbooks on Generative Syntax, all of which have received good reviews. However, it is unclear to me what the differences are between his various books? Does anyone here know? I'm interested in the titles:

  • Analysing English Sentences, 2nd ed. (2016)
  • An Introduction to English Sentence Structure (2009)
  • Minimalist Syntax: Exploring the Structure of English (2004)
  • English Syntax: An Introduction (2004)
  • Syntax: A Minimalist Introduction (1997)
  • Syntactic Theory and the Structure of English: A Minimalist Approach (1997)
  • Transformational Grammar: A First Course (1988)

It goes without saying that a book that was written in 2016 contains more up-to-date information and perspective than one that was written in 1988. However, it would be naive to say, based solely on the date of publication, that the most recent book is superior to the others.

Ideally, someone here who is familiar with these textbooks will be able to:

  1. Separate the titles into groups each of which comprises essentially different editions of the same book, even if they are not explicitly marked as such.
  2. Indicate the differences between the various groups of books established in step 1.
  3. Indicate, with respect to each of these groups of books, if it is indeed the case that the most recent one is also the best one in terms of clarity, pedagogy, content, structure, and any other criterion that may seem important.
  4. Optionally: Indicate other books, not written by Radford, that are roughly equivalent in terms of content, but give Radford's a good fight.

I should mention that all these textbooks are quite expensive even second hand (an electronic version is out of the question for me). This is why these questions are so important to me. I will only be able to afford to buy a single textbook.

  • 2
    These references can be classified into: (i) books about THEORY; and (ii) books about APPLICATION OF THIS THEORY TO ENGLISH. Now, if you're interested in learning about generative theory, you'll have to determine which framework exactly. If you want to study 'government & binding', read 1988 (its both about theory & application). If you want to study 'early minimalism', then read 1997 (there're two books, one about theory and other about application to Eng). 2004's books present a development within minimalism called Phase Theory. 2009 is another application (advanced) to Eng.
    – Tsutsu
    May 28, 2020 at 9:40
  • 1
    Lastly, 2016 combines both THEORY & APPLICATION. Here, the last version of Phase Theory is applied.
    – Tsutsu
    May 28, 2020 at 9:41
  • @Tsutsu: Thanks! From your comments it appears that if I'm interested in both theory and application, then the best combination would be 1988 for government & binding theory together with 2016 for the latest iteration of minimalism theory. Would you agree?
    – Evan Aad
    May 28, 2020 at 9:46
  • 1
    If you're studying GB, then I'd recommend focusing only on GB. You can't apply both theories at the same time. They have different technologies.
    – Tsutsu
    May 28, 2020 at 10:12
  • @Tsutsu: OK. Thanks.
    – Evan Aad
    May 28, 2020 at 10:14


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