Understanding Syntax: 5th Edition (Paperback) book cover

Understanding Syntax

5th Edition

By Maggie Tallerman


370 pages | 3 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Paperback: 9780367198404
pub: 2019-12-19
SAVE ~$10.39
Available for pre-order
Hardback: 9780367198411
pub: 2019-12-19
SAVE ~$33.00
Available for pre-order

FREE Standard Shipping!


Assuming no prior grammatical knowledge, Understanding Syntax explains and illustrates the major concepts, categories and terminology involved in the study of cross-linguistic syntax. Taking a theory-neutral and descriptive viewpoint throughout, this book:

  • introduces syntactic typology, syntactic description and the major typological categories found in the languages of the world;
  • clarifies with examples grammatical constructions and relationships between words in a clause, including word classes and their syntactic properties; grammatical relations such as subject and object; case and agreement processes; passives; questions and relative clauses;
  • features in-text and chapter-end exercises to extend the reader’s knowledge of syntactic concepts and argumentation, drawing on data from over 100 languages;
  • highlights the principles involved in writing a brief syntactic sketch of language.

This fifth edition has been revised and updated to include extended exercises in all chapters, updated further readings, and more extensive checklists for students.  Accompanying e-resources have also been updated to include hints for instructors and additional links to further reading.

Understanding Syntax is an essential textbook for students studying the description of language, cross-linguistic syntax, language typology, and linguistic fieldwork.


"Understanding Syntax is an essential resource for any student of syntax. Written in a lively, accessible style, Tallerman uses a great range of examples from across the world’s languages to introduce the most important concepts in the study of grammar in a clear and comprehensive way. This is one of my favourite textbooks – I can’t recommend it highly enough."

Diane Nelson, University of Leeds, UK

Table of Contents


Note to the instructor

Note to the student

List of abbreviations used in examples

List of tables

List of figures

1 What is syntax

2 Words belong to different classes

3 Looking inside sentences

4 Heads and their dependents

5 How do we identify constituents?

6 Relationships within the clause

7 Processes that change grammatical relations

8 Wh-constructions: questions and relative clauses

9 Asking questions about syntax

Sources of data used in examples



Language index

Subject index

About the Author

Maggie Tallerman is Emerita Professor at Newcastle University, UK.

About the Series

Understanding Language

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / Syntax