This book investigates in detail the grammar of certain polysynthetic languages--those with very complex verbal morphology. Baker argues that one type of polysynthesis is more than an accidental collection of morphological processes; rather, it is a systematic way of representing predicate-argument relationships that is parallel to but distinct from the system used in languages like English.
Precisely expressed and embedded in a suitable theory of Universal Grammar, this idea has important repercussions for many areas of syntax and related aspects of morphology and semantics. This argument results in a comprehensive picture of the grammar of polysynthetic languages that does justice to the paradoxical fact that their syntactic structures are very different from Indo-European languages, while their syntactic principles are almost identical. Baker illustrates the theory with extensive examples from Mohawk and certain languages of the American Southwest, Mesoamerica, Australia, and Siberia to show the generality of his proposals. He closes by discussing the nature of syntactic diversity, how it might have originated, and what it might mean.