THE PARTS OF SYNTAX Dont worry, its just a phrase ELL113 Week 4
Heads and phrases Now that we have the tools to identify where different categories of words appear, we can start to represent them structurally. Each word is the head of a phrase, and because phrases are based on their heads, they come in the same categories that words do! Each head will have certain selectional properties that determine the characteristics of the phrase. 2 In the previous two weeks, students learned how to define categories like nouns, adjectives, determiners, and verbs based on their distribution in the sentence. Selection is the notion of immediate locality or sisterhood in syntax and morphology. Selection helps explain to students why syntactic trees are binary.
Heads and phrases Noun phrase (NP): happy boy The type of noun determines what kind of adjectives it can be modified by (*happy table). Determiner phrase (DP): the boy Different determiners select different types of nouns (the sand, *a sand) Prepositional phrase (PP): on the table 3
Heads and phrases Verb phrase (VP): quickly eat a cake Different verbs require different numbers of arguments swim is a verb that takes one argument (swimmer) eat takes two arguments (eater and eatee). give is a verb that takes three arguments (giver, givee, and the thing being given) Different verbs can be modified by different types of adverbs (*quickly have a car) 4
Heads and phrases Tense phrase (TP): will eat a cake. Communicates the temporal setting of the event. 5
Heads and phrases In English, phrases are head-initial, meaning that the head (underlined) comes before the material it selects, called the complement (italicized) VP: see the boy with the headband DP: The boy with the headband NP: boy with the headband PP: with the headband 6
Introducing Constituency Phrases are chunky. Some sequences can be repeated over and over again I saw the book I saw the book [on the chair] I saw the book [on the chair] [in the library] I saw the book [on the chair] [in the library] [on the hill] What sequence is repeating? Preposition Determiner Noun (PDN) 7 Many syntax textbooks introduce tree drawing through phrase structure rules. S NP (aux) VP NP Det (Adj) N VP V (NP) (PP)
Introducing Constituency Its not possible to repeat just PD or DN *I saw the book [the chair] *I saw the book [on the chair] [in the] Why can only certain structures repeat? Just as morphemes combine hierarchically to form words, words combine hierarchically to form constituents. A constituent is a string of words that speakers can manipulate as a single unit. 8
Constituency tests In order to find constituents, syntacticians use constituency tests. If a string of words is a constituent, then we will treat it as if it is one unit in our hierarchical structure of the sentence 9
Constituency tests You will notice that many of our constituency tests identify individual phrases as units Sometimes, a phrase IS a constituent Sometimes, constituents consist of more than one phrase How many phrases can you identify in on the chair? 10
Test 1: Substitution Substitution involves replacing an entire string of words with a single word that keeps the meaning of the sentence the same. This girl in the red coat will put a picture of Bill on the desk she 11
Test 1: Substitution The girl in the red coat she What type of phrase is the pronoun she substituting for? Hint: What word is the head of the phrase? The head determines the type of phrase. 12
Test 1: Substitution a picture of Bill This girl in the red coat will put on the desk it girl in the red coat This will put a picture of Bill on the desk one What types of phrases do it substitution and one substitution identify? 13
Test 1: Substitution Replacement with a pronoun (he, she, it) tells you that the string you are a replacing is a DP constituent Replacement with one tells you that the string you are replacing is an NP constituent Make sure that when you go to use this test, you are thinking of the noun version of one, which can be pluralized (I want the red ones), rather than the numeral one, which cant (*I have ones dog) 14 Students are often very confused about how to classify a proper name. Susan ate cake She ate cake DP substitution Names must be DPs, but students often want them to be nouns (person, place, or thing) This is where the distributional tests are useful: Susan = the girl five Susans = five girls
Test 1: Substitution One replacement can occur with NPs of different sizes! The pretty red coat That pretty red [one] (=coat) That pretty [one] (=red coat) That [one] (=pretty red coat) What must the structure of pretty red coat be? 15 This discussion sets students up to learn about the idea of adjuncts, which occurs in the following week.
Test 1: Substitution Because adjectives modify nouns, they appear inside the NP, at the very edge. This is part of why you can have as many adjectives as you wantthey modify the noun instead of being selected by it directly. How do we know they arent selected? They arent necessary. This is also why they occur before the noun, even though English is head initial. 16
Test 1: Substitution 17 Redacted: Substitution tests for PP (there) and VP (do so), followed by a second time of constituency test (deletion). In the second year Syntax course (ELL 221), students learn several more constituency tests, some of which let them identify types of phrases that arent discussed here.
Constituency tests: The take home message The logic behind constituency tests is that any time a string of words can behave as if it is a single unit, then it must BE a single unit. 18
Practice This beautiful big blue blanket will cover that couch in the room nicely. 19 This sentence seems incredibly daunting at first, but with the distributional tests from Week 3 and the constituency tests from this lecture, students can actually build every part of the tree except the very top, which they will learn about the following week. Plus, they can explain why the structure is that way.
this beautiful big blue blanket = it = DP beautiful big blue blanket = one = NP big blue blanket = one = NP blue blanket = one = NP blanket = one = NP 14/08/2015 The University of Sheffield 20
Cover that couch in the room nicely= do so = VP Cover that couch in the room = do so = VP that couch in the room = it = DP couch in the room = one = NP couch = one = NP In the room = there = PP 14/08/2015 The University of Sheffield 21
Putting it together In the first year course, the students arent taught the constituency tools to figure out how to represent the subject, Tense and Verb Phrase in a binary way. Instead, we ask them to (temporarily) memorize and use this structure: 14/08/2015 The University of Sheffield 22
Further resources www.allaboutlinguistics.com An Introduction to Syntactic Analysis and Theory Sportiche, Koopman, and Stabler Current text for ELL113 Structure of English (Chapters 2, 3.1-3.5) and ELL221 Syntax (Chapters 3-8) An Introduction to Language (10 th edition) Fromkin, Rodman, and Hyams Chapter 3 is a fairly accessible introduction to syntactic structure. 14/08/2015 The University of Sheffield 23