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Syntax: Making Sense of Phrases, Clauses, and Sentences
Transcript of Syntax: Making Sense of Phrases, Clauses, and Sentences
Syntax is the study of phrases, clauses, and sentences.
Syntax is one of the most understood areas within linguistics. Categories of Words Consider this phrase: the brick house
In the phrase the word "brick" is acting like an adjective because it is describing the house.
However, adjectives can all supposedly be given suffixes that make them comparative or superlative (example - dirty, dirtier, dirtiest).
Can we make the word brickier? or brickiest?
No, we can't. So can we say for sure that the word brick is an adjective? More commonly referred to as "parts of speech"
We categorize words based on their behavior, or how they act in a sentence.
Most school children are taught that there are eight parts of speech in English: noun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, pronoun, and interjection.
Parker and Riley point out that these parts of speech do not necessarily always follow the same rules, and therefore the analysis of language should be focused more on the behavior of words in sentences and less on the part of speech they usually fall under. Left-to-Right Ordering In English, the words must flow in the correct order, from left to right.
Example - We can say "the blue coat" but not "blue the coat".
We have phrase structure (PS) rules to govern how we put words in the correct order from left to right. These PS rules cover the following:
which elements are permitted in a particular type of phrase
the left-to-right ordering of those elements
whether any of the elements are optional The PS rules... simplified If you read this section of the text (pages 50-53), then your brain no doubt hurt quite a bit by the end.
We'll attempt to simplify this. A sentence requires a noun and a verb. Example: The cat runs.
cat = noun
runs = verb
But when we add descriptive words, like adjectives and adverbs, the noun becomes part of a noun phrase and the verb can become part of a verb phrase.
Example: The fat tabby cat runs surprisingly fast. Noun phrase Verb phrase Different types of phrases Adjective phrase - My friend was very angry.
Prepositional phrase - Her purse was on the table.
And these can all be combined to form a very complicated sentence:
My very angry friend left her purse on the table. Noun phrase Verb phrase Constituent Structure This is the hierarchical structure of words in a phrase, clause, or sentence.
Example: The redheaded music student
Even though "redheaded" comes before "music", in the left-to-right structure, we know that it is referring to the student.
(After all, music can't have red hair, can it?) Problems with hierarchical structure Consider an example like this (from the text):
The American history teacher
Is this referring to a teacher who is American and teaches history?
Is this referring to a teacher who teaches American history? CR CR CR CR CR CR CR CR Making Sense of Phrases, Clauses,and Sentences
Cynthia Rousseau Essential Questions How does the structure of words and phrases impact the meaning of a sentence?
What principles govern 'proper grammar' within written and oral communications?
RH Consider this: I can go.
Can I go?
Go I can.
The same three words creating different meanings, or no meaning at all.
RH And one other thing... If adjectives can be comparative and superlative, should we really teach our students that articles are adjectives? theer? theest?
RH Have you ever noticed... That nouns can end in 's' but verb can't?
This principle is due to the categorization of words. The categories are part of the unobservable theory of syntax. Linguistics attempt to categorize words to explain the principles.
All words in human languages can be categorized by their behavior. Linguistics believe that the behavior of words is what make languages different.
RH Teacher Note: Having students read what they write out loud may help them hear what they can't see.
Giving students cards to put in order and read out loud. Have students explain why the sentence does or does not make sense. This is another opportunity for students to develop the left to right order principle.
RH Tree Diagrams By many considered a form of torture, diagramming sentences allows linguists to understand the relationship of the words.
Sentence tree diagrams allow linguists to see a sentences as part of the whole. In this case we compare a sentence tree to a 'family tree'.
RH The point in the tree diagram shows the structural relationship. This point is called a node.
Node S (sentence) dominates all other nodes. The noun phrase, as well as the verb phrase, are considered daughters of Node S. This is because the noun phrase and the verb phrase are dependent upon the sentence. RH Structural Ambiguity A sentence or clause which could have two different interpretations or meanings depending on which node dominates within the constituent.
American history teacher
"a teacher of American history"
"a history teacher who is American"
NH X-Bar Syntax All phrase types (noun, verb, adjective) have the same internal structure in order to convey the correct meaning
Correct: the redheaded student
Incorrect: student redheaded the NH Transformations A transformation is an operation that moves a lexical or phrasal category from one location to another within a structure.
The correct usage of a direct object has direct correlation to sentence meaning in transformations.
Tiny Abner concealed the document. D.O. = document
Has Tiny Abner concealed the document? D.O. = document
What has Tiny Abner concealed? No D.O.
Therefore, declarative and non-wh interrogative sentences require one direct object while
wh-interrogagtive sentences do not require a direct object. NH Exceptions to the Rules.... All the syntax theories constructed by linguists try to help explain syntax and its structure in some type of systematic format. It is important to remember that since these are theories and not laws that there may be exceptions to these rules of syntax. NH Movement Wh-movement is changing the position of the wh word from where it originates to the clause initial position within an interrogative sentence, basically turning
Tiny Abner has concealed what
What has Tiny Abner concealed?
Moving the position of the wh word. NH More Movement... Inflection movement describes moving the tensed verb to the left of the subject phrase. The tensed verb is always the first verb.
Tiny Abner has concealed what
What has Tiny Abner concealed?
Verb precedes subject phrase when inflection movement has occurred. NH Recursion Recursion is the ability to repeat two types of phrases by embedding them in each other such as a noun phrase and prepositional phrase repeating because they become part of each other. Recursion allows phrases to become infinitely long when speaking English.
Example from text:
the cat in the hat on the table by the chair in the corner of the kitchen in the house...... NH Specifiers, Adjuncts, and Complements Noun phrases have three types of modifiers within them; specifiers, adjuncts, and complements. Adjuncts Adjuncts occur far from the head noun in a noun phrase. They can precede or follow the noun.
Examples of adjuncts:
the redheaded music student
the student of music with red hair Complements Complements are always closest to the head noun in a noun clause and can come before or after the noun.
Examples of complements:
the redheaded music student
the student of music with red hair Specifiers Specifiers occur farthest from the head noun and can only come before the noun in a noun phrase, never after it.
Examples include "a", "an", "the"
Sample sentence with a specifier
the redheaded music student NH NH NH NH NP - Movement This theory by Chomsky claims that nouns phrases may move into any empty noun phrase position within a sentence. CR What is "Movement" all about? Linguists seek to understand language. They use theories about the structure of language to explain how it works.
Sometimes, we switch around the order of words in a sentence.
Consider these examples:
A - Paul closed the door.
B - What did Paul close? Movement (continued) Paul closed the door. Subject (noun) Verb Direct Object What did Paul close? Direct Object Verb Subject (noun) What do we take away from this? It doesn't matter that "door" and "what" aren't the same words. We're talking about STRUCTURE of language.
In those examples, the direct object was able to move from one part of the sentence to another. Yet the same essential structure remains in place.
Linguists want to study how different types of words or phrases can be moved around in a sentence and yet still retain the same essential function.
Movement theory helps linguists study and explain this phenomenon. CR CR CR CR CR