Phrasal Categories: (syntactic labels): NP, VP, PP, Adj, Adv, Det, Linear order and internal hierarchical structure. Just as morphemes have morpheme categories, and words have word categories, phrases have phrasal categories.• Phrasal categories, just like word categories, are ultimately much more useful than just individual phrases, for the study of sentence structure. A phrasal category is directly determined by the category of the word which the phrase is about. Such a word is called the head of the phrase.
How to determine a phrasal category:
The concept of a “head”
• The head of a phrase is the main word of that phrase. It is essentially what the entire phrase is about.
• The category of a phrase is directly determined from the category of its head.
To see how this works, consider the following example sentence, with the phrases marked out in brackets:
(1) [The tiny woman] [went [to [the store ] ] ]
Sentence (S) = The tiny woman went to the store
Phrase 1 = the tiny woman
Phrase 2 = went to the store
Phrase 3 = to the store
Phrase 4 = the store
What is the head of Phrase 1?
In other words, what is Phrase 1 mainly about? What does it refer to in the real world?
It is essentially talking about a woman. The other words the and tiny give us more information about the woman but this is extra information. The main word in the phrase is woman.
So, the head of Phrase 1 is woman.
Determining the phrase category
What is the category of woman? It is a noun.
• The category of the phrase is determined by the word category of its head.
• The word category of the head is: Noun.
• Therefore, the phrasal category of Phrase 1 is: Noun Phrase (NP, for short).
Similarly, in Phrase 2, the head is: went because this is the main information.
That the woman went to the store (and not somewhere else) is extra information. So, the head of Phrase 2 is: went. The word- category of went is verb. So, Phrase 2 is a Verb Phrase (VP).
In Phrase 3, the head is: to. Even if it doesn’t seem so obvious, the phrase is actually talking about the woman going to a place, so the head of this phrase is to. The category of to is preposition. So,Phrase 3 is a Prepositional Phrase (PP).