1. Levels of Analysis
1.1 Linguistic units. Constituents
Syntax has traditionally taken the sentence as the starting point. Smaller units are regarded as building blocks of sentence structure.
The parts into which a sentence can b e segmented are called the constituents of the sentence. The term immediate constituents (ICs) refers to those constituents which together form a higher-order constituent, for example in'John took a walk'
"a" and "walk" are the ICs of "a walk" and "took" and "a walk" are the ICs of "took a walk"...
The whole sentence is not considered a constituent of anything, since the sentence is largest unit of syntactic description.
1.2 Phrases, words and morphemes
Constituents can also be considered not as building blocks of sentence structure but as independent linguistic objects with their own characteristics and internal structure. From this point of view, they are called phrases. Just like constituents, phrases may consist of single words ('John') or several ('a walk').
Phrases can be lengthened by adding more words: in doing so, the phrase's internal structure is modified, but not the overall sentence structure: "a long walk".
We can distinguish several types of phrases according to the class to which the head (the most dominant constituent) of the phrase belongs. We distinguish at least the following:
- noun phrase: 'a walk', 'a walk in the sun'
- verb phrase: 'took a walk', 'could have been fun'
- adjective phrase: 'fairly interesting', 'too good to marry'
- adverb phrase: 'admittedly', 'very well'
- prepositional phrase: 'in the morning sun', 'in Spain'
Phrases are made up of words, and a minimal phrase consists of one single word. In the same way as before, we can look upon words as constituents of a phrase, but also as independent linguistic objects.1.3 Rankscale and rankshift
We have already set up a hierarchy of units of linguistic description: morphemes function as constituents of words, words as constituents of phrases, phrases of sentences. This hierarchy has been called the rankscale:
However, units are not always composed of units of the next lowest rank. Quite frequently, a unit of a given rank functions as a constituent of a unit of the same rank or even a unit which is one step lower down the rankscal e. This phenomenon is called rankshift. Thus,
- clauses can function as constituents of other clauses:
- clauses can function as constituents of phrases
- phrases can function as constituents of other phrases
- words in the structure of other words:
1.4 Functions and categories
So we have seen that every linguistic unit (except the sentence, ...) can be considered as an element that plays a role within a larger structure, or as something with its own characteristics and internal structure. From the first point of view, we are concerned with its function. From the second, we are concerned with its category or class.
Ex. 'John took a walk'
The units "John" and "walk", individually considered are nouns, and therefore belong to the same category or class. But we can also look at "John" and "a walk" as constituents of a larger structure (the sentence) and then their functions are different: "John" is the subject and "a walk" is the direct object.
So there is not a one-to-one correspondence between functions and categories.
Ex.: the same noun phrase can realize 4 different functions:
- He leaves next week. (adverbial)
- Next week is the time to do it. (subject)
- Let's call next week 'period A' .( direct object)
- Suppose we give next week priority .(indirect object)
- 'He understood the problem' (noun phrase)
- 'He understood what I was talking about' (clause )
- Functional or relational analysis
- Phrase structure or categorial analysis
Direct Object (DO): a single complement immediately following a verb if it can become the subject in a passive sentence. E.g.:
- 'She read the grammar book''
- Our neighbours are looking after the children'
If the verb is followed by two complements both of which can become the subject of a passive sentence, then the first complement is the indirect object and the second the DO.
Indirect Object (IO): associated with the first two complements hat can be the subject of the passive sentence. The first is the IO. E.g.:
- 'She gave me the money'
- 'He teaches us grammar'
- 'The firm offered him the job'
- 'She showed me her room'
- 'They gave me the money'
- 'They fined me $20'
- 'You can spare yourself the trouble'
- 'The shop charged me 10$ for this'
Benefactive Subject (BO): It resembles the IO (same position in the sentence). It can also be replaced by a prepositional phrase, but usually with the preposition for not to.
- 'Her father bought her a car'
- 'Fetch me the paper, will you?'
- 'He made himself a cup of tea.'
- 'She played me a few songs.'
- 'He wrote me a letter.'
* I was written a letter
Subject Complement (SC): it complements the verb, but is related to the subject of the sentence, i.e., sth. that is said about the subject. E.g.:
- 'She is a happy girl'
- 'She became a good friend of mine'
- 'He got very depressed'
- 'He died a poor man'
- 'I feel relaxed'
- 'She called me a psycho'
- 'I consider it unnecessary'
- 'I find it inappropriate'
Predicator Complement (PC): strictly speaking, all of the above are PCs (as they all complement the verb). This category is a miscellaneous type of complement that does not fit well in any of the types above. the simplest case is a DO that cannot become the sub ject of the passive sentence. E.g.
'This car costs £16,000'
'He resembles his father'
'It took me two hours to prepare dinner'
Phrases consist minimally of a Head. This means that in a one-word phrase like [children], the Head is children. In longer phrases, a string of elements may appear before the Head:
- [the small children]
A string of elements may also appear after the Head, and we will call this the post-Head string:
pre-Head string Head post-Head string
[the small children in class 5]
So we have a basic three-part structure: pre-Head string,Head,post-Head string
3.1 The Noun Phrase (NP)
As we've seen, a noun phrase has a noun as its Head. Determiners and adjective phrases usually constitute the pre-Head string:
- [NP the children]
- [NP happy children]
- [NP the happy children]
[NP the dog that chased the cat that killed the mouse that ate the cheese that was made from the milk that came from the cow that...]
Fortunately, they are rarely as long as this in real use.
The Head of an NP does not have to be a common or a proper noun, pronouns, too, can function as the Head of an NP:
- [NP I] like coffee
- The waitress gave [NP me] the wrong dessert
- [NP This] is my car
If the Head is a pronoun, the NP will generally consist of the Head only. This is because pronouns do not take determiners or adjectives, so there will be no pre-Head string. However, with some pronouns, there may be a post-Head string:
[NP Those who arrive late] cannot be admitted until the interval
Similarly, numerals, as a subclass of nouns, can be the Head of an NP:
- [NP Two of my guests] have arrived
- [NP The first to arrive] was John
Predeterminers: all, double, half, twice, both, many, such, what
Determiners: articles, demonstrative and possessive pronouns.
Postdeterminers: numbers, many, other, last, few, more, own, etc.
- an adjective phrase: 'very beautiful girls'
- a noun phrase: 'traffic jam', 'speed limit'
- a classifying genitive: 'a dog's life', 'a men's shop'
- a prepositional phrase: 'the city of Rome', 'the edge of the desk', 'the day before yesterday', 'the house opposite yours'
- a relative clause: 'the book that I told you about'
- a non-finite clause: 'the man to talk to', 'the energy to write such a book', 'the men digging a hole', the children injured in the accident'
- adj + N + PP: 'a similar wallpaper to yours'
- adj + N + infinitive clause: 'a difficult theory to explain'
- comp. adj. + N + than + comp. clause: 'a faster car than your Jaguar'
- as + adj + N + as + comp. clause: 'as rich a man as my father'
- so + adj + N + that- clause or as to- clause: 'so dark a cave that we could not see a thing', 'so intense a light as to blind the eyes'
- too + adj + N + inf. clause: 'too heavy a chest to move'
In an ADJECTIVE PHRASE (AP), the Head word is an adjective. Here are some examples:
- Susan is [AP clever]
- The doctor is [AP very late]
- My sister is [AP fond of animals]
- [AP happy to meet you]
- [AP ready to go]
- [AP afraid of the dark]
- My sister is [AP fond of animals]
- *My sister is [fond]
- Adverb phrases: very useful, extremely difficult, far more interesting
- the adverb enough: 'good enough'
- a prepositional phrase: 'afraid of mice', 'full of water', 'good at football', 'qualified for the job'
- that- clause: 'worried that he might fall', 'c ertain that he is married'
- comparative adjectives (-er): 'longer than we had expected'
- non-finite clause: 'afraid to go', 'anxious to leave', 'eager to please', 'dubious what to do next', 'uncertain what to tell her', 'eager for the party to start', 'sorry for her to leave'
- so + adj + that-clause or as-clause: 'so hot that I could not sleep'
- as + adj + as + comp. clause or NP: 'as pretty as her sister', 'as cruel as h e is intelligent'
- more/less + adj + than + than + comp. clause or NP: 'more balanced than his father', 'his proposal is more attractive than the one he made last week'
- too + adj + infinitive clause: 'too good to be true', 'too hot for the children to play in the garden'
In an ADVERB PHRASE, the Head word is an adverb. Most commonly, the pre-Head string is another adverb phrase:
- 'He graduated [AdvP very recently]'
- 'She left [AdvP quite suddenly]
- '[AdvP Unfortunately for him], his wife came home early'
- a (intensifying) adverb phrase: ver y seldom, extremely stupidly, quite soon, fairly often, much more carefully.
- the adverb enough: well enough, bravely enough to deserve a medal
- a finite clause: They work harder than we expected
- so + ADV + that- clause or as to clause:
- as + ADV + as + comp. clause or NP:
'My dog runs as fast as yours'
- more/less + ADV + than + comp clause or NP:
'He reacted less kindly than yesterday'
- too + ADV + inf. clause:
3.4 The Verb Phrase (VP)
The verb phrase consists of verbal forms only, except in the case of multi-word verbs.
The maximum number of verbal form is five.
The principal part of the VP is the lexical (or main) verb. The lexical verb can occur on its own, but it may co-occur with auxiliary verbs in several patterns.
- may write
- may have written
- may have been writing
- may have been being written
PREPOSITIONAL PHRASES usually consist of a preposition and a prepositional complement (the post-head string). Here are some examples:
- [PP through the window]
- [ PP over the bar]
- [PP across the line]
- [PP after midnight]
- [PP straight through the window]
- [PP right over the bar]
- [PP just after midnight]
Consider the NP:
[NP small children]
It consists of a Head 'children' and a pre-Head string 'small'.
Now 'small' is an adjective, so it is the Head of its own adjective phrase.
We know this because it could be expanded to form a longer string:
'very small children'
Here, the adjective Head 'small' has its own pre-Head string 'very':
[AP very small]
So in 'small children', we have an AP 'small' embedded with the NP 'small children'. We represent this as follows:
[NP [AP small] children]
All but the simplest phrases will contain smaller phrases within them. Here's another example:
[PP across the road]
Here, the Head is 'across', and the post-Head string is 'the road'. Now we know that 'the road' is itself an NP -- its Head is 'road', and it has a pre-Head string 'the'. So we have an NP within the PP:
[PP across [NP the road]]
4. Subordination and Coordination
When a given function (S, DO, IO, etc) has as its categorial counterpart not a phrase, but a clause, the resulting sentence is said to be complex, because more than one VP is present. Subordination is a non-symmetrical or hierarchical relation (as a opposed to coordination), holding between two clauses in such a way that one is a constituent part of the other. This hierarchical relation can be graphically shown by means of a tree structure:
The container clause is called the main clause or superordinate clause. This may correspond with the sentence (main/superordinate clause), but it can also be another subordinate clause (subordinate/superordinate clause). This phenomenon is called embedding or nesting. Example:
The subordinate clause must have a function in the sentence or clause structure. Clauses can also be part of phrases (rankshift). In this case it is a simple sentence even though there is more than one verb phrase in the sentence. Subordinate clauses can also be realized by non-finite and verbless clauses.