Linguistics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional linguists and others with an interest in linguistic research and theory. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Practicing immediate constituent analysis using a "toy" context-free phrase structure grammar of English is a great way to introduce undergraduate students to syntactic analysis. In the context of a course in English syntax, the following sentence came up as controversial, with different plausible parses considered. Do community members have a consensus parse for this sentence?

Mysterious wizards concoct potions cleverly in the early morning if the sun rises.

share|improve this question
The only ambiguity I can see is the scope of "cleverly". I.e. does it scope over the prepositional phrase or not? – acattle Oct 8 '12 at 13:44
The scope of the conditional is also ambiguous. – musicallinguist Oct 8 '12 at 14:52
Either way, this sentence does not look very natural to me, at least not in prose... – Cerberus Oct 8 '12 at 16:20
Is the nonsensical "if" instead of "when" there on purpose? – Eugene Seidel Mar 7 '13 at 17:49

The sentence could have a few different possible parses, though not all of them will be obvious. If you plug the sentence into the LinGO English Resource Grammar (ERG), which is an HPSG-based automatic parser, you can see the possible parses. The first one is probably the most obvious one.

share|improve this answer
Would it be possible t provide these options in the answer? There are only four, but it might be a little difficult. – Danger Fourpence Apr 6 '13 at 20:31

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.