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I'm a first-semester student in linguistics and I need clarifications regarding the following trees:

(1) (NP (N' (det the) (N car))) and (2) DP (D' (D the) (NP ∆ car)))

My course notes seem to stick with the first kind of notation but when I read about X-bar, I find both being used in different books.

I would appreciate some clarification of the different notations - or if they're indeed really the same.

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1  
Hello sanlike and welcome to Linguistics. I took the liberty of actually making the trees. If you needed the text notations, you can click on "edited ... ago" and roll back. By the way, the notations you added had a bad brackets count (both 4 opening brackets and 3 closing brackets). –  Alenanno Feb 5 '13 at 22:22
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2 Answers

In traditional Principles and Parameters Framework 1, noun phrases (NP) are considered the topmost lexical head.

This approach had some disadvantages regarding determiners and how they work with, for example, inflections. Compare:

[NP [N' [det the] [N car]]]  
[NP [Spec [N' [det the] [N car's]]] [N' engine]]

Here, the determiner the is treated as a part of a genitive phrase the car's.

Abney 2 suggested an idea that the NP is headed with a determiner (D) to solve the problem with determiners.

So these notations simply reflect two different frameworks.

1 Chomsky, Noam. (1995). The Minimalist Program.
2 Abney, Steven. (1996) A Grammar of Projections.

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Two very similar frameworks, both developed by Chomsky at different times. There are plenty of others, too. Generally everybody will recognize NP, but using DP makes a specific doctrinal claim and marks one as belonging to a particular orthodox sect. –  jlawler Feb 5 '13 at 23:25
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Abney made the DP proposal in his doctoral dissertation in 1987. –  Alex B. Feb 6 '13 at 1:22
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These are two different representations that depend on your assumption. Some linguists believe that noun and determine make Noun phrase, while others believe that noun and det constitute a determin.phrase. Second group assume that in such languages as English determines are overtly presented while in such languages as Russian they are covert or null. It is a rough explanation. Let's be a little bit more specific.

According to X-bar theory every head must project into phrase. Determine does not seem to be a phrase, thus representation in (1) causes a trouble. That's why many linguists reject the representation in (1), where the det is a specifier of an NP. On these grounds the representation in (2) is theoretically more acceptable. It was firstly proposed by Abney (1987).

Now, let's look into some empirical evidence toward 2. Here are two genitive phrases:

  1. Helen's book
  2. The girl with a telescope's book

In the first look it look like genitive suffix attaches to the noun head, however the second example clearly shows that it is not the case. That genitive suffix is actually attached to something bigger. It attaches to the whole phrase and it is actually a determiner:

[DP Helen [D' 's [NP book]]]

It is also impossible to say Helen's the book.

In introduction courses many instructors prefer to use the first representation in order to keep things simpler.

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It doesn't follow that adopting the DP-hypothesis for English entails that the DP-hypothesis be adopted for languages without definite articles, such as Slavic. In fact, a very prominent recent hypothesis (first proposed in Boskovic, 2005, i think: web.uconn.edu/boskovic/papers/leftbranch.pdf), is that languages with definite articles have DPs, whereas languages without, like Russian, have NPs. This is meant to correlate with certain other properties, such as the possibility of Left Branch Extraction - Russian allows LBE, whereas English doesn't. –  P Elliott Dec 11 '13 at 14:25
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