Could someone please tell me what's the dep. tree of "John seemed to fall asleep"? The problem is I don't know if "John" depends on "seem" or "fall".

  • Fall. It's raised to subject position; seem takes a sentential complement with either A-Raising or Extraposition obligatory. Of course, that's not a proper dependency description. Mar 22, 2015 at 21:04
  • @johnlawlerinexile Thanks. So the fact that "John" agrees with "seem" (as in "John seems...") is irrelevant for dependencies, right?
    – user8145
    Mar 22, 2015 at 21:16
  • That depends on what you mean by "dependencies". There are a lot of ways to approach it. I was just saying how I'd describe it, which is not in a dependency tree. Mar 22, 2015 at 21:37

2 Answers 2


In surface syntax it's "John - seemed". In deep syntax it depends on the theory. "John" would depend on "fall" but sometimes there are two heads and one would say that the subject of "seem" is athematic, i.e., it has no thematic role. XDG does it this way, for example.


Many modern DGs would give the sentence the following structure in surface syntax:

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While seem is indeed a raising verb, that does not change the fact that the subject is generally positioned as an immediate dependent of the finite verb in many modern DGs. The position of John immediately in front of the seemed and the fact that John agrees with seemed (compare: *They seems...) are strong indicators that John is an immediate dependent of seemed.

If one chooses a DG approach that acknowledges both deep and surface syntax, then one could view John as a dependent of fall below the surface (i.e. in deep syntax).

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