I am working through "Contemporary Linguistics" on my own. It's been going pretty well, but I have a question about building syntax trees.

I understand the tree here for "The dog might bite that man" fairly well. Now, I would like to add "tomorrow" to the end of the sentence. I've looked through the book, and the only similar example I can find is using "never", which comes in front of the verb.

Is this there a Move happening here?

Tomorrow the dog might bite that man.

This is correct grammar, but I don't see anything to attach tomorrow to on the left side of the sentence.

*The dog might tomorrow bite that man.

This is not correct grammar, and I believe that means tomorrow could not have moved from there?

I don't quite know if "The dog tomorrow might bite that man" is correct grammar, but it seems much less ungrammatical than *"tomorrow bite". Could the adverb attach to the I?

How can I build this tree?

A syntax tree for "The dog might bite the man."

  • "tomorrow" is an adjunct. By the way, are you aware of this website? bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/linguistics6e/…
    – Alex B.
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 18:26
  • 1
    See also this freshman grammar problem, where the simplest answer has to do with identifying constituents (never mind the labels; labels get changed regularly).
    – jlawler
    Commented Jan 15, 2013 at 20:02
  • This question appears to be off-topic because it is about help with particular syntax trees. Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 10:20

1 Answer 1


Tomorrow simply becomes a part of a Verbal Phrase (VP):

update 2

. I: might
. VP
. . VP
. . . V: bite
. . . NP
. . . . DET: that
. . . . N: man
. . PP
. . . Adv: tomorrow

Also, note that there are two possible formal representations:

  1. bite tomorrow, as pictured above;
  2. might tomorrow, when tomorrow becomes a part of epistemic modality verb phrase (I' in your diagram);

I guess the clash may be caused by mixing language-specific and language-agnostic semantic graphs.
The former are often vulnerable to artifacts that prevent displaying them into a nice tree-style structure. Maybe the simplest example would be separable prefixes in German language:

Ich fange mit der Arbeit an ("I begin with studying")

Here, VP is mit der Arbeit, but the V itself splits into two words around its VP, which can't be represented with a nice tree. In a language-agnostic semantic graph, there is no such problem.

  • I'm not quite sure how to read your "tomorrow" N-NP-PP?
    – Alex B.
    Commented Jan 16, 2013 at 1:38
  • that HPSG parser might not give the same kind of trees as the transformationalist textbook the OP is working with.
    – user483
    Commented Jan 16, 2013 at 4:00
  • Why is "tomorrow" Adj?
    – Alex B.
    Commented Jan 16, 2013 at 16:29
  • Thanks bytebuster. I've tried to recreate the tree you made. Does this look right? i.imgur.com/CUmed.jpg If that looks good I will accept this. If I changed this to "might bite tomorrow" would the NP just drop out, keeping the two VPs? Thanks!
    – arsenius
    Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 10:23
  • @arsenius Yes, if it matches the required notation (which I'm not familiar with, otherwise my answer worked from the first try). Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 12:07

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