How can I provide evidence supporting the hypothesis, that is, prove by means of constituency tests that my hypothesis is correct?

The sentences: (1) Jeff lost the watch with the big numbers (2) Jeff left the watch with the old lady (3) N V D N P D A N

The hypothesis: 1) both VPs have different constituent structure, that is, in (1) the VP is formed by the V plus a single constituent (NP), whereas in (2) the VP is formed by the V plus two constituents

2) both VPs have a different structure because whereas [the watch with the big numbers] is a constituent, the sequence [the watch with the old lady] is not

And the rest of the task:

Try to use as many constituency tests as you can. Please note that your answer should include contrasting grammatical and ungrammatical examples which reveal the syntactic differences or similarities (depending on your hypothesis) between (1) and (2). Also, explain how the constituency tests you have used work and what is shown by each grammatical or ungrammatical example you have used as part of your evidence.

I would appreciate if you could explain that. Thank you in advance

  • 3
    You need to give some details as to the theory that you're using: tree structures are very theory-specific.
    – user6726
    Mar 30, 2020 at 20:14
  • Consider the possible passives that could be derived. *"The watch with the old lady was left by Jeff."
    – Greg Lee
    Mar 31, 2020 at 21:19

1 Answer 1


I am guessing that the question is a homework assignment and that in providing an answer, I am doing the homework problem for the student. My hope in this area is that the student will use the dependency grammar (DG) trees I produce below to illustrate the constituent structure of the sentences at hand and pass these trees on to the instructor. In this manner, some may benefit in the form of greater awareness of the potential of DG to produce insightful analyses of constituent structure.

The answer to the question is evident in the following two data sets:

enter image description here

The four tests for constituents (clefting, pseudoclefting, answer fragments, and topicalization) agree that the watch with big numbers is a constituent in the first sentence and that the watch with the old lady is NOT a constituent in the second sentence.

The next two DG trees capture the key differences in the constituent structures of the two sentences.

enter image description here

The PP with big numbers is a dependent of the preceding noun watch in the first sentece, whereas with the old lady is a dependent of the preceding verb left in the second sentence.

A final comment concerns the coordination test for constituents. Coordination is the most widely employed test for constituents. It's value as a test for constituents is suspect, though, since it tends to identify far too many constituents. Observe in this regard that it contradicts the results in examples (2a-d) above, since it can suggest that the watch with the old lady is a constituent, e.g. Jeff left [the watch with the old lady] and [the necklace with the child]. Coordination is unique in this regard, for most of the other tests for constituents agree with the data above in (2a-d).

  • You answer would benefit from some discussion of semantics, since the starred sequences of words are not ungeneratable, they simply have an unintended interpretation.
    – user6726
    Apr 1, 2020 at 0:14

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