Please help me understand these syntax trees (French and English). For context we are learning about the representation of movement in syntax trees. From my understanding, we'd have to use an X' under the first SV and then continue from there? So it is not possible to have SV then SV again? Another understanding I have is that we can have another node but of a different type?

Are the first two valid? Is the third one valid? Are they all incorrect?

ST = Tense Phrase, SN = Noun Phrase, T = Tense, SV = Verb Phrase, SAdv = Adverb Phrase

Phrase 1 : Ada visite toujours les musées.

Phrase 2 : Ada always visits museums.

the SV here dominating the SV same here, SV dominating SV

What I would propose: enter image description here

  • You are using the word phrase in French. Why? Basically those two sentences have parallel structures, except one pre-positions the adverb and the other post-positions it. So what is the point? Your diagram below repeats "Ada visite". Repetition in a generative grammar tree is not standard practice at all...
    – Lambie
    Feb 26, 2023 at 22:17

2 Answers 2


While I don't speak French, most styles of generative syntax (the sort you seem to be doing here) do allow for this sort of "repetition". When you attach a complement to a node (using the "Merge" operation if you like those names), the category generally changes (X to X' to SX). When you attach an adjunct to a node (using the "Adjoin" operation), though, the category doesn't change: the result has the same category as your original node.

a tree showing an adjunct not changing the category of a node

Adverbs are pretty much always adjuncts, so when they attach to a node, they don't change its label. This is important for functional reasons: a SV with an adverb attached acts nigh-identically to an SV without an adverb. If we wanted to call it an "SAdv" once the adverb was attached, we'd need to modify all our rules to apply to both SV and SAdv interchangeably. Easier just to give them the same label to begin with.

  • 1
    If you're wondering why I need to hedge so much, it's because of how many different variations on this theory are out there. Many of them allow multiple X' levels, for attaching several complements, but some don't. Some have Merge and Adjoin while others treat them as the same operation. And so on.
    – Draconis
    Feb 26, 2023 at 17:28
  • I agree with that diagram except for placement of the adverbs which differ in the two languages; in fact, that is the only structural difference.
    – Lambie
    Feb 26, 2023 at 22:10
  • @Draconis Thank you!!
    – miaoup
    Feb 27, 2023 at 9:51

If you really want a new node type, you would need to let toujours select the SV. Toujours les musées is uninterpretable, because toujours requires an event to be repeated, and les musées does not denote an event. So there are two issues with the third diagram: the position of toujours (too low), and the SAdv projection (see Draconis's answer).

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