I want to start by saying that I am pretty new to syntax (and linguistics in general for that matter) but I've been trying to wrap my head around x-bar theory and generative grammar in the last weeks. Also, English is not my first language, so I apologize for any mistakes I might make.

Recently, I've come across the concept of split infinitives and, as I always do, tried to build a syntax tree to improve my understanding of the subject. Since I had already learnt about complementizer phrases and so on, I figured I'd give it a try:

"I want to really immerse myself in the performance."

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I know that the feature marks should be surrounded by square brackets, but sadly this software doesn't allow me to do that. My decision to write out some branches while not doing so for others is also a bit arbitrary.

Anyway, any feedback on wheter or not this syntax tree is "correct", at least as far as generative grammar goes, would be greatly appreciated! I am aware that x-bar theory isn't the most recent theory anymore but I still hope that I can pick up some useful insights by studying it a bit.

  • 2
    You are right about x-bar! Trees in ordinary descriptive grammar are much easier to draw and to understand. Incidentally the term 'split infinitive' is misleading, since English doesn't have an infinitival form of the verb in the way that, say, French does. "To go", for example, is not a verb; it's two words, the subordinator "to" and the verb "go", so the phrase "to boldly go" is not a split infinitive.
    – BillJ
    Sep 3, 2023 at 11:57
  • Yes, and my answer below builds on what you say. "To" is a separate item, that's the solution.
    – Alazon
    Sep 3, 2023 at 12:29

1 Answer 1


The word "to" is seen as occupying the INFL / T° slot. The adverb is an adjunct somewhere to the left of the V. This derives the order you see. (It's actually very easy isn't it.)

(Of course, "to" is not literally a "tense". But the point of TP is to encode finiteness, and the infinitive is simply the feature "minus finite". It's pure convention to call the head "T". In other models, you can also split INFL into several heads and pick one that you find suitable for expressing nonfiniteness.)

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