Questions tagged [syntax]

The study of the internal structure of expressions, especially between words and phrases, and the principles and processes that determine it. This includes words order, but also the grammatical relations that hold between words, as well as structural ambiguity, binding, reference, and similar issues. Common approaches are numerous phrase structure grammars (GPSG, HPSG, LFG, G&B, X-bar, Minimalism, ...) and, on the other hand, dependency grammars.

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What's the difference between syntax and grammar?

From what I've read, both terms have to do with the rules of formation of sentences. I've seen grammar used in mathematical contexts, in computability theory, where it has a precise definition. But ...
a06e's user avatar
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20 votes
7 answers
2k views

What divides semantics from pragmatics?

To my understanding... Semantics is the raw meaning and connotations a word carries on it's own and pragmatics is the context-dependent meaning a word holds. Is this accurate? Can anyone explain it ...
LitheOhm's user avatar
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9 votes
3 answers
14k views

What's the difference between recursion and embedding?

Chains of relative clauses and strings of attributive adjectives are both examples of recursion--Correct? Chains of relative clauses have each non-initial relative clause embedded within the previous ...
James Grossmann's user avatar
18 votes
5 answers
2k views

What empirical evidence can be produced that all syntactic structure is binary branching?

A tenet of the Minimalist Program is that all syntactic structure is binary branching. Merge always merges two constituents to a greater constituent until the greatest constituent, the sentence, is ...
Tim Osborne's user avatar
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11 votes
3 answers
1k views

How can adjective-noun order in French be explained by parameter theory?

I just finished reading The Atoms of Language. The gist is that languages have parameters, one of which will tell you which side of a phrase to add a new word. But in some languages, like French and ...
MatthewMartin's user avatar
10 votes
9 answers
8k views

Textbook suggestions for syntax, semantics/pragmatics and phonetics/phonology

I am coming to linguistics from a completely non-linguistic background; I was a mathematician. Next year I will start taking some serious (Master's level) linguistics courses and I would like to have ...
42 votes
9 answers
13k views

What is word order used for in "free word order" languages?

Consider languages whose case-systems allow the order of arguments to be changed without changing the arguments’ grammatical relations. (Note the 189 languages noted as having “no dominant word-...
James Grossmann's user avatar
31 votes
11 answers
5k views

Articles before the name of a person

In the question “La” or “le” before a person's name? on the French SE site, the asker refers to the phenomenon that in some rural/dialect settings the first name of a person is preceded by the ...
Phira's user avatar
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29 votes
5 answers
20k views

What meaningful distinction is there between morphology and syntax?

While I am not interested in hearing the common distinction made in introductory text-books, I am interested in hearing what meaningful distinction there can be between morphology and syntax. Is there ...
Perry's user avatar
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23 votes
4 answers
4k views

Why do Polish and Belarusian have an atypical greeting if compared to other Slavic languages?

While chatting with a polish penpal, I've discovered that in Polish the expression for "good morning/good day/hello/good afternoon" varies if compared to the other Slavic languages; later I saw that ...
Alenanno's user avatar
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17 votes
4 answers
14k views

What are the chief advantages & disadvantages of describing sentences with dependency vs. phrase structure trees?

What are the chief advantages & disadvantages of describing sentences with dependency vs. phrase structure (aka. constituency) trees? From what I've read, dependency grammar trees lack phrase ...
James Grossmann's user avatar
16 votes
6 answers
6k views

Does Pirahã syntax contradict the principles of Universal Grammar?

The Wikipedia article on Universal Grammar cites the research by Everett (2005) about the Pirahã language: Finally, in the domain of field research, the Pirahã language is claimed to be a ...
Otavio Macedo's user avatar
9 votes
2 answers
484 views

Are there any recent articles on the current state of Case theory?

Specifically I'm interested in the split between Structural Case and Morphological case. Structural Case has been part of Chomskyan syntactic theory since at least Government & Binding (GB). ...
Dan Milway's user avatar
6 votes
2 answers
3k views

How do linguists define the idea of a grammatical subject?

How do linguists define the idea of a grammatical subject? The only place I could find on the Internet about linguists' definition of a grammatical subject was at the SIL glossary, here. (http://www-...
James Grossmann's user avatar
5 votes
5 answers
3k views

Phonological ambiguity that changes the syntactic structure

I'm looking for two sentences that have phonological/phonetic ambiguity (like John's feat, and John's feet), but with different syntactic structures. For example, "John's feat was a big deal" and "...
pauliwago's user avatar
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20 votes
8 answers
4k views

Are there any languages in which verbs are a closed class?

In English, the verb "do" can be a transitive verb whose object stands for an action. So, we English speakers can "do a somersault," "do a back flip," and "do a cartwheel." The productivity of this ...
James Grossmann's user avatar
18 votes
3 answers
6k views

What are the criteria that distinguish clitics/particles from affixes?

This question inspired me to finally ask a question that has been bothering me for years: how does one distinguish clitics and/or particles from affixes, especially when those clitics are ...
Tsela's user avatar
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13 votes
2 answers
21k views

What is the difference between "anaphora" and "deixis"?

I've been trying to understand an answer from another SE site (Japanese Language & Usage) where the answer involves the differences between anaphora and deixis. Here is the link. What would be ...
Ci3's user avatar
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13 votes
2 answers
16k views

What's the difference between accusative, unaccusative, ergative, and unergative?

What does it mean for a language or verb to be one or the other of these typologies (examples would help)? Can it be more than one at once?
user avatar
12 votes
3 answers
2k views

What is an example of a syntactic structure that can't be represented by a BNF grammar?

The tools for working with BNF grammars are a little more discoverable (ANTLR, Gold, etc) and usable than for other types of grammars. What sort of sentences can't be represented with ordinary BNF ...
MatthewMartin's user avatar
11 votes
6 answers
7k views

Languages with stricter and less strict word order?

I'm sure most people here know, but for completeness, let's define what syntax is: The arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences in a language. [NOAD] N.B. It can also refer to ...
Alenanno's user avatar
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5 votes
5 answers
1k views

Are English modal verbs tensed or non-tensed?

My assumption: English modal verbs are non-tensed (i.e. we don't say shoulds or shoulded). Yet, in X' bar theory, modal verbs appear under the inflection node I', precisely where we find the ...
Puzzled's user avatar
  • 133
4 votes
3 answers
5k views

Does word order really not matter in Latin?

New to Latin, I can't help but wonder about the following: Every text I found online claims that since words are inflected (enough) to indicate the roles they play in a sentence, word order has no ...
icehenge's user avatar
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4 votes
3 answers
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Ergative Verbs and some discussion about them

I know what ergative verb is - Consider the following sentences - I opened the door. The door was opened (by me). The door opened. The verb open is a transitive verb in sentence #1, and sentence #...
Man_From_India's user avatar
4 votes
2 answers
719 views

Why is there no Subject-Auxilliary inversion in Subject questions?

In questions where a wh-element refers to the object, we can observe SAI (Subject-Auxilliary inversion). [Who did [you see]]? As far as I'm aware, C-head has a [+Q] feature and it's occupied by a ...
TheTobruk's user avatar
  • 197
2 votes
1 answer
279 views

What do the numbers 206.835, 1.015, 84.6, 0.39, 11.8, 15.59 mean in the Flesch reading ease and Flesch-Kincaid grade level formulas?

I am looking to understand what do these numbers mean in the formulas, and how do they affect results, and why they were specifically chosen. Here are the formulas: Flesh reading Ease = 206.835 - 1....
Samir Ahmane's user avatar
2 votes
3 answers
229 views

Does Swahili have relational nouns?

I've just come across the concept of relational nouns, and I'm curious if Swahili's position-indicating words count. In Swahili, there's a possessive particle -a that joins nouns together. For ...
Draconis's user avatar
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2 votes
0 answers
2k views

The Syntax of 'Only'

The adverb 'only' is known to be able to come in a variety of positions. The following examples demonstrate that it may be generated in positions that aren't so simple to syntactically analyse. The ...
Morphosyntax's user avatar
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-3 votes
1 answer
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In English, noun phrases within a relative clause cannot be further relativized, but this is allowed in some cases in Japanese

Japanese: Revised edition by Shoichi Iwasaki: In English, noun phrases within a relative clause cannot be further relativized, but this is allowed in some cases in Japanese. If there is such a ...
HizHa's user avatar
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75 votes
12 answers
29k views

What characteristics are unique to English (or at least rare among language as a whole)?

After wondering about this today at work, I turned to the Internet. A short piece that focuses on pronunciation points toward "none". I've scoured ELU and Google (perhaps not as thoroughly or ...
Zairja's user avatar
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14 votes
5 answers
35k views

What is the relationship between syntax and semantics?

There are a number of positions you can take on what the relationship between syntax and semantics. You could think that syntax is prior and so think that an expression's syntactic function ...
Dennis's user avatar
  • 482
14 votes
7 answers
9k views

Why is English so much more simplified than other, similar languages?

English seems to have rules that are much more simple than its cousin German and its influencer French, as well as most of the languages that those are related to. What caused this? I suspect it's ...
Nick Anderegg's user avatar
13 votes
4 answers
805 views

Ontological status of syntactic transformations

Syntactic theories in the generative tradition involve transformations, i.e. movement of constituents, between deep structure and surface structure. What is actually meant by this? Is it intended as a ...
TKR's user avatar
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13 votes
2 answers
911 views

What determines how noun compounds are formed in a language?

In English and other Germanic languages, noun compounds are formed simply by “appending” the nouns in a certain order. For example, phrases like this are very common: electricity price comparison ...
Otavio Macedo's user avatar
12 votes
2 answers
3k views

Does Chinese have proper nouns and are they distinguished morphosyntactically or only lexically and or semantically?

In an earlier question I wanted to learn about the nature of proper nouns in a language-neutral way, but the comments and answers to that question so far state that this is not possible, that only ...
hippietrail's user avatar
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12 votes
0 answers
2k views

Do "only if..." and "if... only then..." have the same LF representation?

I'm currently writing a term paper where I am comparing if... then..., only if..., and if... only then... statements. I've noticed that only if p q and if p, only then q have the same truth conditions ...
acattle's user avatar
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11 votes
1 answer
460 views

Languages with subordinate imperatives?

English does not allow an imperative to be used in a subordinate clause: Eat that pizza! *There's a pizza on the table, which eat! (="which I order you to eat") *I told you eat that pizza! (A ...
TKR's user avatar
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10 votes
4 answers
2k views

Italian passato prossimo agrees with subject with 'essere' but not 'avere'. Why?

Another question about Italian grammar aside from this one which has bugged me for ages. In Italian, when forming the passato prossimo with an intransitive verb, we use forms of the auxiliary verb ...
jogloran's user avatar
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9 votes
1 answer
520 views

What defines a unique writing style?

I'm an amateur writer that happens to be a professional programmer. I say this because I've recently jumped back into a personal research project in which the goal is to automate the de-anonymization ...
drusepth's user avatar
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9 votes
3 answers
650 views

Are there some analyses or linguists with the view that Chinese does not have lexical word class?

I'm not a linguist but a language enthusiast and I read lots of stuff about all languages mostly on the internet in blogs but also in accessible books and sometimes attempt to read some things not ...
hippietrail's user avatar
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9 votes
1 answer
478 views

Has Ray Jackendoff's Parallel Architecture paradigm received a formal review or criticism(s) from Chomsky and/or others?

Ray Jackendoff, a theoretical linguist and cognitive scientist at Tufts University, has been developing his theory of the linguistic Parallel Architecture since departing from the narrow syntactic ...
mncz's user avatar
  • 313
8 votes
6 answers
929 views

Do there exist languages with wh-prepositions?

I can imagine a language where instead of "what did you put a toy on?" one says something like "whon did you put a toy?". Do such languages exist?
syntaxfairy's user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
535 views

Thematic roles in some languages

I have a question about semantic roles in Latin and Russian. Latin Quibusdam […] sudor erumpit. someone. DAT.PL sweat. NOM.SG come out.PRES.3SG. ‘Some people start sweating.’ ...
Alex B.'s user avatar
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7 votes
2 answers
1k views

Why is a matrix clause called "matrix"?

I understand what a matrix clause is, but was curious why it's called a "matrix" clause.
Adam_G's user avatar
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6 votes
0 answers
129 views

What currency does the term "flip sense verb" have in linguistics?

In a recent comment on the question Ergative Verbs and some discussion about them, jlawler introduced a term I had not previously encountered: The rose smells good is completely different; this ...
hippietrail's user avatar
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6 votes
3 answers
262 views

Is there a paradigmatic formalism for dependency grammars?

When looking on the web, wikipedia for example, at the concept of constituent, it is associated with the concept of phrase structure, and rather quickly with context-free languages (as the ...
babou's user avatar
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6 votes
1 answer
165 views

Is this a form of ellipsis: If (you are) hungry, you should say so?

I am currently working on the following phenomenon: (1) a. If (you are) hungry, you should say so. b. He touches his nose when (he is) exaggerating. c. Where (it is) cheap, watermelon sells well. ...
Tim Osborne's user avatar
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6 votes
2 answers
863 views

Is the commutative CFG in the mathematical linguistics literature?

I am shocked that Linguists have not given a reasonably small canonical computationally precise representation of any natural language yet, so I wrote a recent EL&U post to explain how one does ...
Ron Maimon's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
313 views

What is the difference between function and predicate?

I am currently watching videos on formal semantics in Youtube. I find that the terms function and predicate are used a lot and that what they mean is similar. Functions take one or more arguments, and ...
Buffoon's user avatar
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5 votes
2 answers
263 views

In which varieties of English is it common to front predicates as in "Bought a nice house, he did."?

In which varieties of English is it common to front predicates as in the following sentence? Bought a nice house, he did. In which pragmatic contexts is this done in these varieties?
James Grossmann's user avatar