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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168 views

Characterising adverbial constructions

I know adverbs are multifarious, but I’d like to find out just how farious they are. I’m trying to work out what properties they can have by looking at variations in the way different ones can be used....
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443 views

Right node raising

I encountered a difficult question for syntax. The authors discuss a special case of coordination called “right node raising”. When both conjuncts have the same string (e.g. typically an object or a ...
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How to learn syntax

In elementary school I was told of the eight "parts of speech" (and in English they should really have said ten rather than eight, including articles and particles). I understood six of them....
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What is extraction?

Chapter 1 of Parasitic Gaps, edited by Culicover and Postal, begins with this example: Which articles did John file t without reading pg? The italicized t is reported to be a "true gap" ...
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167 views

Difference between PRO and OP

What's the difference between PRO and OP? For example, on p. 142, the book "The Syntax of Chinese" presents the following tree (which is an analysis of indirect passives in Chinese): In this ...
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63 views

Resultative secondary predicate

In the sentence 'John entered the room angry', can 'angry' be considered a resultative predicate? This sentence has the same construction as 'John painted the door green', but while 'green' describes ...
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Are there generative theories of grammar with privative features outside of phonology?

By "generative grammar", I take the widest interpretation and do not mean "Chomsky's theory of syntax today", thus HPSG and LFG would be instances of GG(broad). Phonology has a ...
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57 views

Does UG supply default values for parameters (in P&P syntax)?

Principles And Parameters syntax posited that along with some principles, there were parametric settings for certain properties, which are either "on" or "off" in a language. Examples are the "head-...
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Difference between primary and secundary predicates(/argument small clauses) and their (overt) 'heads', and transition/ambiguity between the two

What is the exact difference between primary and secundary predicates? From what I understood, primary predicates are verbal and have a predicate head (usually a copula - he was a mine worker). ...
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What is the meaning of “interface-interpretable features”?

In multiple sources, I encountered the term interface-interpretable features. From the contexts, I can deduct that the meaning might be somewhere in the sense of "visible [as in, morphologically/...
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Why is “addressing” discontinuity/nonprojectivity important?

I was reading about dependency grammars on Wikipedia, and then, following up on the term "(non-)projectivity", was lead to the page about discontinuity. Now, the concept is quite easy to ...
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Meaning of superscript numbering in phrase structure trees

In some recent studies, I stumbled upon some seemingly conventional notation that I do not understand. In syntax structure trees, I often encounter superscript notations in various forms: $T^0$, $...
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Why is the subject outside the VP in most theories of syntax?

I'm trying to understand why in most theories of syntax, the subject of a sentence is the sister of the verb, and not the child eg: S -> NP VP instead of VP -> NP V (NP...) The latter feels more ...
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Was there a tendency of Indo-European languages to avoid syntactical ambiguity by introducing more complex morphology?

In (Peškovskij, 1914, p. 246) I stumbled upon the following (Russian) assertion: Opisannoe vytesnenie predikativnogo imenitel'nogo tvoritel'nym možno rassmatrivat' kak častnyj slučaj obščego ...
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Does every semantic ambiguity produce an equivalent syntactic ambiguity?

I was reading this question Syntactic and semantic ambiguity, and there is a comment from @jlawler on how the sentence "He's mad" have different syntactic affordances: Original comment: &...
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What are parasitic gaps?

In 2001 M.I.T. Press published a volume titled Parasitic Gaps, edited by Peter W. Cullicover and Paul M. Postal. Its preface begins as follows: Parasitic gaps (P-gaps) represented by the underlined ...
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970 views

Can one sentence have two or multiple possible phrase structure grammars? And what is this called?

After reading about syntactic structure and phrase structure grammar in Wikipedia and on the internet, I was wondering if there are any sentences with more than one possible phrase structure grammar? ...
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When an existential verb is used existentially as the predicate to a subject, is it true in all languages that it cannot take another predicate?

When an existential is used existentially verb as the predicate to a subject, is it true in all languages that it cannot take another predicate? In other words, when the existential to-be verb means '...
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I have my hair cut - “my hair” a Direct Object?

I am confused about the following sentence: I have my hair cut. Now here I am not sure whether "my hair" is the Direct Object (DO) of the verb "have", or if it is just the ...
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What is the position of 'that' in the relative clause of this sentence?

Researchers report they have engineered an enzyme that can convert 90% of that same plastic back to its pristine starting materials. Does that originate in spec TP and move to spec CP like in this ...
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What parts of speech and sentence constituents are “yes” and “no” words in answers?

Let's look at some examples: — Would you like some ice cream? — No. — Are you happy? — Yes. According to Wiktionary “yes” is a particle: ParticleyesUsed to show agreement or acceptance... “No” and “...
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357 views

What exactly is Minimal Distance Principle and how is it applied here?

In my previous question, I referred to the analysis of indirect passives in Chinese from "The Syntax of Chinese". They mention "Minimal Distance Principle": In this structure, the verb dasi ‘kill’ ...
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What is the purpose of Subject-Verb agreement?

An important rule in English grammar is "subject-verb agreement". It basically states that a verb must conform to the form of the noun (i.e. Singular/Plural). My question is: What is the purpose of ...
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What is the thematic role of the subjects of the sentences “The bomb exploded” and “The sun shone”?

In the sentence, "Sally jumped," "Sally" stands for the entity that causes or controls the jumping--in other words, an agent or agent-like argument. In the sentence, "The ...
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What is the syntax of this clause “the one who spoke”

What is the syntax of the clause " . . . the one who spoke" in this sentence: "I am he, the one who spoke?" Is not the 3rd person pronoun the subject complement, and "the one ...
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115 views

Derivation of Passive according to Principles and Parameters (Jaeggli)

I've been trying to wrap my head around this for hours, but I am simply stuck. Could somebody please kindly explain this passage? I am struggling in particular with the part in bold. The text is from ...
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113 views

Grammatical function vs. Semantic role

What is the difference between grammatical functions and semantic roles? Are they the same?
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Reflexive Pronouns and Relative Clauses

At least in my dialect of English, sentences like the following are perfectly grammatical: The picture of himselfi that Tomi most liked is on the table. How does one account for the binding here? If ...
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Origin of English's phrasal possessive

This site claimed that the phrasal possessive in English came from French influence, while the synthetic possessive is Germanic. Germanic Pattern: the king’s son - cf. German "des Königs Sohn&...
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Is there a neat way in syntax glossing to indicate “these are all optional, but at least one of them must be there”?

I'm talking about a general case of the following situation: *( (x) (y) (z) (w) ) lorem ipsum where the positions for the optional elements are not contiguous. For example, they may occupy the ...
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Dataset for distribution of different systems for 'yes' and 'no' cross-linguistically?

The Wikipedia article for 'Yes and no' lists various distinct, common, systems for expressing the affirmative and the negative, ranging from no explicit terms (instead relying on echo responses) to ...
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Can we build semantic mappings for CFG same as we do in CCG?

In CFG we "simply" have production rules. Whereas in Combinatory Categorial Grammar (CCG) on the other hand, we have both composition rules over categories, and a mapping from syntax to semantics (...
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How to determine structure of answer for a wh- question

Consider a wh-question (in english language) such as "Who closed the door?". Personally, I can determine that an answer will look like "NP closed the door.", where NP would be a ...
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Chomsky's Syntactic Structures: Why is {a^n b^n : n ∈ ℕ} not a finite state language?

In (10) (i) of Chomsky's Syntactic Strucures (1957), the set of sentences of a specific language is defined as ab, aabb, aaabbb, ..., and in general, all sentences consisting of n occurrences of ...
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What makes East-Asian languages sound different than European languages?

I'm not sure if this is on-topic here. If I get reasonable amount of comments telling that it's off-topic, I'll delete my post. I wrote a code that generates random human-readable strings. Every other ...
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Phrase structure tree of a Wh question

The sentence would be "Whose dirty underwear is this?". I assume that the base (is that called deep structure sentence?) would be "This is whose dirty underwear" but I'm not sure what ...
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Is this phrase or clause a clause?

Is "lefty loosey, righty tighty" a clause? Or what is "lefty loosey, righty tighty"? Or what part of speech is "lefty loosey, righty tighty"? Or what part of speech is ...
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For English, is there a finite set of patterns for constructing sentences?

I am wondering about conlangs and thinking about English currently. I'm wondering does English have a finite set of patterns for constructing sentences? That is, could you build a computer program ...
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Syntax as error-correction-code

I vaguely recall from my academic studies that a professor mentioned that the syntax of sentence could be seen as error-correction-code in signal processing. In other words, from a pragmatic view - ...
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Drawing tree diagrams of ambiguous sentences generated by a CFG

Suppose I have the following CFG rules: S -> NP VP NP -> (D) NOM VP -> V (NP) (NP) NOM -> N NOM -> NOM PP VP -> VP PP PP -> P NP X -> X+ CONJ X How should I draw the tree ...
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Which languages allow right-branching nominal pre-modifiers?

In English, as in German, Spanish, French, or Italian, non-lexicalized noun pre-modifiers cannot be 'right-branching' (i.e., they cannot carry either complements or modifiers of their own placed ...
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224 views

Are Spanish “que” clauses following “parece” complements or postponed subjects?

The Spanish equivalent of It seems that they hate each other is Parece que se odian. In both languages seem/parecer are one-place predicates (well, both can optionally accept a second argument with ...
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Are there tests for conditionality?

I am looking for ways to test whether something that (at least superficially) looks like a conditional actually has the necessary properties to qualify as one. Are there any such established semantic ...
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What is the syntactic function (if there is any) of the prefix in some German verbs?

Consider the following sentence: "Ich rufe dich an". It is a very simple Standard German sentence with the verb "anrufen", the unusual thing about it is this prefix that comes ...
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187 views

Where does supplementation fit in?

As far as I can see, the structure of supplementary constructions like Karen, being ill, was unable to go or John – her father – was unable to walk her down the aisle or maybe a washer-dryer ...
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119 views

Parallel coordination failures

Consider this sentence: You can manipulate lightning, mist, and wind; traffic with air creatures; and are resistant to electricity damage. This looks at first glance like a perfectly normal ...
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Wh-movement Question

For wh-movements, I always think of what the sentence would have looked like if it wasn't a question (e.g. for sentence "which promise did he not keep?", I would think that the original ...
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529 views

Did Proto-Indo-European put the adjective before or behind the noun?

Did PIE put the adjective behind the noun (like Romance languages usually do) or before the noun (like Germanic languages)?
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Languages with overt determiners AND pronouns/proper nouns

I am currently performing a cross-linguistic investigation of determiner phrases, and I was wondering if there are languages out there where an overt determiner can occur with a pronoun or proper noun,...
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Which nodes are meant by 'the specifier of a null active V' and 'this VP'?

Source: p 305. Syntax, A Generative Introduction (3 ed, 2012) by Andrew Carnie. To put some teeth to this claim then, we might propose that external arguments in actives are in fact generated in [1.] ...

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