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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1answer
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 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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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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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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Grammatical function vs. Semantic role

What is the difference between grammatical functions and semantic roles? Are they the same?
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Principles and Parameters vs. Government and Binding

I'm a little confused about the difference between P&P and GB. This Wikipedia article suggests that they are the same as grammar frameworks, from what I understood: Principles and parameters as a ...
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What factors determine how you continue the sentence “Are you together with your brother or…” with the word “sister”?

For example if I call my friend. I know he is wether with his brother or sister, and then I ask further: Are you together with your brother or... you can finish the question in several ways: ... ...
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Is the sequence of time adverbials, place adverbials and manner adverbials appearing in the same sentence universal or typologically determined?

For example, in English there is "I bought a dress with my friend at the mall yesterday" where the sequence is manner-place-time, while in Russian it is time-place-manner, in Mandarin it is ...
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Question about what can be put in the head of a CP (complementizer phrase)

I'd like to know which of the following words "then, no, when, is, has" becomes the head of a CP and which doesn't? I know that "wh" becomes a +Q and No is declarative, however ...
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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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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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Is “matrix clause” synonymous with “main clause”? What exactly is a matrix clause?

A lot of people seem to understand "matrix clause" as a synonym for "main clause". For instance, a comment I just chanced upon on a language SE site states: It's a synonym for ...
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Does the universal use of noun and verb phrases reflect how humans cognitively see the world as objects and relationships?

The question is: why are noun and verb phrases the basic building blocks of all grammar? Candidate answer: cognitively, we perceive the world as objects and relationships between objects. Thus, nouns ...
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Books recommendation on syntax, semantics and pragmatics interaction [closed]

Can anyone here suggest any texts that deals especially with the interaction between Semantics, Pragmatics and Syntax? I would like to understand how these various levels, especially syntax-semantics,...
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Best book for introduction to Syntax, with exercises

I am new to the field of linguistics and I was looking for some books in order to learn syntax. I put my eyes on two main textbooks: Basic English Syntax with Exercises, by Mark Newson (I was ...
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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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What limitations of generative grammar was Lakoff referring to?

In his keynote address in 2015, George Lakoff said the following (at 22:10) The whole idea of generative grammar fell apart. There were things that you could not do with it. Even if it was ...
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Are there such things as verbs that are experiential AND ditransitive?

Does any natural language have verbs that are both ditransitive and experiential? I'm working on a conlang in which ditransitive experiential verbs exist. For example, we could have verbs that mean &...
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Inverse scope reading

It is well known that any sentence with two or more quantifiers will result in in multiple possible readings depending on the ordering of the quantifiers. To take a known example (1), there will be ...
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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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What other languages, apart from Latin, mix elements from different syntactic constituents? And why mixing?

Latin has a curious syntactic possibility, which is mixing elements from different constituents, like in the sentence Mors et vita duello conflixere mirando which is translated by Wiktionary as ...
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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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Tree Structures: Sentence breaks and TP vs. S as tree structure head

I am currently working on my Linguistics homework and I have to draw a tree diagram of the sentences: (1) Peter thinks Susan asked if she needs to resign. (2) Johnny said he wants to study French. The ...
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How do you distinguish verbs, nouns, and adjectives in Chinese?

I am messing around with a conlang and trying to figure out how to write sentences. Man this is hard, there are so many possibilities and I don't know where to start. But basically, I am looking at ...
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When does do-support apply in wh-questions?

For reference, I'm working off of Carnie's Syntax (2002). In the book's framework, T → C movement is triggered by a [+Q] feature in C. In the case we have an auxiliary verb, it can raise to T and then ...
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NP or DP for “that book”

When referring to phrases such as "that book", would it be considered a DP or a NP? I think it should be considered as a DP but I am not sure how to prove it using our given data. Some data ...
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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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Kayne on Conjunctions and Chomsky's Labelling Algorithm

I'm reading on coordination structures in relation to Chomsky's proposal of the Labelling Algorithm and stumbled upon Kayne (1994) The Antisymmetry of Syntax. In it, Kayne takes the view that ...
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What kind of syntax diagrams are these, found in a book on legal writing?

These don't look like syntax trees in undergrad linguistics syntax textbooks. Do linguists use these diagrams? What are they called? Page 343.     Diagrams for grammatical analysis are visual aids to ...
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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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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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