Syntax
A Review of General Language Etiquette
Original Draft, Wu Hepen, Northwest Normal School
Modified: Dr. Thomas. Eaton, 2009
© BTexact Technologies 2001
Key Points Highlighted
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Syntax
Types of Grammar
American structuralism and its brief history
IC Analysis
Syntactic Categories
Lexical Categories
Chomsky and UG
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Syntax

Syntax: the study of the structure of
sentences and the grammatical rules
governing the way words are combined to
form sentences.
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Types of Grammar
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Prescriptive Grammar
Descriptive Grammar
Universal Grammar
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Prescriptive Grammar
Traditional Grammar and the prescriptive
approach: Grammar as ‘linguistic etiquette’,
i.e. the identification of the best/proper
structures to be used;
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Descriptive Grammatical Rules

Descriptive rules are more general and more
basic than prescriptive rules in the sense
that all sentences of a language are formed
in accordance with them, not just the subset
of sentences that count as correct or socially
acceptable.
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Prescriptive Rules

Grammar is a collection of rules concerning
what counts as socially acceptable and
unacceptable language use. These rules in
question primarily concern the proper
composition of sentences in written
language.
-
Don’t start a sentence with a conjunction
Don’t end a sentence with a preposition
Don’t use sentence fragments
Don’t use dangling participles
Don’t use a plural pronoun to refer back to a singular noun;
etc.

e.g. Over there is the guy who I went to the party with
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Descriptive Grammar

Rules of descriptive grammar have the status of
scientific observations, and they are intended as
insightful generalizations about the way that human
language is used in fact, rather than about how it
ought to be used.
Articles precede the nouns they belong to
- Relative clauses follow the noun that they modify
Prepositions precede their objects
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Grammatical sentences

An ungrammatical sentence is conventionally
prefixed with an asterisk (*) while the grammatical
sentences are usually not specifically marked.
- ( ) Over there is guy the who I went to party the
with
- ( )Over there is the man I went to the party with
guy
- ( )Over there is the guy who I went to the party
with
- ( )Over there is the guy with whom I went to the
party
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Prescriptive vs. Descriptive

Rules of etiquette or laws of
society
 Rules about correct or
socially accepted sentences
 Rules explicitly taught
 Based on the more favored
variants
-


…The verb SHOULD agree
in number with the logical
subject

Rules about all sentences of
a language
 Rules followed effortlessly
and consistently
 Document all variants without
discrimination
-
…the verb CAN agree in
number with EITHER the
expletive subject OR with the
logical subject
There’s some boxes left on the porch
There are some boxes left on the porch
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Universal Grammar

Grammar as a form of internal linguistic
knowledge that operates in the appropriate
production and comprehension of natural
languages.
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Goals of a theory of grammar
-
-
-
-
Universality: a theory of grammar should provide us with
the tools needed to describle the grammar of any natural
language adequately.
Descriptive adequacy: a grammar of a given language
has descriptive adequacy if it explains observed language
data and the intuitions of native speakers about the
grammaticality of sentences of a language
Explanatory adequacy: a theory of grammar has
explanatory adequacy if it explains how native speakers
of a language can arrive at the knowledge of that
language.
Learnability: an adequate linguistic theory must provide
adequate grammars which are learnable by young
children in a relatively short period of time. i.e., it must
account for the uniformity and rapidity of language
acquisition, given the poverty of stimulus.
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American Structuralism
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A brief history
How is descriptive linguistics done?
IC Analysis
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American Structuralism: A brief history
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Descriptive linguistics is the study and analysis of spoken language. The
techniques of descriptive linguistics were devised by German American
anthropologist Franz Boas and American linguist and anthropologist
Edward Sapir in the early 1900s to record and analyze Native American
languages.
Franz Boas: Handbook of American Indian Languages (1911
- He saw grammar as a description of how human speech in a
language is organized. A descriptive grammar should describe the
relationships of speech elements in words and sentences.
Leonard Bloomfield,
- best known for his commitment to linguistics as an independent
science and his insistence on using scientific procedures.
- His major work, Language (1933) is regarded as the classic text of
structural linguistics, also called structuralism.
Norm Chomsky
- had studied structural linguistics, was seeking a way to analyze the
syntax of English in a structural grammar.
- This effort led him to see grammar as a theory of language structure
rather than a description of actual sentences.
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How is descriptive linguistics done?
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A corpus of data
Segmentation
Identification of the phonemes
Which phonemes can combine to form morphemes
How morphemes combine into phrases and
sentences.
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IC analysis


The basic concern of the descriptive approach is to investigate the
distribution of forms in a language. The method used is one of
substitution.
Constituent: a grammatical unit which is part of a larger grammatical
unit
-- e.g., sentence = noun phrase + verb phrase;
noun phrase = determiner + noun; "subject", ”verb", "determiner" and
"noun" etc. are constituents

IC analysis is designed to show how small constituents in a sentence
combine to form larger constituents.

My || parents | bought ||| two tickets || at ||| Christmas.
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More exercises on IC analysis
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Colorless green ideas sleep furiously
John found a fly in the soup
the young king who gave up his throne
the man from the city in the little country from
Western Europe
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Labelled Tree Diagram and
Bracketing
S
NP
P ro n
VP
N
VP
V
NP
Det
My
PP
p a re nts b o ug ht t w o
P
N
N
tic k e ts
at
C hr istm a s
[ S [ N P [ P ron m y ][ N p a re n ts ]] V P [ V P [ V b o u g h t] N P [ D e t tw o][ N tic k e ts ]] P P [ P a t] [ N C h r is tm a s ]]]]

Three aspects of a speaker’s syntactic knowledge are
explicitly represented in tree diagrams:
The linear order of the words in the sentence
- The groupings of words into syntactic categories
- The hierarchical structure of the syntactic categories
-
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Syntactic categories

A family of expressions that can substitute for one
another without loss of grammaticality is called a
syntactic category.
- The cat
chases the mouse.
- The dog
chases the mouse
- The policeman chases the mouse.
- The mother mouse
chases the mouse.
 If words and phrases could not be assigned to a
small group of categories, it would be very hard to
learn or use a language.
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Syntax: Lexical Categories

Lexical Categories:
- every word is a member of a category.
- a word’s category type determines the kind of phrase it
can form
- a phrase is a word or string of words that functions as a
unit in a sentence, built around a head
- Every language has specific phrase structure rules
determining how phrases can be combined to form
sentences
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Syntax: Lexical Categories

Noun (N):
- real, imaginary, abstract things
- In English, if nouns refer to countable things, the
regular plural is made by suffixing -s/-es
- In English they can be paired with articles and
demonstratives

-
EX: the book, this book, that book, etc.
In English they can be modified with descriptive words
(adjectives)
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Noun Phrases (NP)
NP
D et
N
the
[N P [ D et

NP
student
D et
the
A
controversial
NP
N
N
book
it
the [ N student]]
Evidence that NPs are syntactic units comes from the fact they can often be replaced by
a single word such as the pronoun they or it
-
The students read the controversial book.
The students read it.
*The students read the controversial it.
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Syntax: Lexical Categories

Verb (V):
- refer to states of affairs and events
- express time, in most languages take a specific forms
corresponding to the time of the event

-
EX English: walk expresses past by adding -ed
express manner (aspect) of event, in many languages take a
specific form corresponding to the completedness of event.

EX English: walk expresses ongoing action by adding -ing
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Verbal Phrase (VP)
VP
VP
V
V
PP
NP
P
D et
NP
N
D et
trip
d ro p
the
[ V P [ V d ro p

N P [D et
b a ll
on
the
N
bat
[ V P [ V trip [ P P [ P on[ N P [ D et the[ N bat]]]]
the ][ N b a ll]]]
Evidence that VPs are syntactic units comes from the
fact they can often be replaced by the word(s) did (it).
-
The catcher dropped the ball, and the pitcher did (it) too.
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Syntax: Lexical Categories

Preposisions (P): Express roles
- Instrument

-
Possessor

-
EX Eng: with, He cut the bread with the knife
EX Eng: of, Monday is the best day of the week.
Spatial, directional and Temporal relations

EX English: The food was on the table before it fell to the floor.
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Prepositional Phrase
PP
P
NP
Det
in

t he
N
park
The substitution test confirms that PP is a unit since
it can be replaced by a single word like there.
-
The team practiced in the park, and Lisa practised
there, too.
*The team practiced in the park, and Lisa practised
there the park, too.
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Syntax: Lexical Categories

Adjectjective (A):
- describe things that nouns refer to
- In English can be used in a sentence with the verb be:

-
In English can be modified with degree adverbs:

-
EX English: He is happy. They should be ripe.
EX English: He is very happy. They should be completely ripe.
In English have comparative form by adding -er:

EX English: happi-er rip-er
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Adjectival Phrases (AP)
AP
Adv
ver y
A
intellige nt
[A P [A d v very] [A intellig e nt]]

An adjectival phrase can be replaced by the word so.
-
-
Linda is very intelligent, and Mark appears so too.
* Linda is very intelligent, and Mark appears very so
too.
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Syntax: Lexical Categories

Adverbs (Adv):
- Manner of action

-
Attitude of speaker

-
EX Eng: unfortunately, Unfortunately,he cut the bread.
Temporal frequency

-
Ex Eng: quickly, He ran quickly.
EX Eng: soon, They’ll be here soon.
Can be modified by “very” in English
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Syntax definitions, cont.
Determiner: a closed set of morphemes that “specify”
nouns, indicating definiteness or indefiniteness.
Includes articles plus other morphemes (a, an, the
those, these, many,most, some)
Degree word: very, completely (type of adverb)
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Lexical categories
Major Lexical
categories
Examples
Noun (N)
Pierre, butterfly
Verb (V)
Arrive, discuss
Adjective (A)
Good, tall
Preposition (P)
To, in, near
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Other Lexical
categories
Examples
Determiner
(Det)
The, this, these
Auxiliary (Aux)
Will, can, may
Pronoun (Pro)
He, she, her,
his
Adverb (Adv)
Yesterday,
silently
Conjunction
(Con)
And, or
Syntax definitions, cont.
Head (of a phrase): The constituent fundamental to the
phrase, from which the phrase derives its name.
(e.g. a noun phrase is “headed” by a noun).
Each phrase (NP, VP, etc) is the projection of the
head.
NP is headed by N
VP is headed by V, etc.
Complement: The other constituents contained in the
phrase that complete its meaning is called
complements.
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General Phrase Structure (XP)
XP
X’
Spec
X (he a d )
C om p
[X P [S p e c ] [ X ’[X C o m p ]]]

S p e c = S p e c ifie r
C o m p = C o m p le m e nt
X = N , V, A , P, e tc .
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Key
Poin
ts
High
light
ed
More exercises: tree-diagram or
bracket the following the structures
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The teacher put the answers on the board
He ran towards the red post
Colorless green ideas sleep furiously
John found a fly in the soup
the young king who gave up his throne
the man from the city in the little country from
Western Europe
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Chomsky and UG
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Chomskyan revolution
Universal Grammar (UG)
A historical review of UG
From PS rules to X-bar theory
Parameters and Cross-linguistic Variation
From Transformation to Movement
UG and language acquisition
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Chomskyan revolution

Chomsky,
- has attracted worldwide attention with his groundbreaking research into the nature of human language
and communication.
- has become the center of a debate that transcends
formal linguistics to embrace psychology, philosophy,
and even genetics.
- his "formulation of 'transformational grammar' has
been acclaimed as one of the major achievements of
the century.
- his work has been compared to the unraveling of the
genetic code of the DNA molecule."
- his discoveries have had an impact "on everything
from the way children are taught foreign languages to
what it means when we say that we are human."
- is also an impassioned critic of American foreign
policy, especially as it affects ordinary citizens of Third
World nations.
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Central Claims
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
Main features of TG Grammar
Chomsky’s TG Grammar differs from the structural grammar in a
number of ways:
-
(1) rationalism;
(2) innateness;
(3) deductive methodology;
(4) formalization;
(5) emphasis on linguistic competence;
(6) strong generative powers;
(7) emphasis on linguistic universals.

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Universal Grammar

Knowledge of Language
Lexicon
- Knowledge of words
- Learned
- Language specific
-

-Grammar
-Knowledge of rules
-Innate
-Language Universal
Universal Grammar
-
The grammar which characterizes the innate
predisposition to learn language. UG is a set of
rules that all human possess by virtue of having
certain common genetic features which sitinguish
them from other species.
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A historical review of UG

50-60s
- Standard theory
- Extended Standard Theory
- Rule-based
 80s
- Government and Binding Theory
- Principle and Parameter Theory (PPT)
- Principle-guided
 90s
- Minimalism Program
- Economy-driven
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Generative-Tranformational Grammar

TG developed in the 1950s in the context of
“cognitive revolution”, which marked a shift
of focus from a concern with human
behaviour to the mental processes
underlying human behaviour.
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Deep Structure and Surface Structure
P S -rules
L ex ico n
D eep str ucture
S e m a ntic rules
S e m a ntic re prese nta tion
represe nta tio n
T-rules
S urfa c e
Stru cture
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P h o n olo gica l R ules
P h o ne tic
represe nta tio n
Principle and Parameter Theory


knowledge of language comprises a lexicon,
together with a set of innate principles (that
means, X-bar Theory, -Theory and Case
Theory, etc.) and set parameters.
Principle and Parameter (P&P) approach
has proved fruitful for
constraining the core of innate grammatical knowledge
(Pprinciples)
- defining the differences found between individual languages
(parameters)
- describing diachronic change (parameter resetting) and
- the investigation of first and second language acquisition
(parameter setting and resetting).
-

.
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Minimalism Program

Central Claims
Language is basically simple
- The working hypothesis is that there should not be
any redundant elements in a linguistic theory and
that the computational system of language (CHL)
operates optimally.
- CHL is so designed that its outputs are naturally
‘well-formed’ and ‘economical’.
-


the minimisation of linguistic levels;
the economy principles of derivation and
representation.
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From PS-Rules to X-bar Theory

PS-rules
- set up the general configurations of the phrasal
structures of a language
- the arragement of the elements that make up a
phrase
- Rewrite rules
S
 NP
 VP
 AP
 PP
 CP
© BTexact Technologies 2001

NP VP
(Det) N (PP)
(Aux) V (NP)
(Deg) A (PP)
(Adv) P (NP)
(Spec) C S
Tests of Phrase Structure

Substitution
- The cow attacked him (the man with the gun)
- The cow attacked him (the man) with it (the gun)
- Q: Who attacked the man with a gun?
A: The cow did. (attacked the man with a gun)
What did he do?
Run up the hill and up the mountain.
*Ring up his mother and up his sister.
 Deletion
- The cow was planning to. (attack the man with the
gun)
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Tests of phrase structures

Movement
-
The cow will attack whoever is in the field.
-
Whoever is in the field, the cow will attack
-
Who will the cow attack (the man with a gun)?
-
Who will the cow attack (the man) with a gun?
-
What will the cow attack the man with (the gun)?
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Syntax definitions, cont.
Head (of a phrase): The constituent fundamental to the
phrase, from which the phrase derives its name.
(e.g. a noun phrase is “headed” by a noun).
Each phrase (NP, VP, etc) is the projection of the
head.
NP is headed by N
VP is headed by V, etc.
Complement: The other constituents contained in the
phrase that complete its meaning is called
complements.
© BTexact Technologies 2001
Generalizing the rules



S
XP
NP VP
(Specifier) X (Complement)
- where X = {N, V, A, P, etc}
Fundamental insight about the architecture of
sentence structrure:
- Sentences do not simply consist of word strings.
Rather, within any sentence, words are grouped
together to form phrases, which then combine
with each other to form still larger phrase.
© BTexact Technologies 2001
General Phrase Structure –X’
category

XP
X’
Spec
X (head)
[X P [Spec ] [ X ’[X C om p]]]
Spec= Specifier
C om p= C om plem ent
X = N , V, A , P, etc.
X ’’ = X P
© BTexact Technologies 2001
X ’=X ’
0
X =X
According to this
viewpoint, all phrases
have the tri-level
structures as shown in
the tree diagram, in
which the head and its
C om p
complement form an X’level constituent and
the specifier is attached
at the higher XP level.
 The existence of X’
categories can be
verified with the help of
the same sort of tests
for phrase structure
S
S
NP
NP
VP
Pron
Pron
VP
N
VP
N’
NP
P
V
NP
P’
N
D et
D et
PP
PP
N
V
V’
N’
NP
N
N
P
N’
N
My
parents boug ht two
© BTexact Technologies 2001
tickets
at
C hristm a s
My
parents boug ht t wo
tickets
at
C hristm as
Adjuncts
NP

Can be loosely defined
as an extension of a
category
-
N’
Spec
a big red car of his
A d junc t
XP
X’
S pec
X’
X
© BTexact Technologies 2001
a
X’
A dju n ct
N’
A d junc t
A djun ct
Comp
b ig
re d
N’
N
C om p
car
o f his
S
NP
VP
N’
D et
N
V’
A ux
N’
N
V’
V
PP
P’
NP
D et
N’ P
N
`N
T he fo u rth-y e a r u nd e r gra d s w ill le a v e the u niv e rs ity in J u ne .
© BTexact Technologies 2001
More exercises: tree diagram the following
with tri-structure and explain the illformedness of the starred sentences









Mary’s solution to the problem
*Mary’s the solution to the problem
Mary’s latest solution to the problem
the student of archeology from Canada
the students from Canada and (from) the U.S
*the student of archeology and from Canada
*the student from Canada of archeology
The man found a fly in the soup
The lady found the man in blue jacket
© BTexact Technologies 2001
NP
NP
P ro n
N’
N
N’
P ro n
A
PP
P’
P
N’
N
PP
P’
NP
P
NP
D et N ’
Det
N
M ar y ’s

so lutio n
to
the p ro b le m
N
N
M ar y ’s
la te st
so lut io n
to
t he p ro b le m
The ill-formedness of the NP *Mary’s the solution to the
problem lies in the observation that both Mary’s and the
are candidate specifiers of solution but they can’t occupy
the [Spec] position of NP simultaneously.
© BTexact Technologies 2001
NP

D et
N’
N’
N
PP
P’
PP
P’
P
P
NP
N’
NP
N’
N
N
the stud e nt

of
a r c h e o lo g y fr o m
C a na d a
the ungrammaticality of the NP *the student from Canada
of archeology lies in the fact that candidate compliment of
archeology can’t be adjacent to the head N and can’t
occupy the [Comp] position because of another PP from
Canada, which is more eligible as an adjunct.
© BTexact Technologies 2001
NP
NP
D et
D et
N’
N’
N’
N’
PP
PP
P’
P’
C on
P’
P
P
NP
P
NP
NP
NP
N’
D et
N
the

stude nt
from C a nada a nd
N’
N’
N
from
the
U .S
C on
NP
D et
N
the
stud e nt
fro m C a na d a
N
a nd
t he U .S
Note: the ungrammaticality of the NP *the student from canada and of
archeology can be verified by the observation the grammatical status of the
two PPs are different: while the PP of archeology is a candidate compliment
for the NP the student, the PP from Canada is more eligible for an Adjunct.
These two PPs functioning differently can’t be joined as a larger PP by the
conjunction word and.
© BTexact Technologies 2001
N’
S
S
NP
NP
VP
D et
D et
N’
VP
N’
V’
V’
V
V’
PP
V
NP
D et N ’
NP
Det N ’
N
P’
P
PP
P ’`
NP
P
N
D et
NP
N’
D et N ’
N
N
T he

m an
fo und a
fly
in
the so up
T he
la d y
fo u nd
fly
i n t he p la t e
These two sentences otherwise identical differ in
underlying structure in that the two PPs functions
differently, one as an adjunct of VP and the other as
a complement of NP, as illustrated in the tree
diagram.
© BTexact Technologies 2001
Parameters and Cross-linguistic
variation
Principles: those aspects of syntactic
structures which are invariant across
languages
XP is the maximal projection of the head X.
Parameters: those aspects of structure which
vary from one language to another
head-first: English-type language
Kazu ate sushi, to Tokyo
head-last: Japanese-type language
Kazu sushi ate; Tokyo to.
 A head-first language applies the
headfirst rule to all of its phrases: NPs,
VPs, PPs. Everything.
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Japanese
English
XP
XP
X’
C om p
© BTexact Technologies 2001
X’
A djunct
X
X’
A djunct
X’
A djunct
X’
Spec
X’
Spec
X
A djunct
C om p
IP
I’
NP
N
VP
I
V’
CP
V
C’
IP
C
V
I’
NP
N’
VP
I
V’
N’
V
N
M a r y - g a To m - g a h o n - o
M a r y -S
To m - S b o o k - D O
yon
da
re a d P a st th a t
M a r y th in k s th a t J o h n re a d th e b o o k .
© BTexact Technologies 2001
to
o m o tte i
t h in k
ru
P re se n t
From transformation rules to
Movement

Transformation rules: part of TG grammar,
functions to convert a surface structure to
deep structure
I can solve this problem.
- This problem, I can solve. (Move)
- The dog chases the mouse.
- The mouse is chased by the dot (Move and Insert)
-

Move alpha: Move any category anywhere.
© BTexact Technologies 2001
Movement

Head movement
-
The movement of a word from the head position
of one phrase to the head position of another
phrase



The president was lying
Was the president – lying?
Wh- movement
-
The movement of an operator expression into the
specifier position within CP


You can speak what languages
What languages can you speak __?
© BTexact Technologies 2001
Movement
CP

The voters would
choose who
 Who would the voters
__ choose __
C’
C
IP
NP
I’
I
VP
V’
V
© BTexact Technologies 2001
NP
Movements are structurally dependent



The man who kicked him escaped the
scene.
Did the man who kicked him __ escape the
scene?
* Did the man who ___ kick him escaped the
scene?
© BTexact Technologies 2001
Movement are constrained






The senator knew the voters would choose who
The senator knew who the voters would choose__
*The senator knew who would the voters choose__
The man might wonder the detectives found whose
shoes at which house
*Whose shoes might the man wonder which house
the detectives found__ at__?
*Which house might the man wonder whose shoe the
detectives found __at__ ?
- NP and an embedded S containing a wh-phrase
appear to create islands.
© BTexact Technologies 2001
UG and Language Acquisition

Logical Problem: is our knowledge of grammar given,
or learned? Nature vs. nurture
 Learning the grammar = setting the parameters. Our
competence in syntax is given in part by UG, in part
by parameters defined by UG. The parameters are
set in the process of language acquisition on the
basis of exposure to a particular language
- switchbox
- Traffic rules
© BTexact Technologies 2001
Parameters
[+] [value]
Language A
Principle
[-] [value]
© BTexact Technologies 2001
Language B
The notion of modularity
•Language module
•UG
•Grammar
•Language
•Parser
•Langauge
•Learning
•principles
•Perceptual module
•vision, hearing, etc.
© BTexact Technologies 2001
•Central Processes
•Memory
•Belief
•Pragmatics
•Real-word Knowledge
•Problem-solving abilities
UG and L2 acquisition
UG
O ther mental faculties
direct access
L1
L2
indirect access
© BTexact Technologies 2001
no access
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