Syntax
The analysis of sentence structure
Dr. Alok K Das
http://www.freewebs.com/alokdas/
Syntax in Linguistic Tree
Linguistics
Sounds of
language
Phonetics
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
Phonology
Grammar
Morphology
Syntax
2
Meaning
Semantics
Pragmatics
Why syntax?
 It’s part of Linguistics
 It’s part of the grammar of every
language
 And the grammar of a language is
part of a native speaker’s
linguistic knowledge
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
3
Reasons for studying syntax
 Infinity of expressions
 There is an infinite number of possible
utterances in every language
 It is obvious that all these utterances cannot
be stored in our brains
 Our knowledge of a language consists of
 A finite number of words (the lexicon; the
“dictionary in your head”), and
 Rules (the grammar of the language)
 It is the job of the syntactician (and the
morphologist) to find out what these
rules are
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
4
Language acquisition
 Everyone who can speak knows how
to use the rules
 and it is amazing that children can do it
so fast
 But nobody can really state exactly
what the rules are!
 Understanding syntax (and
morphology) can help researchers to
understand how young children learn
their native language
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
5
Universal grammar
 Theory of Chomsky
 UG has Principles, true of all languages
 All languages have the same underlying
structure
 e.g. all languages have nouns and verbs
 and Parameters, whose setting varies
from language to language
 English and Chinese SVO; Japanese SOV
 Spanish and Chinese pro-drop; English not
pro-drop
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
6
All languages have constituents
 Take a simple sentence
 Johnny danced
 We can call the sentence S, and label the syntactic
categories N and V
S
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
N
V
Johnny
danced
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Phrase structure grammar
 N and V aren’t always
very good labels
 Johnny is similar to the
handsome student,
because they are both
the same kind of
constituent
 They are both Noun
Phrases
 We
can
remove
Johnny and add the
handsome
student,
and
the
sentence
structure
is
still
similar
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
S
8
NP
VP
The
handsome
student
danced
Different sentence, same
constituents
S
 Now let’s add an object
 danced the lambada is
the same kind of
constituent as danced
 a VP
 You can swap danced for
danced the lambada and
the basic structure is the
same
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
9
NP
VP
The
handsome
student
danced the
lambada
What are the NP and VP?
The frog ate the lizard.
The frog sat on the lilypad.
The fat frog ate the long lizard slowly.
The fat frog with a lizard in its mouth
sat on the lilypad.
 The fat frog who was sitting on the
lilypad with a lizard in its mouth
danced the lambada.




Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
10
Phrase structure rules
 Now, you know this phrase structure rule:
 S  NP VP (a Sentence comprises a Noun
Phrase followed by a Verb Phrase)
 Draw a tree for the phrase Emma drinks
 Here are two more phrase structure rules:
 VP  V NP
 NP  N
 Think about that carefully
 Now, draw a tree with more detail
 For the sentence Emma drinks whisky
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
11
Now let’s change the NP rule
 First, DET means determiner
 Function words like the, a, this, several
 NP  (DET) N
 That means a noun phrase can have a determiner,
and it must have a noun
 Now you can diagram Johnny danced the
lambada in a bit more detail than I did on the
other slide
 Remember:
 S  NP VP
 VP  V NP)
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
12
Now let’s change the NP rule
again
 Such that we have
 S  NP VP
 VP  V NP
 NP  (DET) (ADJ) N
 Now you can diagram this sentence
 The unhappy book ate the green lambada
 The sentence is syntactically well-formed,
by the way
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
13
Grammatical or Ungrammatical:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
The boy found the ball
The boy found quickly
The boy found in the house
The boy found the ball in the house
Disa slept the baby
Disa slept soundly
Find: Transitive verb (with object)
Sleep: Intransitive verb (no object)
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
14
Syntactic Categories
Lexical categories
 Noun (N)
 Verb (V)
 Adjective (A)
 Preposition (P)
 Adverb (Adv)
Examples
 moisture, policy
 melt, remain
 good, intelligent
 to, near
 slowly, now
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
15
Syntactic Categories
Non-lexical categories
 Determiner (Det)
 Degree word (Deg)
 Qualifier (Qual)
 Auxiliary (Aux)
 Conjunction (Con)
Examples
 the, this
 very, more
 always, perhaps
 will, can
 and, or
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
16
Indicate the category of each
word in the following sentences.
a. The glass suddenly broke.
Det / N / Adv / V
b. A jogger ran towards the end of the lane.
Det / N / V / P / Det / N / P / Det / N
c. The peaches never appear quite ripe.
Det / N / Qual / V / Deg / A
d. Gillian will play the trumpet and the drums in the orchestra.
N / Aux / V / Det / N / Conj / Det / N / P / Det / N
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
17
Phrases
 NP : Noun Phrase
The car, a clever student
 VP : Verb Phrase
study hard, play the guitar
 PP : Prepositional Phrase
in the class, above the earth
 AP : Adjective Phrase
very tall, quite certain
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
18
Phrase Structure Rules
 NP  (Det) N (PP)
 PP  P NP
The bus in the yard
NP
The bus (NP)
Det
N
The
bus
Det
N
PP
P
The
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
bus
in
NP
Det
N
the
yard
19
Phrase Structure Rules
 VP  V (NP) (PP)
 S  NP (Aux) VP
took the money from the bank
VP
took the money (VP)
V
NP
Det
took
the
V
N
NP
Det
PP
N
P
money
took
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
the
money
from
NP
Det
N
the
bank
20
Draw the tree diagram.
1. repaired the telephone
2. the success of the program
3. a film about pollution
4. move towards the window
5. cast a spell on the broomstick
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
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The main structure rules
1. S  NP (Aux) VP
2. NP  (Det) (AP) N (PP)
3. VP  V (NP) (PP) (Adv)
4. PP  P NP
5. AP  A (PP)
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
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Example
The old tree swayed in the wind
S
Aux
NP
Det
Adj
N
VP
V
PP
P
The
old
tree
past
swayed
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
in
NP
Det
N
the
wind
23
Example
The children put the toy in the box
S
NP
Det
VP
N
V
NP
Det
The
children
put
the
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
PP
N
toy
P
in
NP
Det
N
the
box
24
Ambiguity: a word, phrase or
sentence with multiple meanings
Synthetic buffalo hides (NP)
Synthetic
buffalo hides
Synthetic buffalo hides (NP)
Synthetic buffalo
Buffalo hides that are synthetic.
hides
Hides of synthetic buffalo.
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
25
Ambiguities often lead to humorous results
 For sale: an antique desk suitable for lady
with thick legs and large drawers.
 what does “thick legs and large drawers”
refer to?
The desk or the lady?
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
26
Structural Ambiguity
The boy saw the man with the telescope
S
NP
Det
Aux
N
VP
V
NP
Det
PP
N
P
NP
Det
The
boy
past
saw the
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
N
man with the telescope
27
Structural Ambiguity
The boy saw the man with the telescope
S
NP
Det
Aux
N
VP
NP
V
Det
N
PP
P
NP
Det
The
boy
past
saw
the
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
N
man with the telescope
28
Draw two phrase structure trees representing the two
meanings of the sentence:
The magician touched the child with the wand.
Be sure you indicate which meaning goes with which
tree.
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
29
Declarative – Interrogative
 Move the auxiliary to the left of the subject.
The boy will leave.
S
NP
Det
Aux
VP
N
The boy
Will the boy leave?
S
Aux
V
will
leave
Will
NP
VP
Det
N
V
the
boy leave
The surface structure
The deep structure
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
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The Wh Movement
 Surface structure: Which car should the man repair?
 Deep structure: S
NP
Det
The
Aux
N
man
VP
NP
V
should repair
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
Det
N
which
car
31
Draw the deep structure of the following sentences
1. Will the boss hire Hillary?
2. Is that player leaving the team?
3. Who should the director call?
4. What is Joanne eating?
Syntax
Dr Alok K Das
32
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