Syntax
Word order, constituency
LING 200
Spring 2003
Reading: Files 6.1, 6.3, 6.5, 6.7
Overview
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What is syntactic competence?
Morphology and syntax: inflectional morphology
Word order
Representing the structure of sentences
Arguments for constituent structure
Transformations
Cross-linguistic variation
Syntactic competence
What native speakers know about:
• Possible vs. impossible sentences
• Restricted distributions of words/
morphemes
• What sentences mean
Sources of evidence in syntax
• Observation of native speaker productions
• Elicitation of native speaker grammaticality
judgements
– from self
– from others
Morphology overlaps with syntax
Syntactically relevant morphemes: inflection
Derivation
1. Category
changing?
Inflection
often
no
-able: likeable -s pl.: apples
-ness:
-s 3sS: sees
happiness
Inflection vs. derivation
2. Productive?
(very general
conditions on
affixation?)
Derivation
Inflection
often restricted:
-hood:
brotherhood,
neighborhood,
*daughterhood
yes, but subject
to blocking by
irregular forms:
-s pl.:
child, *childs,
children
Russianize vs.
Russify
Inflection vs. derivation
Derivation
3. Morpheme inner: usu. added
order
before inflectional:
-]Nal]Adj
-]N,Adjize]V
-]Vation]N
industrializationalize
Inflection
outer: usu. added after
derivational:
3sS -s
industrializationalizes
Inflection vs. derivation
4. Syntactic
relevance
Derivation
Inflection
no
usually sensitive to syntactic
information; -s 3sS: Rose
sees (vs. I see_)
Some verbal inflectional affixes
-ing present visiting I am ___ Virginia now.
participle
-ed past
visited
Last weekend I ___ Virginia.
-ed past
participle
visited
I have just ___ Virginia.
Syntactic relevance: agreement
• Spanish: adjectives agree with nouns in gender, number
• gender: (arbitrary) noun classes
entrada ‘ticket (to a show)’ vs. boleto ‘ticket’
‘the’
‘this’
‘expensive’
la entrada
esta entrada
entrada cara
pl. entradas las entradas
estas entradas
entradas caras
sg. boleto
el boleto
este boleto
boleto caro
pl. boletos
los boletos
estos boletos
boletos caros
sg. entrada
Agreement
Vendiste las entradas?
you sold the tickets
‘Did you sell the tickets?’
No, las (*los) tengo todavía. ‘No, I still have them.’
them
I have still
Word order
• English vs. Witsuwit’en
1. Prepositions precede nouns in English.
count for me
Postpositions follow nouns in Witsuwit'en:
spe c’otw
‘count for me’
me for
you (sg.) count
Word order
2. In English, adjectives precede nouns.
narrow rope
In Witsuwit'en, an adjective follows a noun:
t'o tet
rope narrow
‘fine babiche’
Word order
3. In English, the possessor noun normally precedes the
possessed noun.
my friend's house
but can follow the possessed noun:
the house of my friend
In Witsuwit'en, the possessor noun always precedes the
possessed noun:
sq'aqhE
my friend
pyX
‘my friend’s house’
his/her house
Word order
4. Subject of sentence: instigates action (transitive verbs),
undergoes action or state (intransitive verbs)
In both Witsuwit'en and English, subjects precede verbs:
Driftwood is floating around.
tz
driftwood
ntE
it is floating around
Word order
5. (Direct) (undergoes action of verb) object only in sentences
with transitive verbs.
In English, the direct object follows the verb.
We bought food.
In Witsuwit'en, the direct object precedes the verb:
t'a
nets'ottqhEt
food we bought
Attested word order patterns
(S = Subject, O = Object, V = Verb):
SOV
Witsuwit'en
SVO
English
VSO
Irish
OSV
Apurinã (Arawakan, Brazil)
OVS
Parecís (Arawakan, Brazil) (also SOV)
VOS
Oro Win (Chapacura-Wanham, Brazil) (5
speakers)
Frequency of each type
< Sample of 402 languages.
Word order
# languages
SOV
180
45%
SVO
168
42%
VSO
37
9%
VOS
12
3%
OVS
5
1%
OSV
0
0%
Recursion and phrase structure
(Potentially) infinitely long sentences:
This is the house that Jack built.
This is the malt
that lay in the house that Jack built.
This is the rat
that ate the malt
that lay in the house that Jack built.
...
This is the priest all shaven and shorn
that married the man all tattered and torn
that kissed the maiden all forlorn
that milked the cow with the crumpled horn
that tossed the dog
that worried the cat
that killed the rat
that ate the malt
that lay in the house that Jack built.
...
How to characterize (potential)
infinity?
Phrase structure rules. Properties:
 specify word order
 are recursive (output of one rule can be
rewritten via another rule)
Phrase structure rules
General schema:
X  Y Z (“X consists of/is Y Z”)
examples:
English:
Witsuwit'en:
PP = Pre/postpositional phrase
P = Pre/postposition
NP = Noun phrase
PP  P NP
PP  NP P
Equivalent representational devices
phrase structure rule:
PP  P NP
labeled bracketing:
PP[P
tree structure:
NP]
PP
P NP
Some terminology
constituent
syntactic unit consisting of one or more words
= node (in tree)
root node
branching nodes
PP
P
terminal nodes
NP
with Det N
the money
More phrase structure rules
S  NP VP
S=
NP =
VP =
sentence
noun phrase
verb phrase
More phrase structure rules
NP  (Det) (Adj+) N (PP)
Det =
determiner
Adj =
adjective
N = noun
( ) = optional
Determiners vs. adjectives
NP  (Det) (Adj+) N (PP)
Det  a/an, some, the, your (etc.)
Adj  big, green, juicy (etc.)
One determiner per NP:
your pickle, the pickle, *your the pickle,
*the your pickle
More than one Adj is possible (+ notation):
your big pickle, your big green pickle,
your big green juicy pickle
More phrase structure rules
VP  Vtrans (NP) (PP) (Adv)
VP = verb phrase
Vtrans = transitive verb
Adv =
adverb
Some simple tree structures
S  NP VP
NP  (Det) (Adj+) N (PP)
VP  V (NP) (PP) (Adv)
S
NP VP
N V
cats sleep
Some simple tree structures
NP  (Det) (Adj+) N (PP)
PP  P NP
NP
N
PP
fog P
NP
in Det
N
the morning
NP
Det N PP
the piano P
on
NP
Det N
PP
the stage P
NP
in Det
N
PP
the music building P
NP
on
N
campus
Some simple tree structures
VP  V (NP) (PP) (Adv)
VP
V
NP
PP
put Det N P NP
the car in Det N
the garage
Summary of syntax (so far)
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Syntactic competence
Morphology and syntax: inflectional morphology
Word order
Recursion
Representing the structure of sentences
– phrase structure rules
– tree diagrams
– labeled bracketing
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Syntax - University of Washington