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Summary syntax

Summary Review Sheet
Topic: Syntax
Linguistics Fall 2021
Syntactic Constituency
Syntax is a study about sentence. Sentence is formed by words. Before
becoming a sentence, words are organized into larger units
Sentence has internal structure. The structures are represented in our
mind, Words in a sentence are grouped into units, and these units are
grouped into larger unit to get a sentence.
A speaker of a language has intuition how a word is more likely to tie to
another group.
The students loved their syntax assignment
The students
Their syntax assignment
But not: *loved their
Example 2:
Mary went to America in summer.
in and summer together form a syntactic constituent that functions as an
adjunct in the sentence.
We can omitted both words and still have a grammatical sentence. However,
omitting either one results in ungrammaticality:
*Mary went to America in.
*Mary went to America Summer.
Syntactic Categories
A syntactic category is a set of words and/or phrases in a language which
share a significant number of common characteristics. The classification is
based on similar structure and sameness of distribution.
When two expressions have similar syntactic properties, they are usually
interchangeable in the sentence:
Linda loves Tiffany jewelry. Linda loves Cartier jewelry.
Tiffany is a famous luxury brand. Cartier is a famous luxury brand.
A determiner is any expression that can be combined with a noun to its right
to form an expression.
Types of determiner :
1. this, that, these, those [demonstrative determiners]
2. my, your, his, her, our, their, etc.[possessive determiners]
3. a, some, the, every, all, few, little, etc. [quantificational determiners ]
Noun Phrase(NP)
Mary will go to see a movie tonight.
To test if a constituent is a noun phrase or not, we can try to replace it with a
pronoun. If the result is a grammatical sentence, then the constituent is a
noun phrase.
Example: She will go to see a movie tonight.
There are also NPs that contain attributive adjectives (Adj.) :
The white dog ran across the street. Bichon ran across the street.
Count noun: Count nouns are nouns that are able to be counted. (e.g., one
dog, three dogs) When a count noun occur in the singular, it must co-occur
with a determiner.
The dog is barking at Tom.
Mass nouns are nouns that cannot be counted and pluralized. =uncountable
Mass nouns can occur without a determiner and can be replaced with a
Example: happiness, freedom, water.
Happiness is the important thing in my life. It is the most important thing is
my life.
Verb Phrase(VP)
A verb phrase refers to phrase that composed of at least one verb and
dependents of the verb, in which the verb functions as the headword of the
The clown made the little boy cry.
The cat played with its toys.
Intransitive verbs : verbs that require no complements to form a VP.
Accident will happen.
A barking dog never bites.
Ditransitive verbs : verbs that require 2 NP complements and a subject
argument to form a VP.
I played soccer yesterday.
Can you tell me the truth?
Many expressions that can occur in a VP as adjuncts are adverbs (Adv.) :
She ate her lunch carefully.
He finished his homework quickly.
prepositional phrase(PP)
A prepositional phrase refers to phrase that begins with a preposition, in
which the preposition functions as the headword of the phrase.
he arrived at the meeting on time.
He took it for granted.