Meeting 3 Noun Phrase & Constituents

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Constituents
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

Constituency and hierarchical
structure
A speaker of a language has intuition how a
word is more likely to tie to another group
Example:
The students loved their syntax assignment
Constituents:
The students
Their syntax assignment
But not: *loved their
How do we represent the bigger
units
Square bracket:
[the student]
 Tree structure

The
student
So, what is constituent?


It is “a group of words that function
together as a unit”
It is the most important and the
most basic notion in syntax theory
containing the intuition of
relatedness between constituents
Can you draw a tree diagram of the
sentence
The student loved his syntax
assignment
Or a bracket rule (Chinese boxes)?
End of Lecture 2a
Phrase Structure


In lecture 2a we looked at the
concept of contituent.
Today we’ll begin to look at how
words combine to form sentences.
WORD CLASSES
OPEN/CONTENT
nouns
lexical verbs
adjectives
adverbs
CLOSED/FUNCTIONAL
/GRAMMATICAL
determinatives
prepositions
pronouns
auxiliary verbs
Formal criteria:
coordinators
• morphological
subordinators/
• syntactic
complementizers
Phrases
•
•
•
Words don’t combine together directly to form
sentences.
There’s a closer link between some words than
there is with others.
Words combine to form phrases and phrases
combine with other words to form bigger
phrases.
Phrases
S
(1) The tall librarian put the book on that
shelf
•
•
the tall librarian goes together better
than librarian put
on that shelf forms a unit (or constituent)
Phrases



These sequences of words that go together like
the tall librarian or on that shelf are called
phrases.
We can’t just throw words together in a random
order - sentences have an ordered hierarchical
structure.
Words go together to form phrases, phrases go
together to form larger phrases, then some
phrases go together to form a clause or sentence.
Phrases


We can rely (to some extent) on
intuition for our native language, but
how do we work out phrases for a
language we don’t speak?
We need to use formal tests to
work out which words in a sentence
go together to form a phrase.
Substitution Test


This test involves substituting a
single word for a string or sequence
of words.
If this substitution doesn’t change
the meaning of the sentence, then
the group of words we can replace
with a single word is a phrase.
Substitution Test
We can see that a single word may be
substituted for many of the phrases
in sentence (1).
The tall librarian put the book on that
shelf
She put the book on
The tall librarian put
The tall librarian put
The tall librarian put
that shelf
it on that shelf
the book on it
the book there
Substitution Test
We’ve verified that the following are
phrases:
the tall librarian - substituted with she
the book - substituted with it
that shelf
- also substituted with it
on that shelf - substituted with there.
Substitution
Substitution is often used quite
naturally to refer back to some
previously mentioned referent.
Substitution
(3) Do you know the man who came yesterday?
Yes, he’s my brother.
In the answer to the question, we have
replaced the man who came in yesterday
with the pronoun he, which shows that the
man who came in yesterday is a phrase.
Substitution
We can also substitute do so or so do (or
just do/does/did) for a group of words which
include the verb.
o
o
o
The tall librarian put the book on the shelf,
and so did John.
The tall librarian put the book on the shelf,
and John did (so) too.
Who put the book on that shelf? The tall
librarian did (so).
So the words put the book on the shelf in
Cleft Test
Cleft sentences have the form:
It BE ____ that/who _____
It is/was/will be/has been ____ that/who
____
Note that we only change the original
sentence by removing the phrase to be
tested.
Cleft Test
It is/was/will be ____ that/who ____
The tall librarian put the book on that shelf
It was the tall librarian who ___ put the book
on that shelf
It was the book that the tall librarian put ___
on that shelf
It was on that shelf that the tall librarian put
the book ___
Cleft Test
It was the shelf that the tall librarian
put the book on ___
*It was put the book on the shelf that
the tall librarian ___
*It was put the book that the tall
librarian ___ on the shelf.
Cleft Test


This test works by showing
something is a phrase if it fits
between it BE and who or that and
still makes a grammatical sentence.
PUZZLE: Phrase which includes the
verb passes the substitution test, but
fails the cleft test.
Movement Tests
Phrases often behave as units which can be placed
at different positions in a sentence. We can think
of the relationship between sentences as involving
movement of phrases.
The tall librarian put the book on that shelf
On that shelf the tall librarian put the book ___
(whereas on this shelf she put the magazine
___.)
The book the tall librarian put ___ on the shelf,
Types of Phrases


We now have some formal tests we
can apply to find out whether or not
a sequence of words forms a phrase.
Now we’re going to look at the
different types of phrases in
languages, with their different
internal structures.
Noun Phrases
These are all the same types of phrase:











the sentence
that boy
a dog
that large bicycle
some dirty water
women
David
Queensland
happiness
elderly men
they
Detv N
Detv Adj
N
Adj N
Pron
N
Noun Phrase


The simplest NPs contain only a noun
(proper noun [+proper] such as ‘John’,
pronoun [+pron] such as ‘he’, mass noun
[-count] such as ‘water’, or plural noun
[+plural] such as ‘cats’)
This generates a rule:
NP
N or NP
N

NP
N
S
VP
Noun Phrases




In the previous examples, the most
important word is a noun or pronoun.
Noun/pronoun cannot be omitted
Noun/pronoun may be the only
element in a phrase
So, since nouns are the most
important words in the phrases, we
call these phrases noun phrases.
Noun Phrases
In English, a noun phrase may be made
up of:





determinative + noun = NP
(Detv) N
determinative + adjective + noun =
NP
Detv Adj N
noun
adjective + noun
pronoun
Noun Phrases
We use phrase structure rules to
represent these structures, for
example:
NP  Detv N
This rule says that a noun phrase (NP)
“is made up of” (arrow) a determinative
(Detv) followed by a noun (N).
Noun Phrase
Another was of representing this formula
is by using a phrase structure tree:
NP
Detv
N
Noun Phrases
To account for the types of NP in (11):






NP
NP
NP
NP
NP
NP






(Detv) N
(Detv) (AdjP) N
(Detv) (AdjP) N (PP)
N
(AdjP) N
Pron
Noun Phrases
We can simplify this rule to:
NP  (Detv) (Adj) N (PP)
This rule says that a noun phrase
consists of a noun, with an optional
determinative and adjective (in that
order) preceding it and a
prepositional phrase following it.
Noun Phrases
Note:
 This rule will not cover all possible
English NPs (we’ll be modifying it
shortly) but now we’ve got a
structure to start with.

A NP can consist of just a noun. When
we see a noun in a sentence without
a determinative or adjective, it is
often in a noun phrase, even though
it’s the only element of a noun
phrase.
Phrases
We will look at phrases for all of the content words:

Noun phrases

Verb phrases

Adjective phrases

Adverb phrases
and a phrase for one closed class word:

Preposition phrases
Adjective Phrases
o
o
o
That very happy woman left
That woman is very happy
So happy is that woman...
In these sentences, the words
very happy and so happy form a
phrase.
Adjective Phrase
As with nouns and noun phrases,
whenever we see an adjective in a
sentence, we will say that it is a constituent
of an adjective phrase (AdjP).
A simple adjective phrase may consist of a
Degree Adverb ( so, very, rather,
extremely...) followed by an Adjective:
AdjP  (Adv) Adj
Noun Phrases
NP  (Detv) (Adj) N
We need to modify our NP structure rule
because it has Adj on its own, and we now
know that an adjective will always be in an
AdjP.
NP  (Detv) (AdjP) N
However…
Noun Phrases
Noun phrases can be much more
complex than the examples given
earlier.
o
o
the very large man
the rather quiet very large man
So our new rule will be:
NP  (Detv) (AdjP)* N
Adverb Phrases
An adverb phrase normally
consists of
an adverb possibly preceded by a
degree adverb:
very quickly
 rather carefully
 extremely well

Preposition Phrases
Preposition phrases (PP) consist of a
preposition (P) alone or with another
constituent following it, often a noun
phrase:




to the shops
after the party
into the large kitchen
beside those very large buildings
Adverb phrases



pass the substitution test with thus
pass the cleft test
pass the movement test
She ran very slowly.
She ran thus.
It was very slowly that she ran ___.
Very slowly she ran ___.
Preposition Phrases
A preposition doesn’t need to be
followed by anything:
o
o
John went outside.
Pam stood behind.
PP  P (NP)
Preposition phrase
Prepositions may also be followed by
Prepositional Phrases:
James emerged from behind the shed.
The monster arose from out of the mist.
PP  P PP
Single formula: PP  P (PP/NP)
Preposition Phrase
• Passes the cleft test
o
It was from out of the mist that the
monster arose.
• Passes the substitution test.
o
o
The monster arose there.
The monster arose from there.
VERB PHRASES
o
•
•
The tall librarian put the book on that
shelf.
Recall that put the book on that shelf
seemed to pass the substitution test
(using do/does/did), but failed the cleft
test.
It also fails the movement test:
Verb Phrase
Assuming that the substitution test does
identify the part of the sentence which
includes the verb and everything that follows
as a verb phrase (VP) then we have VP's of
the following sort:
Verb Phrases

The girl left

The girl went to the shops

The girl kissed the boy

The girl kissed the boy after lunch

The girl kissed the boy after lunch under
the tree

The girl gave the boy a book

The girl gave the boy a book after lunch

The girl gave the boy a book after lunch
under the tree
Verb Phrases

The girl left (V)

The girl went to the shops (V + PP)

The girl kissed the boy (V + NP)

The girl kissed the boy after lunch (V + NP +
PP)
Verb Phrases



The girl kissed the boy after lunch under
the tree (V + NP + PP + PP)
The girl gave the boy a book
(V + NP + NP)
The girl gave the boy a book after lunch
(V + NP + NP + PP)
Verb Phrases

The girl gave the boy a book after lunch
under the tree (V + NP + NP + PP + PP)
Although these look like very complex
structures, we can write them using one
phrase structure rule:
VP  V (NP) (NP) (PP)*
Verb Phrases
VP  V (NP) (NP) (PP)*
Note: unlike our earlier rules where we used
an asterisk (*) to indicate more than one
of a constituent, we’ve written two NPs
because in general no more than two NPs
are found in a VP.
This is not the case with the PPs, so we’ve
used the asterisk there.
Sentences
A sentence may consist of an NP
and a VP:
S  NP VP
Sentences
S  NP VP
[S [NP the tall librarian] [VP put the book
on that shelf]]
S
NP
VP
Phrases in Sentences



The tall librarian
the book
that shelf
NP  (Detv) (AdjP)* N
The tall librarian put the book on that shelf.
Phrases in Sentences
The AdjP tall within the first NP the
tall librarian consists simply of an
adjective, one of the possibilities:
AdjP  (Adv) Adj
The tall librarian put the book on that shelf.
Phrases in sentences
Let’s consider another more complex
Adjective phrase:


The librarian is so very extremely tall
The librarian is rather quite exquisitely
tall
AdjP  (AdvP) Adj
AdvP  (AdvP) Adv
Phrases in Sentences
The VP consists of a verb (V)
followed by an NP and a PP, which
conforms to our VP rule:
VP  V (NP) (NP) (PP)*
Phrases in Sentences

The PP on that shelf consists of a
preposition (P) followed by an NP,
which fits the PP rule:
PP  P (NP/PP)
The tall librarian put the book on that shelf.
Phrases in Sentences


This small set of phrase structure
rules that we’ve devised can account
for many English sentences.
To account for all sentences of
English, we will have to develop
more complex rules.
Sentences



Looking at our phrase structure tree (p7), we
can see that sentences are made up of
phrases rather than words, and that phrases
may contain other phrases, showing us that
sentences have an ordered hierarchical
structure.
In future lectures we will argue that S is also
a phrase
In next week's lectures we will look at ways
of talking about the relations between the
Further Reading:
Carnie, Andrew. 2007. Syntax: a
generative introduction. Chapter 3
Lee, David. 2003. Grammar survey,
pp3-9, and chapters 3 and 5.
Fromkin, V. et al. 2005. An
Introduction to Language. Ch. 4.
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