CAS LX 522 Syntax I
CAS LX 522 Syntax I. Week 2a. Categories. Describing the grammatical system. Our goal is to describe the systematic grammatical knowledge that people have.
CAS LX 522 Syntax I
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CAS LX 522Syntax I
Week 2a. Categories
Describing the grammatical system
- Our goal is to describe the systematic grammatical knowledge that people have.
- To describe how words can be combined (and how they cannot be combined) into sentences requires classification of words into different groups that each share syntactic properties, the syntactic categories.
- A grammatical category is a class of expressions which share a common set of grammatical properties.
- Some that we know when we see:
- frog, utensil, liberty: noun
- jump, know, donate: verb
- smooth, intense, magenta, likely: adjective
- rapidly, halfheartedly, effectively, well: adverb
- on, under, aboard: preposition
- Nouns generally are used to refer to something, a person, an object, an abstract idea.
- Nouns can often have a plural.
- But: sheep, deer
- But: furniture
- But: policy decisions
- The distinction between singular and plural is a grammatical distinction. The difference between dog and cat is a difference of content, whereas the difference between dog and dogs is predictable if you know what dog means. Predictable things are part of the grammar.
- Morphology like the plural -s in English that marks a grammatical property is inflectional morphology.
- In a sense, these markings reflect meaning.
- Verbs carry inflectional morphology that reflect tense and aspectual properties.
- Inflectional morphology is distinguished from derivational morphology, which can be seen as changing or adding to meaning.
- un: tie, untie.
- iN: possible, impossible, regular, irregular, tolerable, intolerable
- re: retie, rewrite.
- This is still at a fairly intuitive level, of course…
Derivational morphology and category
- Derivational morphology often seems to be sensitive to category and can change words from one category to another.
- noun adjective: ish, like, esque
- verb noun: er,
- adjective/adverb adjective/adverb: iN, un
- adjective noun: ness
- The point is: we need to recognize categories of words to adequately describe/explain language.
- There are a number of morphological hints (but they are not completely reliable, due to irregularity):
- nouns can have a plural (+s, usually)
- verbs inflect for 3sg agreement (usually)
- verbs inflect for tense/aspect: ing, en/ed.
- adjectives can often be emphasized with very, as can adverbs.
- adverbs often end in ly.
- One of the best definitional characteristics of a syntactic category is its distribution.
- In general, you can substitute something with another thing of the same syntactic category.
- Obvious is an adjective.
- It is obvious that Pat likes Tracy.
- It is likely that Pat likes Tracy.
- So, likely is also an adjective.
- They have no noun.
- They can verb.
- They are adjective.
- Very adverb, very adjective.
- so long as it makes sense (e.g., with gradable adjectives; #they are very absent)
- Right preposition
Lexical and functional
- Nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs: These are lexical categories. They carry significant and arbitrary meaning, and they are open-class (new ones can be invented).
- But not all words are of this kind (except maybe on telegrams).
- Telegram: Ancient form of instant messaging.
- Sentences are held together by little “function words” as well. These are the functional categories.
Lexical and functional
- Functional categories are more like the syntactic “glue” of a sentence, concerned more with grammatical properties.
- Determiners: the, a(n)
- Quantifiers (determiners): some, every
- Demonstratives: that, this, those
- Possessive pronouns: my, your
- Any old pronouns: you, him, they
- Infinitival to
- Auxiliaries/Modals: have, be, do, can, should
- Complementizers: that, for, if
- Determiners generally come before a noun, and come in a few different types.
- Articles: the, an.
- Quantificational determiners: some, most
- Interrogative determiner: which
- Demonstratives: that, this
- Possessive pronouns: my, your, their
- These types are similar to… and different from… one another. For now, we’ll lump them together.
Determiners v. adjectives
- Can we lump determiners together with adjectives? Maybe we could have a simpler theory of categories if we just put determiners and adjectives together.
- They both come before nouns (in English)
- They both seem to “modify” the noun.
- Tall building.
- That building.
- A building.
- My building.
Determiners v. adjectives
To properly describe the distribution of these elements, we really need to separate them into two classes. Lumping them together will not give us a simpler descriptive system.
- The big fluffy pink rabbit
- The my rabbit
- The that rabbit
- Every my rabbit
- Determiners cannot co-occur with other determiners, and must precede any adjectives.
- Adjectives can occur with other adjectives.
Regarding chairs and furniture
- Nouns can be broken up into two classes, the mass nouns that refer to “stuff” and the count nouns that refer to things we can count. Furniture is a mass noun, chair is a count noun.
- The use of determiners is sensitive to this difference. What are you looking for? *Chair, *fancy chair, a chair, that chair, furniture, fancy furniture.
- It seems that in a fragment response, you need to have a determiner if you’re going to use a count noun. An adjective won’t do, hence adjectives can’t be the same as determiners.
- Pronouns differ from nouns in a couple of ways, and should be considered a functional category.
- The pronouns of English express person, number, and gender (3rd person).
- 1st person: I, me, we, us
- 2nd person: you
- 3rd person: he, she, him, her, they, them, it
- Pronouns differ from regular nouns in that they give an indication of their function in the sentence. They are marked for case.
- Subject: he, she, I, they
- Non-subject: him, her, me, them
- You and it do not vary regardless of function, but they could hardly be of a different category that I/me, they/them.
Auxiliaries and modals
- Different from verbs: have, be, do, will, can, might.
- In questions, auxiliaries “invert” with the subject, verbs don’t.
- Will you leave? Can you leave? Do you leave often? *Leave you often?
- Auxiliaries occur before not, verbs don’t.
- You will not leave. You did not leave. *You left not.
- Notice the extra do: “do-support”.
- Auxiliaries are responsible for things like tense, mood, modality, aspect, voice. Grammatical things.
- I like to go to the movies.
- Kind of looks like a preposition, but it’s not. Prepositions take nouns, to as a P has a kind of contentful meaning (endpoint of a path). Infinitival to takes (bare) verbs only, means nothing (apart from “untensed”).
Infinitival to like a modal?
- To and modals (can,might, should) seem to appear in the same place (between the subject and a bare verb form).
- I like that John can pick up his dry-cleaning.
- I’d like for John to pick up his dry-cleaning.
I (a.k.a. INFL)
- This whole class of functional elements (modals, to, auxiliaries) seem to be responsible for tense (and subject agreement, as we’ll discuss).
- These are the things reflected by the verbal inflectional morphology.
- These elements seem to behave basically alike, so we’ll suppose they are of a single category, I (for Inflection).
- In many languages, infinitives are marked with a special inflectional ending, not unlike finite verbs. So, we might take to to be marking a special kind of tense: untensed (non-finite).
- Pat will leave.
- I heard that Pat will leave.
- I wonder if Pat will leave.
- I am anxious for Pat to leave.
- It is perfectly possible to embed a sentence inside another one. When we do this, it is indicated with a complementizer (introducing a complement clause).
The P for v. the C for
- For is of course a preposition (I looked for you for three hours), but not when it is introducing clauses.
- He headed right for the back row.
- *He’d like right for the class to be over.
- *He expressed interest in the class to be over.
- Who would you vote for in the primary?
- *Who are you anxious for to win the primary?
The D that v. the C that
- Same kind of thing holds for that.
- I like that movie.
- I heard that the movie involved guinea pigs.
- Sometimes you can replace for clauses with that clauses.
- It is important that Pat votes.
- It is important for Pat to vote.
- Lexical categories:
- N: noun A: adjective Adv: adverb
- V: verb P: preposition
- Functional categories:
- I: inflection/aux/modal D: determiner
- C: complementizer PRN: Pronoun
[A labeled ] [N brackets ]
- A common way of indicating the syntactic categories of words is by using labeled brackets, putting [brackets] around the word and marking the first one with a syntactic category label.
- [NPat] [I is] [Aanxious] [C for] [N Tracy][I to] [V win] [D the] [N election] [P in][N November] [Advdecisively].