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Language and Cognition Colombo, June 2011

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  1. Language and CognitionColombo, June 2011 Day 2 Introduction to Linguistic Theory, Part 3

  2. Plan • Lexical and functional categories • Basic syntax: the structure of phrases

  3. Lexical and functional categories • Descriptive content • One way to decide whether a word belongs to a lexical or a functional category is to see if it has descriptive content • Lexical categories typically denote something in the world – • Nouns = entities • adjectives and adverbs = properties • Verbs = actions • The antonym test: • One way to see if something has descriptive content is to try thinking of its opposite if it has an opposite, then it has descriptive content and is therefore a lexical category • But remember that this is not a 100% reliable test – that’s why we use morphosyntactic evidence too

  4. Lexical and functional categories • The closed / open class distinction • Open classes typically have a large membership and can easily accept new members (e.g., nouns, verbs, adjectives….) ’Twasbrillig, and the slithytoves did gyre and gimble in the wabe All mimsy were the borogroves, and the momerathsoutgrabe • Closed classes, on the other hand, have a much smaller membership, and do not readily accept new members. This distinction tends to correlate with the lexical vs functional distinction.

  5. Lexical categories • Nouns (N) Verbs (V) • Adjectives (Adj) Adverbs (Adv)

  6. Functional categories • Carry information about grammatical properties of expressions in a sentence (tense, case, number, gender, person, voice, mood etc) • No descriptive content (they do not pick out some item or property in the world) • Functional categories are usually closed class • Examples of functional categories: • determiners (Det) auxiliaries (Aux, or I) • pronouns (Prn, or Det) complementisers (Comp)

  7. Lexical/functional distinctions in aphasia • Compare what you can hear of the structural properties in the speech of these two people. • Is there a dissociation? • What might this tell you about the way the brain handles these different aspects of language? • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2IiMEbMnPM&feature=related • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVhYN7NTIKU

  8. Syntactic structure

  9. Syntactic structure

  10. Syntactic structure

  11. Syntactic structure

  12. Syntactic structure

  13. Syntactic structure • Phrase structure trees represent: • The linear order of the words / morphemes in a phrase or sentence • The groupings of the words into syntactic categories • The constituent structure of the phrase or sentence • Constituents are “chunks” of a phrase or sentence that belong together in the structure • Psychological reality of constituent boundaries has been demonstrated experimentally • Tree diagrams are a way to represent aspects of the knowledge speakers have of their language – COMPETENCE • Although we are not aware of it, we are using such structures all the time when we speak and understand language

  14. Properties of phrases • Phrases have “heads” • E.g., every NP contains N, every VP contains V… • Heads “project” • That is, the head of a phrase can be realized either as a single unit (just a V) or as a phrasal unit (a VP) OR

  15. Properties of phrases • Phrases have complements • That is, a head can “select” (or “subcategorise”) for the kind of complement that can go with it inside a phrase • VP  V (NP) • NP  D N (PP) • S  NP VP (NP) • Phrase structure rules can be recursive • E.g. NP  D N (PP); PP  P NP • This allows for the formation of infinite embedded structures – linguistic creativity

  16. Infiniteness of language NP  D N (PP) PP  P NP

  17. Phrase structure rules • These “rewrite rules” show what can go into phrases of each type • PS rules come from an old version of syntactic theory.. For various reasons, linguists do not think they give an accurate view of how language really works • But we will use them as a kind of shorthand to help us understand some of the principles of syntactic structure

  18. Phrase structure rules • NP D N (PP) • PP  P NP • VP  V (NP) (PP) • S  NP VP • Using the PS rules above, draw the following phrases as tree diagrams: The cat on the pillow The cat sleeps The cat sleeps on the pillow

  19. Phrases and heads • What’s the head of S? • Aux, or Infl • S  NP Infl VP

  20. Empty Infl • There is not always phonological content to fill a node in a tree • That’s why some elements are thought of as “optional” • But in the case of Infl (or Aux), it must always be there – otherwise no S • Empty Infl: carries grammatical properties of the sentence, but does not need to have a phonological representation

  21. Minimalist phrase structure (if we have time) • Problems with PS rules (a few amongst many) • When we develop theories of language, we are trying to build a theory that is: • UNIVERSAL – can account for ALL human languages (not just a few, or one) • LEARNABLE – because very young children learn language very fast – so the theory should be very simple • EXPLANATORILY ADEQUATE – does not just say what langauges are like (that would be descriptively adequate), but also says WHY languages are like this

  22. Minimalist phrase structure • PS rules may be different for different languages, so do not fulfil the requirement of universality • PS rules do not fulfil the requirement of learnability: the child acquiring a language would not only have to learn how to tell the differences between phrases of different types, but would also have to learn a different schema for each one • where do PS rules come from? Do we learn them, or are they innate? If innate, why are they not universal? If we learn them, how do we do so? These questions remain unanswered, so the requirement of explanatory adequacy is not met

  23. X-bar theory • See handout…