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Basics of the grammar of English. Words, phrases, clauses Words Open classes; nouns and verbs Distribution patterns Nouns, pronouns, verbs, tenses Inflection Noun phrases Simple clauses, categories Questions Roles Prepositional phrases Clausal subjects / complements

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basics of the grammar of english
Basics of the grammar of English
  • Words, phrases, clauses
  • Words
  • Open classes; nouns and verbs
  • Distribution patterns
  • Nouns, pronouns, verbs, tenses
  • Inflection
  • Noun phrases
  • Simple clauses, categories
  • Questions
  • Roles
  • Prepositional phrases
  • Clausal subjects / complements
  • Verb phrases
  • Modifiers
  • Compound clauses
  • Relative clauses
words phrases clauses
Words, phrases, clauses
  • The building blocks of expressions in natural languages are words, phrases, clauses.
  • There is a semantic motivation for some of these fundamental constructions:
  • noun phrases correspond to entities that have properties (expressed by adjective phrases, relative clauses,and so on);
  • verb phrases correspond to situations with roles (noun phrases, prepositional phrases) and qualities (adverbial phrases).
words phrases clauses 2
Words, phrases, clauses (2)
  • The clause level
  • Simple and compound clauses.
  • Coordinate clause.
  • Major and subordinate clauses.

simple clause

simple clause

We bought him a book because he likes to read

major clause

subordinate clause

compound clause

  • The word level
  • Morphology: book  books, make  making.
  • Derivation: white whiteness, quick quickly.
words
Words
  • Criteria for distinguishing words are quite arbitrary, though the simplest test (groups of letters between non-letters) works okay.
  • Words are not the lowest level of description.
  • Morphemes, e.g., pre+book+ing, un+glue+d.
  • antidisestablishmentarianism
  • There are four open classes of words (noun, verb, adjective, adverb) and closed classes (including articles, conjunctions, prepositions, numerals, pronouns).
words 2
Words (2)
  • There are two criteria for word classification.
  • Semantics: situations - roles - properties.
  • Distribution: words in the same class can often be interchanged.
  • Distribution can be tested by diagnostic contexts, positive and negative.
  • Example: adjectives.
words 3
Words (3)
  • A word may fit more than one pattern. This happens quite often, because word classes are not disjoint. Examples:
  • compound is an adjective, a noun, a verb;
  • bar is a noun, a verb, a preposition.
  • (The verb-noun ambiguity is frequent in English.)
  • Classify various Ω in these sentences:
  • John decided to Ω a big, Ω and juicy Ω.
  • Put your Ω Ω the table.
words 4
Words (4)
  • Nouns
  • Proper nouns: Jimmy, Greece, IBM
  • Common nouns:
  • • mass nouns (sand, milk, ...)
  • • count nouns (all others)
  • Pronouns
  • Personal (I, him, ...)
  • Possessive (its, hers, ...)
  • Interrogative/relative (whom, which, that, ...)
  • Demonstrative (this, those, ...)
words 5
Words (5)
  • Nouns and personal pronouns have clear distributional differences (* marks incorrect expressions).

a man is running ⇔ * a Jim is running

a box of sand⇔ * a box of book

the book is mine⇔ * the book is which

a white elephant⇔ * a white he

beyond words
Beyond words
  • Verb groups
  • In English, there are five basic forms:
  • infinitive eat, drink, walk
  • present 3rd person eats, drinks, walks
  • simple past ate, drank, walked
  • progressive (present participle)eating, drinking, walking
  • perfective (past participle)eaten, drunk, walked
  • In French, there are about sixty forms.
  • There also are at least 48 English tenses, most of them expressed analytically, that is, using auxiliary verbs (all forms of be, have, do, plus will, would and so on).
beyond words 2
Beyond words (2)
  • Selected English tenses

How would we add negation?

inflection
Inflection
  • Words usually have forms with the same meaning and different functions in a sentence. Examples:
  • he — him was — were
  • long — longer book — books
  • Such forms have different inflectional categories.
  • Nouns can be inflected by case and number;
  • adjectives by case, number, gender and degree;
  • verbs by person, number, gender and tense.
  • Inflection in English is quite simple, compared with such languages as Russian, and even French.
inflection 2
Inflection (2)
  • FrenchEnglish
  • donnais, donnais, donnait gave, gave, gave
  • donnions, donniez, donnaient gave, gave, gave
  • dernier, derniers last, last
  • dernière, dernières last, last
  • English casesRussian cases
  • Water is good. ... voda ...
  • There is no water. ... vody ...
  • I wonder at water. ... vode ...
  • I see water. ... vodu ...
  • I wash with water. ... vodoy ...
inflection 3

sg = singular, pl = plural

Inflection (3)
  • Case: nouns and pronouns
  • The mansubjective spoke. Hesubjective spoke.
  • We saw the manobjective. We saw himobjective.
  • Person and number: verbs
  • I walk/walked1st, sg I am/was1st, sg
  • yousg walk/walked2nd, sg yousg are/were2nd, sg
  • he walks/walked3rd, sg he is/was3rd, sg
  • we walk/walked1st, pl we are/were1st, pl
  • youpl walk/walked2nd, pl youpl are/were2nd, pl
  • they walk/walked3d, pl they are/were3d, pl
noun phrases
Noun phrases
  • Terry Winograd, Language as a Cognitive Process: Syntax, Addison-Wesley, 1983
noun phrases 2
Noun phrases (2)
  • Examples, short and long, with head marked
  • he
  • Jimmy
  • a man
  • all the first three big stone walls in town, which you know
  • all those many enchanted blue singing people who fly
  • Elements that precede the head
  • Specifiers describe definiteness, cardinality, and so on.
  • Modifiers (adjectives, nouns) narrow down the meaning.
  • Elements that follow the head
  • Postmodifiers: relative clauses, prepositional phrases.
simple clauses
Simple clauses
  • A “simple” clause is not really simple. It is, however, usually built around a single verb, though with many additional elements — more in a while.
  • A clause can be in one of three moods:
  • declarative I will buy it.
  • interrogative Will I buy it? What will I buy?
  • imperative Buy it!
  • A clause has a tense — the same as the verb.
  • Finally, some clauses can be active or passive:
  • John hit JimJim was hit [by John]
  • John felt sick* Sick was felt [by John]
  • John slept???
questions
Questions
  • There are two types of interrogative clauses. They are, in a sense, derived from declarative clauses.
  • He bought two books today.
  • He did buy two books today.
  • Yes/no questions
  • Did he buy two books today?

Wh-questions

[Who] bought two books today?

[What] did he buy  today?

[When] did he buy two books ?

roles
Roles
  • A clause consists of a verb group surrounded by noun phrases that serve as role descriptors.
  • One syntactic role that is always present in an English clause is the subject. It may not be the agent or the experiencer (see conceptual graphs).
  • Yesterday John gave Mary a book. subject
  • Yesterday John gave Mary a book. indirect object
  • Yesterday John gave Mary a book. direct object
  • Yesterday John gave Mary a book. modifier
roles 2
Roles (2)
  • The number of roles depends on the verb.
  • Intransitive verbs have one role [subject]:
  • Jim has laughed. The child is sleeping.
  • Transitive verbs have two roles [subject, direct object]:
  • The man rode a pony. He should wash his face.
  • Bi-transitive verbs have a subject, direct object, indirect object:
  • Tom gave Maryflowers. Tom gave flowers to Mary.
  • Verbs with ≥ 4 roles: move[who what from-where to-where].
  • A verb may have several role patterns:
  • Tom bought flowers. Tom bought flowers for Mary.
  • Examples of incorrect clauses (too many / too few roles):
  • * Jim sold. * Jim slept a book.
roles 3
Roles (3)
  • Four most common syntactic forms of roles
  • Noun phrase in a specific position:
    • subject
    • direct object
    • indirect object
  • Prepositional phrase
  • Embedded clause
  • Modifier
  • Examples of the last three follow shortly.
  • All “role-fillers” are jointly called complements.
prepositional phrases
Prepositional phrases
  • The syntax is very simple: a preposition followed by a noun phrase. The meaning tends to be quite complex, and there are many roles, jointly determined by the preposition and the noun phrase.
  • Examples of relations between roles and prepositions:
  • with instrument, accompaniment
  • He ate cake with a spoon.
  • He went home with them.
  • by agent, location
  • He was hit by a stranger.
  • He sat by the door.
prepositional phrases 2
Prepositional phrases (2)
  • More examples:
  • in???
  • at???
  • on???
  • for???
  • (there are many more prepositions, but not all that many roles).
  • Prepositional phrases also qualify nouns:
  • I met a man with a dog.
  • I met a man in a coat.
embedded clauses
Embedded clauses
  • Clausal subjects
  • Honour means much to him.
  • To jump over the lazy dog means much to him.
  • Jumping over the lazy dog means much to him.
  • Clausal direct objects
  • John wants peace.
  • John wants to give Mary a book.
  • John wants Jim to give Mary a book.
  • John considers the consequences.
  • John considers giving Mary a book.
  • Clausal indirect objects
  • John sent a note to Mary.

John sent a note to whom it may concern.

verb phrases
Verb phrases
  • Verb phrases also have a deceptively simple top-level syntax: a verb with complements. The complexity arises from the richness of the structure of complements.
  • We can now define the syntax of a declarative clause. (In the example grammars, we will call them “sentences”.) We keep the noun phrase in the subject position separate.
  • clause  nounPhrase, verbPhrase.
  • All other noun phrases, prepositional phrases and so on are part of the verb phrase.
  • verbPhrase  verb, complements.
modifiers
Modifiers
  • Much of the interesting complexity comes from modifiers — expressions that introduce place, time, manner and many other additional elements of a situation. Here are examples of structures and their meaning.
  • Adverb
  • Obviously, he wants to go.
  • Prepositional phrase
  • He wants to go for a walk.
  • Embedded -ing clause
  • He wants to go whistling a tune.
  • Noun phrase
  • He wants to go tomorrow.
modifiers 2
Modifiers (2)
  • Ordinal
  • First, he wants to go.
  • A comparative construction
  • He wants to go as soon as possible.
  • Another embedded clause
  • He wants to go as if he danced.
  • In theory, we can have as many modifiers as we please, but there are practical limits. This is an almost unrealistic example:
  • More than ever, tomorrow he wants to go quicklyfor a walkwhistling a tune.
modifiers 3
Modifiers (3)
  • Examples of simple clauses with subjects, qualifiers and modifiers:
  • A man is walking.
  • A man with a cane is walking down the lane.
  • A man who seems tired is walking slowly.
  • A man is walking and whistling a tune.
  • A man with a canewho seems tired is slowlywalking down the lane and whistling a tune.
  • In the last two examples there is the complication of “and”, but it is still a simple clause — it has one subject and one, though far from elementary, verb phrase.
compound clauses
Compound clauses
  • There are co-ordinate clauses and subordinate clauses, constructed using conjunctions.
  • X and Y are simple clauses.
  • Subordinate conjunctions — a few examples
  • “X if Y”
  • “X when Y”
  • “X because Y”
  • Co-ordinate conjunctions
  • “X and Y”
  • “X or Y”
  • “either X or Y”
  • “neither X nor Y”
compound clauses 2
Compound clauses (2)
  • Co-ordination is a difficult construct, expensive to recognize, because a conjunction may appear between any two constituents.
  • Hansel saw the witch.
  • Hansel and Gretel saw the witch.
  • Hansel and Gretel saw the witch and her house.
  • Hansel and Gretel saw and killed the witch.
  • Hansel and Gretel saw the witch and killed her.
  • Hansel and Gretel saw the witch and ran.
  • Hansel and Gretel saw the witch and her house and ran.
relative clauses
Relative clauses
  • the man who ∆ went for a walk
  • the man he knows ∆ best
  • the book that you gave ∆ to Mary
  • the book that you gave Mary ∆
  • the fair everybody went to ∆
  • the book that Bill promised he would tell John to remember to give ∆ to Mary

Note how similar this is to questions.

relative clauses 2
Relative clauses (2)
  • But not everything is possible. We cannot “lift” a noun phrase just from anywhere. These are examples of incorrect “lifting”.
  • * the book John gave ◊ and the golden magic ring to Mary
  • * the book I read a note that John gave ◊ to Mary
  • Relative clauses are hard to analyze, especially if we want to reject such incorrect structures. Not to worry: we will manage, at least partially. Stay tuned.