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Today. What is syntax? Grammaticality Ambiguity Phrase structure Readings: 6.1 – 6.2. Productivity. e.g., Laura ate two peanuts. Laura ate three peanuts. … Laura ate forty-three million, five hundred and nine peanuts. …  Laura ate X peanuts. (where X = number).

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today
Today
  • What is syntax?
  • Grammaticality
  • Ambiguity
  • Phrase structure

Readings: 6.1 – 6.2

productivity
Productivity

e.g., Laura ate two peanuts.

Laura ate three peanuts.

Laura ate forty-three million, five hundred and nine peanuts.

 Laura ate X peanuts. (where X = number)

productivity1
Productivity
  • We do not store whole sentences, but the words (mental lexicon) and the rules that combine them
  • The set of rules is finite, but the set of possible sentences is not
syntax
Syntax
  • The study of the structure of phrases/ sentences and the rules governing how words are combined to form phrases/sentences
  • These rules are acquired at a very young age and internalized.
grammaticality
Grammaticality
  • Sequences of words that conform to the rules of a language are grammatical (well-formed)
  • “Grammatical” is different from “comprehensible”
grammatical or ungrammatical
Grammatical or ungrammatical?

The cat is on the mat.

The mat is on the cat.

The cat on is the mat.

 Word order is important.

*

‘*’ = an ungrammatical or ill-formed sentence

grammatical or ungrammatical1
Grammatical or ungrammatical?

This sentence no verb.

Contains a verb.

 Sentences need a subject and a verb

This sentence has cabbage six carrots.

*

*

*

grammatical or ungrammatical2
Grammatical or ungrammatical?

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

Sleep furiously ideas green colorless.

 Grammaticality and sense/meaning can be independent of one another. This shows the independence of syntactic rules.

*

ambiguity
Ambiguity
  • The property of having two or more meanings.
    • Lexical ambiguity
    • Structural ambiguity
lexical ambiguity
Lexical ambiguity

Headlines:

    • PROSTITUTES APPEAL TO POPE
    • IRAQI HEAD SEEKS ARMS
    • SOVIET VIRGIN LANDS SHORT OF GOAL AGAIN
    • CHILD’S STOOL IS GREAT FOR USE IN GARDEN
  • Lexical ambiguity: when a word has more than one meaning
structural ambiguity
Structural ambiguity
  • “I once shot an elephant in my pajamas.”
  • “Tonight’s program will discuss sex with Dr. Ruth Westheimer.”
  • “We will not sell gasoline to anyone in a glass container.”
  • “This mixing bowl is designed to please any cook with a round bottom for efficient beating.”
structural ambiguity1
Structural ambiguity
  • Ambiguity resulting from the structure of the phrase or sentence

e.g., discuss [sex with Dr. Ruth Westheimer]

[discuss sex] [with Dr. Ruth Westheimer]

e.g., a large [man’s hat]

[a large man’s] hat

hierarchy and ambiguity
Hierarchy and ambiguity

large man’s hat large man’s hat

(un lock able) (un lock able)

phrase structure
Phrase structure

1) Every word belongs to a lexicalcategory

2) Lexical categories forms heads (“main words”) of phrases which can function as a unit

3) How phrases are formed is governed by rules (= ‘phrase structure rules’)

lexical categories
Lexical categories
  • Nouns (N): Laura, peanut, house
  • Verbs (V): eat, see, sleep, dive
  • Adjectives (Adj): big, lazy, colorless
  • Determiners (Det): the, a, those, every
  • Prepositions (P): in, of, over, with
  • Adverbs (Adv.): quickly, often

 A word’s lexical category determines what kind of phrasal category it can form

phrases
Phrases
  • Built up from lexical categories (their heads)
  • May consist of one or more words
  • They function as a unit
  • These units come together to form sentences
types of phrases
Types of phrases
  • Noun phrase (NP)
    • John
    • the boy
    • a book about a boy
    • a big picture of the boy in a bubble
    • A friend that I’ve known for a long time
types of phrases1
Types of phrases
  • Verb phrase (VP)
    • fall
    • fell slowly
    • fell (slowly) into the pond
    • buy the book
    • *buy slowly the book
    • buy the book with a credit card
types of phrases2
Types of phrases
  • Prepositional phrase (PP):
    • in
    • with a smile
    • of my little teeth
    • between a rock and a hard place
    • at the store by my house