Unit 4 The Structures of English ----- Syntax
Unit 4 Unit 5
? What is syntax?
? Two morphemes: /syn/ ----- together and /tax/----- to arrange
The literal meaning a setting out together” or “arrangement”
Definition: Syntax is the study of how words are combined to form sentences and the rules
that govern the formation of sentences.
Different linguistic theories first differ in their treatment of sentence structure. There are
some theories about syntax
? In this chapter, we will introduce four of the representative approaches to syntax.
4.1. What is a sentence?
It is a group of words expressing a complete meaning or thought.
It is structurally independent linguistic form or any group of words between two stops.
TG: Transformational Generative
? A sentence is whatever native speakers know to be a sentence.
4.2. The approaches to syntax
? 1) The Traditional Approach
? 2) The Structural approach
? 3)The generative approach
? 4) The functional approach
4.2.1 The Traditional Approach
? Traditionally, a sentence is seen as a sequence of words.
? The study of sentence formation, therefore, involves a great deal of the study
of the word, such as, the classification of words in terms of parts of speech,
the identification of functions of words in terms of subject, predicate, etc.
? These parts of speech and functions are sometimes called categories.
? (See 4.2 Categories)
A Word-level categories: classification of words
? Noun, verb, adjective, numerals, pronoun, adverb, articles, preposition, conjunction,
? And the interrelationship between the forms of the noun, verb, adjective, etc.
concerning certain categories will be dealt with under the headings of concord and
? 1. Numbers, gender and case
? 2. Tense and aspect
? 3. Concord and government
? Concord and government
? Concord, also known as agreement, may be as the requirement that the forms of two
of more words in a syntactic relationship should agree with each in terms of some
? e.g. this man, these men
? a book, some books
? He speaks English.
? They speak English
? Government: Is another type of control over the form of some words by other words
in certain syntactic constructions.
? E.g. She gave him a book.
? She gave a book to him.
? 4. functions:
? Adjective: word that indicates a quality of the person or thing referred to by a noun
? Preposition: word or group of words used esp. before a noun or pronoun to show
place, position, time, method, etc
B. Phrase categories and their structures
? Definition of Phrase:
e.g. The brown dog chased the small cat.
dog chased cat.
S V O
4.2.2 The Structural Approach to Syntax
? The STRUCTURAL approach to the analysis of Language was started by the Swiss
linguist Ferdinand de Saussure in the beginning of the 20th century.
? In a sense, all the linguistic theories after his are structural in that they all regard
linguistic units as interrelated with each other in a structure (or system), not as is
? Linguists try to find the value of a sign from its relation to others and its position in
? There are syntactic conditions and semantic conditions the words must meet.
? A. The boy kicked the ball.
? B. *Boy the ball kicked the.
? C. *The ball kicked the boy.
? E.g. The ________ is smiling .
? Animate nouns semantic component of human in the singular
? Boy, girl, woman, student,
? immediate constituent analysis (IC)
IC Analysis is to simply divide a sentence
into its constituent elements without at
first knowing what these elements are
Traditionally, sentences are assumed to be made of individual words in a linear direction
? The structural linguists believe:
? THAT a sentence consists of individual words one after another in a line (a linear
? THAT a sentence is made up of layers of word groups( a hierarchical structure). The
words in a sentence form into word groups first.
? The boy kicked the ball. The words are not of the same degree of closeness to each
(1) How to do it?
The principle is that we take a sentence and cut it into two and then cut these parts into
two and continue with this segmentation until we reach the smallest grammatical unit, the
? E.g. Poor John ran away.
(2) Its advantages
Through IC analysis, the internal structure of a sentence may be demonstrated clearly,
and ambiguities, if any, will be revealed.
Eg.Leave the book on the shelf
? E.g. my small childs cot
? (a) my small cot for a child
? (b) my cot for a small child
? (c) the cot of my small child
? More practice:
? The love of God
? The girls hat (3) Its problems
Any construction, at any level, will be cut into two parts. But this is not always possible
? E.g. trained men and woman
? (a) trained + men and women
? (b) trained men + and women
? three-way division:
? trained men + and + women
4.2.3. TG Approach
? The TG approach to the analysis of Language was started by the American linguist
Noam Chomsky in 1957.
1. Why do people need TG approach?
a.. IC analysis provided no basis for analysis of the differences between sentences
whose patterns were the same but the relationships different
? A: John is easy to please.
? B: John is eager to please
? A: Others could please John.
? B: John sought to please others
b. This problem comes into even sharper focus when ambiguous sentences are
c. Similar problems:
sentences having the same meaning but different structures.
? John painted the picture.
? The picture was painted by John
d. Still other structures are recognized as similar by speakers of English. 2. TG analysis :
The S rule : S NP VP
Det N Vt NP
The boy studied the book.
3. Two Aspects of TG Grammar
a. Generative Aspect
This means that a grammar must generate all and only grammatical sentences of a
b. Transformational Aspect
Chomsky proposes the idea of transformation which refers to a kind of process that
transforms one sentence into another.
One aspect: Transformations
1. Auxiliary movement also called head movement:
2. Do insertion Move Infl to the left of the subject NP
4. Surface Structure and deep structure
Surface Structure are sentences or phrases that are pronounced or written
Deep Structure refers to the structure that contains all the units and relationships that
are necessary for interpreting the meaning of the sentence
? I gave him a book.
? I gave a book to him.
? It is him I gave a book.
? It is a book I gave to him.
? A book was given to him by me.
? All the sentences share the same meaning, come from the same sentence (the same
? I saw him on the bus.
? Ambiguous sentences have the same structure, but have different meanings, come
from different Deep structures.
Transformations are done according to transformational rules.
Transformations cannot change meaning. They can do four things: delete, copy, add and
“You will be quiet.” is transformed into “Be quiet!” by deletion
In “Be quiet”, “you” and “will” are assumed to exist only in deep structures
b. Reordering (Tough Movement rule Move the infinitive after the “tough” words to the
position immediately before the subject.)
e.g. John is easy to please. To please John is easy
John is eager to please
The application of T-there insertion inserts there into the underlying string
e.g. A fish is swimming in the pond
is a fish swimming in the pond
There is a fish swimming in the pond.
According to Chomsky, the question tag does not exist in the deep structure. When the
T-tag is applied, the subject of the main clause as well as the first auxiliary verb is
copied on to the tag.
e.g. He is coming.
He is coming, is(n’t) he? Move “alpha”
• There is a general rule for all the movement rules. Alpha is a cover term for any
element that can be moved from one place to another
4.2.4 Functional Approach to Syntax • Though the generative approach has been very influential in the past 40 odd years,
we cannot ignore another important approach to the study of language: the
• These two approaches, represented by Chomsky nowadays, and the other
functional, to be discussed below, has always been in existence ever since the study of
language began thousands of years ago. One of the main ideas is that a sentence may
be analyzed from the functional side as well as the grammatical side.
a. They held that apart from the analysis of a sentence in terms of subject and predicate
from the formal point of view, there may also be a functional analysis in terms of
THEME() and RHEME(). the first term refers to “that which is known or at least obvious in the given situation and
from which the speaker proceeds” ? ,
? the second refers to “what the speaker states out, or in regard to, the starting point
of the utterance”
b. In English, word order has a grammatical function, and theme and rheme are often expressed by the grammatical subject and predicate.
? (a) This letter was written by father.
? (b) It was this letter that father wrote.
? (c) Father wrote this letter.
c. Halliday’s ideas()
There are three general functions of language: ideational(),interpersonal(), and
4.3.1 English paragraphs
4.3. 2 English texts
4.3.3. Cohesion in English texts
? Sentence connection
a. Conjoining (coordination)
b. Embedding (subordination
? Means of cohesion(: a. Lexically ( repetition, synonymy, antonymy, hyponymy--reiteration)
b. Grammatically (ellipsis, substitution, reference)
c. Logically (connectives)
? Reference deserves further elaboration here. The first distinction can be drawn
between endophoric reference and exophoric reference. While the former points to a
relation between an entity in the situational context and a linguistic item in the text
(as in “He is the man you want to see! said when the mentioned person comes over
to the speaker), the latter refers to the relation between two linguistic items in the
? For endophoric reference, further distinction is attempted between anaphoric
reference and cataphoric reference. The former involves a relation between a
preceding referential expression or an antecedent and the current pronominal item
(as in John loves Jane. He takes great care of her. This is known to all.) , whereas
the latter denotes a relation between the current pronominal item and the later
occurring expression (as in This is what John does for Jane: he sends a bunch of
roses to her every day.”) .
4.3.4 Turn taking in English conversations
? In conversation, dialogue rather than monologue dominates. Conversationalists take
turns speaking. The chance to speak is technically termed as floor. The current
speaker may try to maintain the floor, or give up the floor. While the next speaker
may opt to interrupt in order to seize the floor, he or she can wait to be nominated
by the current speaker, or take the hints from him such as a long pause, a gesture, a
? An initiation, say a question or a request, by the first speaker and the response by
the second speaker, like an answer to the question and a compliance with the request,
form an adjacency pair. If the second part of the adjacency pair is positive, it is
preferred; if the second part of the adjacency pair is negative, it is dispreferred. The
latter is characterized by the use of such signals as “well”, hesitation markers like
erm, pauses, explanations or accounts, etc.
Anaphoric reference cataphoric reference