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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 • Verb phrases • Modifiers • Compound clauses • Relative 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).
• The clause level • • • Simple and compound clauses. Coordinate clause. Major and subordinate clauses. simple clause Words, phrases, clauses (2) simple clause We bought him a book because he likes to read major clause subordinate clause compound clause The word level Morphology: books, make making. • Derivation: whiteness, quickly. •
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) • • • 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. + + - This is a ____ book. The book is very ____. This ____ is new. I want to ____ it to you.
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) • 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) • Nouns and personal pronouns have clear distributional differences (* marks incorrect expressions). a man is running a box of sand ⇔ the book is mine a white elephant ⇔ * a Jim is running * a box of book ⇔ * the book is which ⇔ * a white he
Beyond words • Verb groups • In English, there are five basic forms: • infinitive eat, drink, walk • present 3 rd person eats, drinks, walks • simple past ate, drank, walked • progressive (present participle) eating, drinking, walking • perfective (past participle) eaten, drunk, walked • In French, there 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).
• Selected English tenses Beyond words (2) Tense Example—continuous present go / goes am / are / is going past went was / were going future will go will be going present perfect have / has gone have / has been going past perfect had gone had been going future perfect will have gone will have been going How would we add negation?
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) • French • donnais, donnait • donnions, donniez, donnaient • dernier, derniers • dernière, dernières • English cases • Water is good. • There is no water. • I wonder at water. • I see water. • I wash with water. English gave, gave last, last Russian cases. . . voda. . . vody. . . vode. . . vodu. . . vodoy. . .
sg = singular, pl = plural • Case: nouns and pronouns • The mansubjective spoke. • We saw the manobjective. • Person and number: verbs • I walk/walked 1 st, sg • yousg walk/walked 2 nd, sg • he walks/walked 3 rd, sg • we walk/walked 1 st, pl • youpl walk/walked 2 nd, pl • they walk/walked 3 d, pl Inflection (3) Hesubjective spoke. We saw himobjective. I am/was 1 st, sg yousg are/were 2 nd, sg he is/was 3 rd, sg we are/were 1 st, pl youpl are/were 2 nd, pl they are/were 3 d, pl
Noun phrases Segment Function Determiner Pre-determiner sequence Determiner Ordinal Cardinal Modifiers Describers Classifiers Head Qualifiers Restrictive qualifier Nonrestrictive qualifier --------- Possessive marker Examples half; both; all the; a; those; every first; second; last one; three; many big; blue; enchanted stone; singing walls; people; ones in town; who fly , which you know ‘s • Terry Winograd, Language as a Cognitive Process: Syntax, Addison-Wesley, 1983
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 • 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 • John felt sick • John slept Jim was hit [by John] * Sick was felt [by John] ? ? ?
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 • 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. modifier
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 Mary flowers. 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 for Mary. • Examples of incorrect clauses (too many / too few roles): • * Jim sold. * Jim slept a book.
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 • 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) • 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 • Clausal subjects • Honour • To jump over the lazy dog • Jumping over the lazy dog • Clausal direct objects • John wants Jim • John considers • Clausal indirect objects • John sent a note to means much to him. peace. to give Mary a book. the consequences. giving Mary a book. Mary. whom it may concern.
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 noun. Phrase, verb. Phrase. • All other noun phrases, prepositional phrases and so on are part of the verb phrase. • verb. Phrase verb, complements.
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) • 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 quickly for a walk whistling a tune.
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 cane who seems tired is slowly walking 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 • 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) • 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 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 • 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) • 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.