syntax

Topics: Syntax, Phrase, Verb Pages: 12 (2421 words) Published: September 19, 2014
Rosana Abigail Jovel

I

n this chapter, we will explore our knowledge of another system called syntax. It is namely system because syntax is a system of rules and principles that allow us to combine words into large units. We know that words must be organized in a certain order in the sentence (just as affixes

and roots occur in certain orders in words). In fact, the position of the word in a sentence is often the only way we know its syntactic category (part of speech). For example, the word walks can be either a verb or a noun, and we know how to interpret this word only when we see where it occurs in the sentence. Another thing we know about syntax is that word can be grouped or combined in certain ways. But actually we know that sentence is a general term for a long string of words but that sentences can be made up of one or more clauses, syntactic units that we are fully, if unconsciously aware of. But also in this chapter we will explore a specific aspect of our intuitive knowledge of syntax, in particular your knowledge of syntactic categories such as nouns, verbs and so on, and how those categories can be combined with other words to form large categories or phrases. Where some syntactic unit or clauses are independent and others are subordinated. We will introduce you to phrase structure rules, a notation that allows us to express this knowledge of syntactic units. But all our knowledge of categories is likely a part of Universal Grammar.

1

Many children learn in the school
that a noun is “a person, place or thing.”
WHAT IS
SYNTAX?

While this semantic definition is useful, it
tell us nothing about the fact that we use a

It is a system of rules
and principles that
describe how we
organize words into
phrases and phrases
into larger being the
clause; also, the study
of this system.

great deal of information, other than
meaning, to identify nouns. For example
we can recognize nouns even though we
have no idea what they mean. We know
that in the phrase the granflons, the
nonsense word granflons is a noun
because we know that in English nouns
usually follow a certain set of words (in

Syntax derives from the Greek
word syntaxis, which means arrangement.
Syntax is the study of the principles, and
processes by which sentences are
constructed in particular languages.

this case, the determiner the). Nouns can
also be introduced by more than one
determiner: the six houses, all eight dogs,
a few people; these elements must also
occurs in a particular order. Nevertheless

Nouns and Noun
Phrases

we know that certain nouns need no
determiner at all; generic nouns and mass
nouns can occur without them. For
example:
Lions roar (generic plural noun)
Lou makes lovely jewelry (mass noun).
The English determiner system is
therefore very complex, and a full
description of it, is beyond our scope
here, where we can say that syntax
generalization introduces nouns.

1

Not all languages have
determiners, which is one
reason that people who learn
English as a second language
often omit them in English.

by phrase structure rules of the large
syntactic unit, the noun phrase, or NP. In
phrase

structure

rules,

items

in

parentheses are optional. The following
rule means that although NP must contain
a noun, the determiner element is
optional. You can read the following
phrase structure rule as “an NP can
contain a determiner (optional) and must
contain a noun”.
NP

(Det) N

Det

A Phrase Structure Rule for
Noun Phrases.

these, six, all, every, the/a

Phrase structure rule provide a
way to express some basic properties of
syntactic structure. Phrase structure is
actually very complex, and how to
represent it most

PHRASE

accurately

STRUCTURE: it

subject

constant

is system of rules

debate

among

that

linguistics

organize

is

a

who

words into larger

studies syntactic

units of...
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