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    English Syntax

    & Argumentation

    Bas Aarts

    Part I

    1

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    Function and Form

    Function

    Subject and Predicate

    Ex.[The cat] [devoured [the rat]]

    [The rat] [devoured [the cat]]

    Subject of a sentence as the constituent that on the one hand tells us who

    performs the action denoted by the verb (i.e. who is the Agent! and on

    the other hand tells us who or what the sentence is about. So to "nd out

    what is the Subject of a particular sentence we can as# $%ho or what

    carried out the action denoted by the verb&' and also $%ho or what is this

    sentence about&' he answers to these )uestions will pinpoint the Subject.

    he second brac#eted units in the sentences in (* and (+ are devoured

    the rat and devoured the cat! respectively. hese constituents tell us more

    about the Subject of the sentence! namely what it was engaged in doing

    (or! to be more precise! what its referent was engaged in doing.

    %e will use the term Predicate for the unit in a sentence whose function is

    to specify what the Subject is engaged in doing.

    Ex. The police arrested the bank robber.

    Subect !redicate

    ,eferents of Subjects need not always be doing something.

    Ex. "y brother #ears a green overcoat.

    %hat these sentence shows is that Subjects can also precede stative

    Predicates. he Predicates we have encountered up to now! by contrast!

    were dynamic.

    Subjects can be elements that are meaningless! and cannot therefore be

    said to tell us what the sentences of which they are the Subject are about.

    Ex. -t is raining in England. -t was hot. here were three lions in the cage.

    he element itin the examples is often called #eather it! because it is

    used in expressions which tell us about the weather. -t is also called

    nonre$erential it.

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    Existential therebecause is used in propositions that have to do with

    existence. Existential there should be #ept apart from locative there

    which! as the name implies! speci"es a loca/

    tion! as in0 - saw the cat a minute ago. here it is

    2onreferential it and existential there are said to be meaningless becauseall they seem to be doing in the sentences in which they occur is "ll the

    Subject slot.

    %e will refer to groups of words such as the cat% that stupid #aiter% the girl

    #ith the red hair etc. as 2oun Phrases (2Ps.

    he generalisation we can now ma#e is to say that Subjects are usually

    2oun Phrases.

    hey are used to ma#e a statement! the Subject is the "rst 2P we come

    across.

    Subjects are obligatory. hey determine the form of the verb in such cases

    as0

    Ex. She never #rites home. ames al#ays sulks. This book saddensme.

    Such Subjects do not denote the spea#er or the hearer (i.e. a third person

    is not me or you! but someone (or something else.

    Any Subject other than a third person singular Subject ta#es what is called

    the base form of the verb! i.e. a form of the verb that has no endings.

    -n sentences which are used to as# )uestions with $yes' or $no' as an answer! the

    Subject changes position0 the verb is then in the initial slot of the sentence andthe Subject is in the second slot. %e can identify the Subject of a sentence by

    adding a so/called tag )uestion to it.

    Ex. his teacher is a genius! isn't she&

    A tag )uestion must contain a pronoun that identi"es the Subject of the sentence

    it is tagged onto.

    he six tests we have just loo#ed at are all distributional tests.

    Example0 "y brother #ears a green overcoat.

    "y brotheris the Subject of this sentence for the following reasons0

    (i his constituent is a 2oun Phrase.

    (ii -t is the "rst 2P in the sentence.

    (iii -t is obligatory0 3wears a green overcoat is not a possible sentence.

    (iv 4y brother is a third person singular phrase and for that reason agrees with

    the verb wear!

    witness the /s ending.

    *

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    (v -n a )uestion my brother swaps places with an inserted verb does0 5oes my

    brother wear a green

    overcoat& (- will have more to say on the insertion of do in the next chapter.

    (vi -f we add a tag )uestion to (6! we must include a pronoun (in this case he!

    and this pronoun

    refers bac# to my brother0 4y brother wears a green overcoat! doesn't he&

    Predicator

    Ex. [The cat] [devoured the rat]. ' [The cat]( Subect% [devoured the rat]7

    Predicate

    Predicators - are pivotal elements which specify what we could call the bare/bone content of the sentences in which they occur! that is! the main action orprocess denoted by the verb. Predicates are saying something of something else.

    Ex. [devoured] 7 Predicator

    5irect 8bject

    Ex. )is girl$riend bought this computer. That silly $ool broke the teapot. *ur linguistics lecturer took this photograph.

    -n semantic terms 5irect 8bjects are said to be constituents that refer to entitiesthat undergothe activity or process denoted by the verb.

    -n the same way that Subjects typically play an agentive (i.e. instigator role!5irect 8bjects have a Patient role.

    Syntactic de"nition of 58s! i.e. in terms of their structural properties0

    58s are often 2oun Phrases. heir usual position is after the main verb. 5irect8bjects have a strong relationship with the verb that precedes them.

    A verb that re)uires a 5irect 8bject to complement its meaning is a transitiveverb.

    -f we turn an active sentence into a passive sentence! the 5irect 8bject of theactive sentence becomes the Subject of the passive sentence. he Subject of theactive sentence ends up in a phrase introduced by the word by.

    Ex. "y sister $ound this book. This book #as $ound by my sister.

    +

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    5irect 8bjects function as 9omplements to verbs.

    -ndirect 8bject

    Ex. +e gave the boys the ,-s. The publisher sent her a revie# copy o$ the book.

    he typical role of the -ndirect 8bjects is :oal;,eceiver or

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    the 1stexample we as# $how did the bus stop&' he answer is $suddenly'! and thisphrase therefore functions as an Adjunct.Similarly! we can as# $%hen did Sha#espeare write his plays&' he answer is $along time ago'.Adjuncts are always optional and express peripheral information.

    Adjuncts can be $stac#ed'! which means that more than one of them can appearin a sentence.Ex. /ast year 1 sa# this 2lm several times.

    Adjuncts are mobile! as the following examples show0

    3reedily Andre ate all the biscuits.Andre greedily ate all the biscuits.Andre ate all the biscuits greedily.

    2otice! though! that the position between the main verb and 5irect 8bject is

    excluded03Andre ate greedily all the biscuits.

    Form: Words, Word Classes and Phrases

    he 2otion $%ord'

    8pen class words! i.e. a class of words that is constantly enlarged as time goesby! and a closed class! i.e. a class of words that is static! in that no new membersare added to it.

    %ord classes (also called parts of speech0

    / noun/ determiner/ adjective/ verb/ preposition/ adverb/ conjunction

    / interjection

    2ouns and 5eterminers

    raditionally nouns are de"ned as words that denote people! animals! things orplaces.

    A problem with the notional de"nition of nouns is that it leaves a great number ofwords unaccounted for! which could also be said to belong to the class of nouns!

    ?

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    but which do not denote people! animals! things or places. hese include wordsthat denote abstract ideas or concepts (e.g. death% sincerity% success! emotionalstates (ex. happiness% love! bodily sensations (ex. di44iness% pain and a host ofothers.

    he best approach is to characterise nouns using formal and distributionalcriteria.Ex. alliance% $atherhood% abolition% #ildness% studentship% etc.

    [email protected] words can have similar endings! or suxes i.e. ance% hood% ion% ness%ship!and some ta#e an irregular plural ending (e.g. child 5 children% ox 5 oxen etc.

    Plural and genitive endings are typical of nouns.

    5eterminers specify more precisely the meaning of the nouns they precede.5eterminers0

    the6athis6thesethat6those#hich#hose2ouns can also be preceded by adjectives i.e. words that in some way )ualify thenouns they precede.

    here are subclasses within the class of nouns0

    B

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    Common nounsare ordinary! everyday nouns.

    Proper nounsare names of people! places and even objects. hey do notnormally ta#e a preceding determiner or modifying element. Proper nouns areexamples of what are called ,eferring Expressions. his is because when theyare uttered in a particular context! they uni)uely refer to oneindividual (or place or object in the world of discourse.

    Numeralsare not typical nouns. hey ta#e plural endings in certain! restricted!circumstancesEx. The group divided into t#os and threes.

    Pronounsare words that function as word substitutes.

    Ex. The exhibition #as a success. 1t ran $or six months.he pronounit refers bac# to the exhibition! i.e. a determiner C noun se)uence.

    Noun Phrasesare strings of words whose central element is a noun.

    Ex. the hatsthe blue hatsthe blue hatson the shelf-n each of these strings of words! the central element is the noun hat. -t is thehead of the phrase. Headsfunction as the central elements of phrases. Ex. [7!)ats] have al#ays