Three fundamental ideas in syntax1. Sentences have parts, which may themselves have parts – the basis of constituent structure analysis2. The parts of sentences belong to a limited range of types – the root of the concept of syntactic categories3. The parts have specific roles or functions within the larger parts they belong to – grammatical functions
Constituent structureSentences contain parts called constituents.Those constituents often have constituents themselves, and those are made up of still shorter constituents and so on.This hierarchical composition of wholes from parts is called constituent structure.(1) A bird hit the car.In the first instance – divided into two parts: subject (a bird) and predicate (hit the car)The phrase a bird: a and birdHit the car: hit and the carThe car: the and car
Constituent structureThe parts of the sentence shown at the first level down, a bird and hit the car – immediate constituents of the sentence;Similarly – hit and the car are the immediate constituents of hit the car;The words are the ultimate constituents of the sentence.
Constituent structureThe evidence that this is the correct analysis of the sentence comes from the whole of the rest of the grammar, all of which provides the evidence that the lines of separation have bee drawn in the right place.Example of how other parts of the grammar can provide supportive evidence by considering where we can insert adverb, e.g. apparently.In simple clauses like in our example, an adverb can be anywhere in the clause it modifies, provided it does not interrupt a constituent.
Constituent structureExample:(2) (a) Apparently a bird hit the car.(b) *An apparently bird hit the car.(3) (a) A bird apparently hit the car.(b) *A bird hit apparently the car.(4) (a) A bird hit the car, apparently.(b) *A bird hit the apparently car.
Constituent structureBreaking the sentence into constituents in exactly the way we have done, we are able to make a general statement about where an adverb like apparently can be positioned in it: such an adverb must not interrupt a constituent of the clause.
Syntactic categoriesThe tree diagram is only the starting point for a description, identifying the constituents that have to be described.The next step is to classify these constituents, to say what syntactic category they belong to.For words, these syntactic categories correspond to what are traditionally called ‘parts of speech’ – lexical categories: noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, determiner, preposition, conjunction.
Phrasal categoriesPhrases – constituents containing one and more than one word, more specifically, containing a central and most important word augmented by appropriate accompanying words that elaborate its contribution to the sentence.The lexical categories have corresponding phrase types that are actually expansions of them.
Phrasal categoriesNoun phrase (NP):this clear case of dedication to dutyVerb phrase (VP):must have been talkingAdjective phrase (AdjP):very eager for further newsAdverb phrase (AdvP):Quite separately from this issuePrepositional phrase (PP):on the wooden table
Grammatical constructions andfunctionsConstituents always have particular roles to play in the constructions (the larger units) they belong to. We call these roles grammatical functions.In our example sentence the phrases a bird and the car belong to the same category, NP, but they have different functions, subject and object respectively.(5) A bird hit the car. carThey belong to the same category because they are alike in their internal structure, but they have different functions because they stand in different relations to the verb.
Grammatical constructions andfunctionsThe opposite type of situation is when the constituents have the same function (in the example below the function of subject) but belong to different categories (NP and clause respectively):(6) (a) His guilt was obvious.(b) That he was guilty was obvious.These constituents have the same function because they stand in the same relation to the predicate, and they belong to different categories because the first is centered on a noun (guilt) whereas the second is centered on a verb (was).
Heads and dependentsThere is a set of functions that to a large extent apply in the same way to all phrasal categories.The first division is that between the head (upravni član) and the various dependents (zavisni članovi) that can combine with it.The head, normally obligatory, plays the primary role in head determining the distribution of the phrase, i.e. whereabouts in sentence structure it can occur.Dependents, often optional, are syntactically subordinate elements. The term ‘dependent’ reflects the fact that in any given construction what kinds of dependent are permitted depends on the head.
Heads and dependentsFor example, too can function as dependent to an adjective or adverb (too careful, too carefully), but not to a noun or verb (*their too extravagance, *You shouldn’t too worry).Similarly, sufficiently can function as dependent to and adjective, adverb, or verb, but not to a noun (sufficiently good, sufficiently often, He practised sufficiently, *sufficiently reason).
Subtypes of dependentWe need to distinguish different subtypes of dependent according to their more specific relation to the head.We distinguish complements, modifiers and determiners as different subtypes of dependent.(7) very eager for further news = adjective phrase; very is a modifier of the head eager, for further news is a complement of the head eager(8) the chair by the wall = noun phrase; the is a determiner in this NP