Analysis of lexicon

Filología inglesa # Grammatical properties. Syntactic component. Subcategorisation. Lexical derivation. Suffixes

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This assignment is based on the analysis of lexicon and the syntactic component. We will try to answer the following question:” is possible to separate the lexicon from syntactic component?. It is not an easy task. It is due to the fact that there are subcategorial restrictions and selectional restrictions. On the other hand, we will pay attention to other aspects: Lexical Insertion rule, lexical derivation and Righthand Head Rule. All of them are essential within lexicon. Finally, we will point out the importance of categories because all the complex structures (for instance the sentences) are made up by them. Each category has its own grammatical properties. For example verbs can take a range of inflectional suffixes, adjectives can take -ly and can be modified by very and so on.


Verbs are said to subcategorise into various sub-groups, depending on whether they require a complement , and if they do, what type of complement they require. In order to be more precise we will use the following example: the verb take. It belongs to the sub-group of verbs which require an NP complement. However, the verb smile, belongs to the sub-group of verbs which do not which require an NP complement. The subcategorarisation properties of the verbs can be formally represented in terms of frames. (See the following examples)

Knock [V; - NP]

Smile [V;- ]

Comment [V; - PP]

Give [V ; - NP PP ]

Say [V ; - S ]

Subcategorisation frames specify the categorial class of the lexical item in the verbs: knock, smile , comment n give and say, and the environment in which it can occur. For example: [V; - NP] specifies the information that knock is a verb, and that it requires a complement of the type NP. This information implies that knock can only be inserted under a V node in a VP structure where V has an NP sister. Given that subcategorisation frames specify (idiosyncratic) information relating to the properties of individual lexical items, they are associated with lexical items in their lexical entries. Thus, information related to the subcategorisation properties of lexical items, which is necessary for their proper use, is an additional type of information. Obviously, similar subtegorisation frames exist for other categories: nouns, adjectives and so on.

The information related to the subcategorisation properties of lexical items, which is necessary for their proper use, is an additional type of information. Obviously, similar subtegorarisation frames exist for other categories : nouns, adjectives and so on.

Suhcategorisaion frames can form the basis on which a general Subcategorisation rule can be set up which would make rewriting a terminal symbol as a specific lexical item sensitive to the subcategorisation properties of the lexical item. To be more precise, this rule would make it possible to rewrite a terminal symbol as a lexical item in association with its subcategorisation frame .The consequence of this rule is that a given lexical item can only the association with a phrasal structure which is consistent with its Subcategorisation requirements. The rule is expressed in the following way:

  • NP ]

  • ]

V - Y / ……..

  • PP]

- NP PP]

- S´]

The scheme specifies the different environments in which a given verb, represented by the variable symbol Y, can be introduced. Which frame is chosen, it depends on the subcategorisation properties of the verb which substitutes for the variable.

With this scheme incorporated into the system of rules, we can establish the following analysis:

Elizabeth thought about her family.

1a. S ~ NP Aux VP

1h. VP ~ V (NP) (PP) (S')..

1c. NP ~ I)et N

1d. V ~ think /-PP]

1e. P ~ about /-NP]

1f. Det her

1g. N Elizabeth, family

Rule (1d) relating to the verb and rule (1e) relating to the preposition are instantiations of two of the options specified in the more general rule. Because (1d) specifies the frame of the verb it generates, we ensure that the verb is associated with this frame.

The firs scheme, of which (1d) and (1e) are instantiations, is a 'context-sensitive' rule in the sense that it specifies the context in which a given category can appear. In contrast, rules (1a-c) are 'context-free' since they do not specify contexts. They list the constituents that a given phrasal category can include.


In order to explain selectional restrictions we will use two sentences.

2a. Elizabeth insulted fragility

2b. Fragility hits the dog.

Notice that both of them are well -formed but they do not have sense at all.

Features such as [+/-abstract], [+ /-animate], among others, are inherent and idiosyncratic properties of nouns. Then, like subcategorisation properties, they are specified in the lexical entries of nouns. In other words, the lexical entry of fragility for example, includes the feature [+abstract], among other features, and the lexical entry of Elizabeth includes the feature [+animate] among others. Lexical information of this type can he used to set up a 'rewrite' rule of the type in (3), which specifies the contexts in which a given verb can occur. See the following scheme:

(3a) [+ / - abstract] Aux -

[V] - Y/ (3b) [+ /- animate]

(3)is called a Selectional rule, since it is associated with verbs, and presumably other categories as well. The version of the rule which would account for all possible combinations is more complex than (3).

With respect to the verb insult, the corresponding selectional rule would look, at least in part, roughly as in (4). The verb insult can take either a non-abstract subject, as in the following sentence: “Elizabeth insulted the thief”, or an abstract subject, as in “fragility insulted the thief” .However, it can only take an animate object , as in the following sentence :”Elizabeth hits the dog” . Consequently, (2a) is excluded, since it involves a non-animate object (i.e. fragility),which is incompatible with the selectional restrictions of the verb insult:

[+/- abstract Aux -

4. V - insult/

[- [+animate]

The rule corresponding to the verb hit would look roughly as in (5). The verb hit can only take an animate subject as in the soldier hits the dog, and can only take a non-abstract object as in the soldier hits the dog / table.(2b) is not included on the ground that involves an abstract (or non-animate) subject(i.e fragility) which is incompatible with the selectional restrictions of the verb hit: '<»¡ 47

[+ animate ] Aux -

5.- V hit - [-abstract]

Like subcategorisation rules, the selectional rules (3) and (4) are “contex-sensitive”. They specify the environment in which a verb like “hit” can appear, where the environment is the subject and object position.

One might wonder whether the problems posed by the strange examples (2a&b) are ungrammatical examples in the sense that they do not have sense at all.

That is to say, it is not clear whether selectional restrictions should be dealt, with in terms of the same mechanisms (rules) which deal with subcategorisation requirements. Recall that while violation of subcategorisation requirements affect the grammatical status of the sentence, violations of selectional restrictions do not necessarily affect the grammatical status of the sentence. Rather, they affect the speakers´ interpretation of the sentence in relation to his personal vision within the linguistic community. In view of this, people could disagree with the fact that selectional restrictions involve an aspect of language (meaning and interpretation) which is different from the one involved in subcategorisation.

To be more concrete, it is said that selectional restrictions involve a different component of the grammar which exists over and above the component which deals with the grammatical properties of sentences.

So, people can distinguish between two different components of the grammar. One component comprises PS and subcategorisation rules and has the task of generating all and only grammatical sentences. It is component the syntactic component. The other component comprises a set of rules (they have got their own nature), which give an interpretation to sentences generated by the syntactic component in relation to the world. So, there is a component in question called the semantic component, although the term 'semantic' may be misleading. The relationship between the two components is an input-output relationship, insofar as sentences generated by the syntactic component serve as input to the semantic component which then gives them an interpretation. This relationship partly explains the remark made earlier that although sentences such as (2a&b) are semantically odd, they are syntactically well-formed. Such sentences are grammatically sound insofar as they are generated by the syntactic component.

In other words, the concern with the syntactic properties of sentences is the following : the properties can be analysed in terms of syntactic rules.

One the one hand, the syntactic component which consists of PS rules and the subcategorisation rules and has the function of generating sentences (by making their structure explicit). The other is a semantic component which gives a possible interpretation to sentences.


In order to explain how the lexicon is separated from syntax, it is important to pay attention to what has been said before.

One possible way out of establishing the separation between syntax and the lexicon is to attribute some of the functions we have been attributing to the syntactic component to other components. For instance, it has been said that the function of ensuring that the selectional restrictions of lexical items are properly reflected can be attributed to the semantic component which assigns an interpretation to sentences generated by the syntactic component. The result is that the context-sensitive rules required to accomplish t his function can be eliminated from the-syntactic component. Although this fact has not resulted in the total elimination of context-sensitive rules from the syntactic component, it is a step towards the goal of restricting the proliferation of the rule systems it includes. According to this, the principal task is to eliminate the remaining set of context-sensitive rules.

Subcategorisation rules have the curious effect of equating the rewriting of phrasal categories as individual constituents with the rewriting of terminal symbols as lexical items in association with their subcategorisation frames. That is to say, subcategorisation rules are syntactic in format, as they are rewrite rules, but they differ from PS rules in that they make reference to lexical information. This implies that the syntactic component and the lexicon are somehow related.

It is logical to consider the lexicon as being independent of the syntactic component, insofar as it includes information which is important to the syntactic representation of lexical items, is essentially lexical in nature. Thus, grammarians are trying to find a general rule that will serve as a link between the lexicon and the syntactic component. This rule will have the function of inserting lexical items under appropriate nodes in phrase makers generated by the PS rules of the syntactic component.

4.1. Lexical Insertion Rule (definition)

Insert lexical item X under terminal node Y, where Y corresponds to the categorial properties of X, and YP responds to the subcategorisation properties of X.

LlR performs the operation of inserting lexical items under terminal nodes subject to two conditions.

A) First, the terminal node must match the categorial class of the lexical item .This will ensure that verbs are inserted under V nodes, nouns under N nodes, and so on.

B) The second condition is that the phrase containing the terminal node, i.e. the VP of V, the NP of N ...etc., must match the subcategorisation properties of the lexical item. This means that if the lexical item is a verb which subcategorises for an NP, the VP containing V must include an NP, and if the lexical item is a verb which does not subcategorise for a NP complement, the VP containing V must not include an NP, and so on. Thus, ungrammatical sentences where lexical items are associated with inappropriate subcategorisation frames are not included.

LlR performs the functions that were previously performed by Subcategorisation rules, so that the latter can he dispensed with altogether. The syntactic component can now be considered as consisting of one rule system, namely the context-free P rules. It might be argued that in view of the fact that LIR is different in nature from PS rules.

LIR differs from PSrules in that it performs an operation, as pointed above, unlike PS rules.

As a result, the lexicon is separated from the syntactic component. The postulation of separate components should, in principle, be justifiable especially on the grounds that they have properties which distinguish them from other components.

Thus, grammarians should expect the lexicon to include rules which are different in nature from the rules of syntax:


The lexicon is an unordered list of lexical entries, which each entry specifying a range of information necessary for the proper list of the lexical item .Part of this information relates to the categorial property of the item, whether it is a verb, noun...etc. Another part relates to subcategorisatlon properties, whether it takes a complement or not and if it does what kind of complement it is . It makes a reference to both types of information in performing the operation of lexical insertion to ensure that lexical items are paired with appropriate contexts.

In order to make the explanation easier, see the following examples:

6a. transcribe+ ion - transcription (Verb-to-Noun)

6b. selfish; + ish - selfish (Noun-to-Adjective)

6c. category +-ise ~ categorise (Noun-to- Verb)

6a, 6b and 6cshow that the process of forming complex categories from simpler lexical items can result in a change of the categorial class of the lexical item. They are the base for the derivation. Thus, the affixation of the suffix -ion to a verb base results in the derivation of a noun (6a), the affixation of -ish to a noun base gives the derivation of an adjective (6b), and the affixation of -ise to a noun base results in the derivation of a verb(6c).

The derivation, of complex categories not only affects categorial properties of lexical items, but also their subcategorisation properties .See (7 a&b). In this case, the presence of an NP complement is obligatory with the verb transcribe (7a), but apparently only optional with the noun translation derived from it (7b). The two categories have different subcategorisation properties which can he stated as in (8a&b).

7a. The monk transcribed the manuscript.

7b. The transcription of the old manuscript was good.

8a. transcribe: [V; -P]

8b. transcription: [N; -(PP) ]

The rules of derivation affect the categorial class and the subcategorisation properties of lexical items,they must apply at a stage prior to their insertion into phrase markers. It is due to the fact that LIR makes a reference to the categorial and subcategorisation properties of lexica items to ensure that they are inserted under appropriate nodes located in appropriate contexts .It also includes rules of derivation. On the other hand, the syntactic component does not include rules of derivation which affect the categorial and the subcategorisation properties on lexical items. In a nutshell, the autonomy of the lexicon is justificable.

It is important to know whether derivationally is related to categories such as transcribe and transcription have separate lexical entries which specify their categorical and subcategorisation properties, among other things. The possible solution would be that there is only one lexical entry for the base form, namely the verb transcribe, and that the complex noun translation is derived from it by a productive rule. The option of having lexical entries for derived forms as well as the base form implies an enormous lexicon. On the other hand, the option of having a lexical entry only for the base form and deriving the other forms from it by independently stated rules implies a comparatively smaller lexicon. However, there is more to this issue than just size. If it turns out that the process of deriving complex categories is governed by simple rules which apply across categories in a consistent manner, these rules must form an important component of human languages.

The derivation of complex categories is the subject to general rules. See(7a-c) and (8a&b), the rules have the effect of changing the categorial as well as subcategorisation properties of lexical items.

The suffixes used in (7a-c) and others like them are consistent in more than one way. For instance, when the suffix -ion is added to a verb, it invariably forms (according to the derivation) a noun whatever the verb chosen. On the other hand, when the suffix -ise is added to a noun, it invariably results in the derivation of a verb whatever the noun the individual chooses. This consistent property of the suffixes can be explained by assuming that like free morphemes such true and transcribe, they specify categorical information. Thus, -ion is added in order to form N; -ish is added in order to form A, and -ise for V.

See the representation of the complex categories (7a-c) .

“Representations using labelled brackets”

[N [V transcribe] [N -ion]] Notice that there is a little change : transcribe + ion : transcription

[A [N self] [A -ish]]

[V [N colony] [V -ise]

“ Representations using tree diagram”



Transcribe -ion self -ish category -ise

In order to explain the process that has been described as change of category. Taking into account the representations, it can be said that the category of the derived complex is the same as the category of the suffix. In other words, it is the category of the suffix that predominates. So, the suffix is called the head of the complex category. The head of a complex category is basically the morpheme which imposes its own properties on the derived complex form. In English, the head of a complex category is the rightmost morpheme. This fact can be seen more clearly in complex categories with more than one suffix with different categorial properties, e.g. the adverb selfishly. See the different representations:

[[[N self] [A -ish]] [ADV - ly]]




Self -ish -ly

As a result selfishly is a complex category of the type ADV by virtue of the fast that its rightmost morpheme is an ADV .Selfish is a complex category of the type A by virtue of the fact that its rightmost morpheme is an A. This property of English complex categories is related to the Right Hand Head Rule (RHR).

5.1. Righthand Head Rule (definition)

The head of a complex word is its rightmost morpheme.

It means that affixes have a categorial property can be understood imply that they have lexical entries on a par with free standing lexical items. They are indicated by the fact that complex categories have a compositional meaning. This meaning is determined by the base and the affix. So, affixes have a sort of representation of meaning.

Affixes tend to be highly selective as to the categories they can attach to. For example: -ion usually attaches to verbs (e.g : transcribe , transcription). Thus, it can be established the following representation:

-ion : [N;[V]- ]

As a result, subcategorisation by affixes targets lexical categories such as V, N ...etc., rather than phrasal categories such as NP, PP ...etc. Attaching an affix to a, base results in the creation of a complex terminal category rather than a phrase. As such, it differs from subcategorisation by lexical categories of the type discussed, earlier which targets phrasal categories and results in the creation of a phrasal category. To distinguish between the two types of subcategorisation we will refer to subcategorisation of lexical categories by affixes as morphological subcategorisation, and to the subcategorisation of phrasal (or syntactic) categories by lexical categories as syntactic subcategorisation. The former is relevant to the rules which form complex terminal categories applying in the lexicon, and the latter to rules of syntax. However,all bound morphemes necessarily result in the derivation of a category different from that of the base. There are bound morphemes which never have this effect. These include, among others, the plural marker -s, the past tense marker -ed, and the third person singular present tense marker -s, and so on. They are inflectional morphemes, to distinguish them from the derivational morphemes(eg : -ion, -ish, -ly).

Although inflectional morphemes differ from derivational morphemes in the way indicated, they too are subject to the RHR. See the representations:

N[ plural] V[past]

N - s [plural] V -ed

Pencil paint

Thus, derivational affixes result in the derivation of a category distinct from the base is not absolute. One perhaps way of distinguishing between the two types of morpheme is in terms of whether they are relevant to syntax or not. Generally speaking, the rules involved in the derivation of complex words are not restricted to the lexicon. They can also operate in syntax. This implies that these rules may be part of a separate component, although one that is not in a strict feeding relationship with the other components. Its rules can apply either ill the lexicon or syntax.


It has been said that the affix -ion is used for nouns and the affix -ise is used for verbs.

The use of categorial terms in relation to affixes reflects an important implication. They are understood merely as labels for categorial features. They have no implication whatsoever as to whether the labelled item refers to (or names) an entity or an individual or denotes an event or state.

For example: chair is a noun not because it refers to (or names) an entity, but because it is expressed for the categorial feature [+N ].

Categorial labels are defined as 'bundles' of categorical features. The idea is borrowed from feature-based phonology where segments are understood as 'bundles' of distinctive features. The decomposition of segments into features allows for the possibility of capturing certain common properties between segments which are otherwise different.

Syntactic categories are also 'bundles of features'. Generally speaking, it can be established the following features according to grammatical categories:

N : [ + N, - V ]

V: [-N, +V]

A:[ +N, +V]

P: [-N, -V]

The previous classification assumes shows that the nominal and verbal features are the only primitive categorial features, so that even categories such as A and P are 'bundles' of nominal and verbal features. Ns and As form a natural class in relation to the feature [+N], and Vs and Ps form a natural class in relation to the feature [- N].

Categories are essentially 'bundles of features' and can be spelled out by the rules of phonology. It is important the fact that grammarians speak about phonological component.


According to what has been said, it is relevant to point out the context in which

free PS rules occur. They are related to context-sensitive rewrite rules called subcategorisation rules. Thus, these rules guarantee that different categories (verbs, nouns and so on ) are within appropriate subcategorisation frames. In one of the sections of the assignment, we have thought about the possibility of eliminating context-sensitive subcategorisation rules from the own syntactic component. The result : they can be replaced with a general rule. This rule is what is called Lexical Insertion Rule. It inserts lexical items under terminal nodes located in certain contexts . These contexts are consistent with their categorical features and subcategorisation properties. So, the syntactic component consists context -free PS rules and the lexicon is separated from the own syntactic component.

Finally, it is quite important to emphasize that categories are defined as “bundles features”.


A-bar movement An A-bar movement operation is one which moves a maximal projection into an A-bar position (i.e. a non-argument position, or more specifically, a position which can be occupied by expressions which are not arguments). So, operator movement scrambling and the kind of adjunction operation whereby this kind of behav­iour is adjoined to the clause containing it in a sentence such as this kind of behaviour cannot tolerate are all specific types of A-bar movement.

Ajacency condition A condition requiring that two expressions must be immediately adjacent (i.e. one must immediately follow the other) in order for some operation to apply. For example, to can only contract onto want (forming wanna) if the two are immediately adjacent.

Adjective. A category of word which often denotes states (eg. happy,sad), which typically has an adverb counterpart in + ly (cf sad/sadly), which typically has comparative/superlative forms in +er/+est (cf. sadder/saddest), which can often take the prefix +un (cf. unhappy), and which can often form a noun by the addition of +ness (cf. sadness).

Adjunct One way in which this term is used to denote an optional constituent typically used to specify e.g. the time, location or manner in which an event takes place (e.g. in the pub is an adjunct in a sentence such as We had a drink in the pub). Another way in which it is used to denote a constituent which has been adjoined to another to form an extended constituent .

Adjunction A process by which one word is adjoined (= attached) to another to form a compound word, or one phrase is adjoined to another phrase to form an even larger phrase. For example, we might say that in a sentence such as He shouldn`t go, not (in the guise of its contracted form n`t) has been adjoined to the auxiliary should to form the negative auxiliary shouldn't. Likewise, in a sentence such as You know that such behaviour we cannot tolerate, we might argue that such behaviour has been adjoined to the we-clause.

Agreement Two words (or expressions) are said to agree in respect of some grammatical feature(s) if they have the same value for the relevant feature(s):so, in a sentence such as He smokes, the verb smokes is said to agree with its subject he because both are third person singular expressions.

Ambiguous An expression is ambiguous if it has more than one interpretation. For example, a sen­tence such as He loves her more than you is ambigu­ous by virtue of the fact that it has two interpretations, one paraphraseable as 'He loves her more than he loves you', ale other as 'He loves her more than you love her.'

A movement Movement from one A position to another (typically, from a subject or complement position into another subject position).

Anaphor An anaphor is an expression (like himself) which cannot have independent reference, but which must take its reference from an antecedent (i.e. expression which it refers to) within the same phrase or sentence. Hence, while we can say John is deluding himself ( where himself refers back to John) , we cannot say *Himself is waiting, since the anaphor himself here has no antecedent.

Antecedent An expression which is referred to by a pronoun or anaphor of some kind. For example, in John cut himself shaving, John is the antecedent of the anaphor himself, since himself refers back to John. In a sentence such as He is someone whom we respect, the antecedent of the pronoun whom is someone.

A position A position which can be occupied by an argurnent, but not by a nonargument expression (e.g. not by an adjunct) - e.g. a subject position, or a position as the complement of a verb, adjective or noun.

Argument This is a term borrowed by linguists from philosophy (more specifically, from predicate calcu­lus) to describe the role played by particular types of expression in the semantic structure of sentences. In a sentence such asjohn hit Fred, the overalí sen­tence is said to be a proposition (a term used to describe the semantic content of a clause), and to consist of the predicate hit and its two arguments John and Fred. The two arguments represent the two participants in the act of hitting, and the predicate is the expression (in this case the verb hit) which describes the activity in which they are engaged. By extension, in a sentence such as John says he hates syntax the predicate is the verb says, and its two arguments are John and the clause he hates syntax; the second argument he hates syntax is in turn a proposition whose predicate is hates, and whose two arguments are he and syntax. Since the comple­ment of a verb is positioned internally within V-bar whereas the subject of a verb is positioned outside V-bar, complements are also referred to as internal arguments, and sub­jects as external arguments. Expressions which do not function as arguments are nonarguments. The argument structure of a predicate provides a descrip­tion of the set of arguments associated with the predicate, and the thematic role which each fulfils in relation to the predicate .

Aspect A term typically used to denote the duration of the activity described by a verb (e.g. whether the activity is ongoing or completed). In sentences such as:

(i) He has taken the medicine (ji) He is taking the medicine

the auxiliary has is said to be an auxiliary which marks perfective aspect, in that it marks the perfec­tion (in the sense of 'completion' or 'termination') of the activity of taking the medicine; for analogous reasons, taken is said to be a perfective (participle) verb form in (i) (though is referred to in traditional grammars as a past participle) Similarly, is is said to be an auxiliary which marks imperfective or progressive aspect in (ii), because it relates to an activity and hence which is ongoing or in progress (for this reason, is in (ii) is also referred to as a progressive or imperfective auxiliary); in the same way, the verb taking in (ii) is said to be the imperfective or progres­sive (participle) form of the verb (though is known in traditional grammars as a present participle).

AUX/Auxiliary A term used to describe items such as will/ would /can /could l shall / should /may l might / must /ought and some uses of have / be / do l need /dare. Such items differ from typical lexical verbs e.g. in that they undergo inversion (cf. Can 1 help you?).

Auxilary selection This term relates to the type of verb which a given auxiliary selects as its comple­ment: e.g. in many languages (the counterpart of) be when used as a perfective auxiliary selects only a complement headed by an unaccusative verb (like come, go, etc.), whereas (the counterpart of) have selects a complement headed by other types of verb.

Bare A bare infinitive clause is a clause which con­tains a verb in the infinitive form, but does not con­tain the infinitive particle to - e.g. the bracketed clause in He won't let [me help him]. A bare noun is a noun used without any determiner to modif

(e.g. fish in Fish is smelly).

Base form The base form of a verb is the simplest, uninflected form of the verb (the form under which the relevant verb would be listed in an English dic­tionary) - hence forma like go/be/have/see/want/ love are the base forms of the relevant verbs.

Binary A term relating to a two-valued property or -relation. For example, number is a binary property in English, in that we have a two-way contrast between singular forma like cat and plural forma like cats. It is widely assumed that parameters have bina­ry settings, that features have binary values, and that ah branching in syntactic structure is binary.

Binary-branching A tree diagram in which every nonterminal node (i.e. every node not at the very bottom of the tree) branches down into two other nodes is binary-branching.

Category A term used to denote a set of expressions which share a common set of linguistic properties. In syntax, the term is used for expressions which share a common set of grammatical (i.e. morpholog­ical syntactic) properties. For example, boy and girl belong to the (grammatical) category noun because they both inflect for plural number (cf. boys/girls), and can both terminate a sentence such as The police haven't yet found the missing - .

C-command A structural relation between two con­stituents. To use a simple train-station metaphor, one node carrying the category label X c-commands another carrying the category label Y if you can get from X to Y by taking a northbound train from X, getting off at the first stop, and then taking a south­bound train to Y (on a different line). The c-com­mand con4ition on binding is a condition to the effect that a bound constituent (e.g. a reflexive anaphor like himself or the trace of a moved con­stituent) must be c-commanded by its antecedent (i.e. by the expression which binds it). This amounts to claiming that the antecedent must be higher up in the structure than the anaphor/trace which it binds

Checking (theory) In Chomsky's checking theory, words carry grammatical features which have to be checked in the course of a derivation. For example, a nominative pronoun like I must have Its nominative case checked, which means that it must occupy a nominative position (as the subject of the kind of constituent which allows a nominative subject, e.g. a finite auxiliary) at some point in the derivation. When a feature has been checked, it is erased if it is uninterpretable (i.e. if it la a purely formal feature with no semantic content); Any uninterpretable features which remain unchecked (and hence which have not been erased) at the level of logical form will cause the derivation to crash (i.e. to be ungrammatical).

Clitic(ization) The term clitic denotes an item which resembles a word but which has the property that it must cliticize (i.e. each itself) to another word. For example, we could say that the contracted negative particle n't is a clitic which attaches itself to a finite auxiliary verb, so giving rise to forms like isn't, shouldn't, mtghtn't, etc. Likewise, we might say that ve is a clitic form of have which attaches itself to (for examp1e) a pronoun ending in a vowel or diphthong, so giving rise to forms like we've etc.

Complement. This is a term used to denote a specific grammatical function (in the same way that the term subject denotes a specific grammatical function). A complement is an expression which combines with a head word to project the head into a larger structure of essentially the same kind. In close the door, the door is the complement of close; in after dinner, din­ner is the complement of after; in good at physics, at physics is the complement of good; In loss of face, Of faces the complement of loss. As these examples illustrate, complements typically , follow their heads in English. The choice of complement (and the mor­phological form of the complement)is determined by properties of the head: for example, an auxiliary such as will requires as its complement an expres­sion headed by a verb in the infinitive form (cf. He will go/*going/*gone home). Moreover, complements bear a close semantic relation to their heads (e.g. in kill him, him is the complement of the verb kill and plays the thematic role of PATI ENT argument of the verb kill). Thus, a complement has a close morpho­logical, syntactic and semantic relation to its head. A complement clause is a clause which is used as the complement of some other word (typically as the complement of a verb, adjective or noun). Thus, in a sentence such as He never expected that she would come, the clause that she would come serves as the complement of the verb expected, and so is a com­plement clause. Complement features are features that specify the kind of complement which a given head can have

Complementizer This term is used in two ways. On the one hand, it denotes a particular category of clause-introducing word such as that / if / for, as used in sentences such as 1 think that you should apolo­gize, 1 doubt if she realizes, They're been for you lo show up. On the other hand, it is also used to denote the presubject position in clauses ('the complemen­tizer postion') which is typically occupied by a com­plementizer like that l if /for, but which can also be occupied by an inverted auxiliary in sentences such as Can you help?, where can is taken to occupy the complementizer position in the clause. In general, I use the term complementizer to denote the relevant category, and the abbreviated terms COMP and C to denote the associated position. A complementizer phrase (CP) is a phrase/clause headed by a comple­mentizer (or by an auxiliary or verb moved into COMP).

Control(ler)/Control predicate In an infinitive structure with a PRO subject like John decided to PRO quit, the antecedent of PRO (i.e. the expres­sion which PRO refers back to, in this case John) is said to be the controller of PRO (or to control PRO), and conversely PRO is said to be controlled by its antecedent; the relevant kind of structure is called a control structure. Verbs like try which take a com­plement containing a PRO subject controlled by the subject of try are called subject-control predicates; verbs like decided (as used in sentences such as What decided you to take syntax?) which take an infinitive complement whose PRO subject is con­trolled by the object of the main verb (here, the you object of decided) are called object-control predi­cates.

Coordination A process by which two similar expressions are joined together by and/or (e.g. John is coordinated with Mary in 1 couldn't find John or Mary).

/ Copula/Copular Verb A verb used to link a subject with a verbless predicate. The main copular verb in English is be (though verbs like become, remain, slay, etc. also have the same copular - i.e. linking -function). In sentences such as They are lazy, They are fools and They are outside, the verb are is said to be a copula in that it links the subject they to the adjective predicate lazy, or the noun predicate fools, nr the prepositional predicate outside.

Descriptive adequacy A grammar of a particular language attains descriptive adequacy if it correctly specifies which strings of words do (and don't) form grammatical phrase and sentences in the language, and correctly describes the structure and interpretation­ of the relevant phrases and sentence.

Determiner phrase/DP A phrase like (such) a pity which comprises a determiner a, a noun comple­ment pity and an (optional) specifier such. In earlier work, a determiner + noun sequence would have been analysed 55 a noun phrase (= NP), with the determiner occupying the specifier position within NP.

Ellipsis/Elliptical Ellipsis is a process by which an expression is omitted in order to avoid repetition. For example, in a sentence such as I will do it ¡f you will do it, we can ellipse (i.e. omit) the a second occurrence if do it to avoid repetition, and hence say 1w ill do ¡1 if you will: the resulting sentences an elliptical structure (i.e. a structure from which something has been omitted).

Embedded clause An embedded clause is a clause which is positioned internally within some other phrase or clause. For example, in a sentence such as He may suspect that 1 hid them, the hid-clause (= that I hid them) is embedded within the suspect clause.

Empty category A category which is covert (i.e. which is silent or null and hence has no overt phonetic form). Empty categories include traces, the null pronouns PRO and pro, the null generic/ partitive determiner

Explanatory adequacy A linguistic theory meet the criterion of explanatory adequacy if it explains why grammars have the properties that they do, and how children come to acquire grammars in such a short period of time.

Finite The term finite verb/clause denotes an auxil­iary or nonauxiliary verb, or clause which can have a subject with nominative case like I/we/he/she/they. Thus, if we compare the two bracketed clauses in:

(i) What if [people annoy her]? (ii) Don't let [people annoy her

We find that the bracketed clause and the verb annoy in (i) are finite because in place of the subject people we can have a nominative pronoun like they; by contrast, the bracketed clause and the verb annoy are nonfinite in (ii) because people cannot be replaced by a nominative pronoun like they (only by an objective pronoun like them): cf.

(iii) What if [they annoy her]? (iv)*Don't let [they annoy her]

By contrast, a verb or clause which has a subject with objective or null casis nonfinite; hence the bracketed clauses and bold-printed verbs are non­finite in the examples below:

(v) Don't let [them annoy you] (vi) You should try [to PRO stay calm]

In general, finite verbs carry tense/agreement prop­erties, whereas nonfinite verbs are tenseless and agreementless forma (i.e. forma which do not overtly inflect for tense/agreement - e.g. infinitive forma like be, and +ing/+n participle forma like being/ been are nonfinite).

Floating quantifier A quantifier which does not immediately precede the expression which it quanti­fies. For example, in a sentence such as The students have all passed their exams, all quantifies (but is not positioned in front of) the students, so that all is a floating (or stranded) quantifier here.

Gapping A form of ellipsis in which a head word is omitted from one (or more) parallel structures, to avoid repetition. For example, the italicized second occurrence of bought can be gapped (i.e. omitted) in a sentence such Es John bought an apple and Mary bought a pear, giving John bought an apple, and Mary a pear.

Grammar The study of how words, phrases and sentences are formed. A grammar of a language is a description of how words, phrases and sentences are formed in the relevant language.

Grammatical A phrase or sentence is grammatical if it contains no morphological error (i.e. no error relating to the morphological form of any word) or syntactic error (i.e. no error relating to the position occupied by any of the words or phrases).

Head This term has two main uses. The head (con­stituent) of a phrase is the key word which deter­mines the properties of the phrase. So, in a phrase such as fond of fast food, the head

INFL A category devised by Chomsky whose mem­bers include finite auxiliaries (which are INFLected for tense/agreement), and the INFinitivaL particle to.

Lexicon/ lexical The word lexical is used in a number of different ways . Since a lexicon is a dictionary , the expression lexical item means “word”, the expression lexical entry means “the entry in the dictionary for a particular word” , the term lexical property means “property associated with some individual word” , and the term lexical learning means “learning words and their idiosyncratic properties”. However, the word lexical is also used in a second sense, in which it is contrasted with functional. In this second sense, a lexical category is a category whose members are contentives.

Modal / Modality A modal auxiliary is an auxiliary which expresses modality .the set of modal auxiliaries in English is usually assumed to include will / would / can /could and need / dare when followed by a bare ( to - less) infinitive complement.

Morpheme The smallest unit of grammar structure. Thus, a plural noun such as cats comprises two morphemes , namely the stem cat and the plural suffix + s.

Morphology The study of how morpheme are combined together to form words.

Noun phrase A phrase whose head is a noun . Thus, the expression lovers of opera is a noun phrase , since its head is the noun lovers. In earlier work, determiners were thought to be the spcifiers of noun phrase , so that an expression such as a fan of football players would have been analysed as a noun phrase ( though in more recent work it would be analysed as an expression headed by the determiner a, and hence as a determiner phrase, DP).

Null subject A subject which has grammatical / semantic properties but no overt phonetic form. More specifically, this term usually denotes the null pro subject found in finite declarative or interrogative in other languages. Accordingly, a null subject language is a language which allows finite declarative or interrogative clauses to have a null pro subject. The null subject parameter is a dimension of variation between languages according to whether finite (declarative and interrogative) verbs allow null pro subjects.

Percolation An operation (also known as attraction) by which a feature which is attached to one category comes to be attached to another category higher up in the structure.

Performance A term which denotes observed language behaviour, e.g. the kind of things people actually say when they speak a language, and what meanings they assign to sentences produced by themselves or other people. Performance can be impaired by factors such as tiredness, drunkenness, etc. Performance is contrasted with competence (which denotes the fluent native speakers' knowledge of the grammar of their native language).

Phrase The term phrase is used to denote an expres­sion larger than a word which is a maximal projec­tion: see projection. In traditional grammar, the term refers strictly to nonclausal expressions (hence, reading a book is a phrase, but He is reading a book is a clause, not a phrase). However, in more recent work, clauses are analysed as types of phrases: e.g. He will resign is an auxiliary phrase (IP), and That he will resign is a complementizer phrase (CP).

Projection A projection is a constituent which is an expansion of a head word. For example, e noun phrase such as students of linguistics is a projection of its head noun students (equivalently, we can say that the noun students here projects into the noun phrase students of linguistics). A minimal projection is a constituent which is not a projection of some other constituent: hence, heads (i.e. words) are minimal projections. An intermediate projection is a constituent which is larger then a word, but smaller than a phrase. A maximal projection is a constituent which is not contained within any larger constituent with the same head. So, for example, in e sentence like He is proud of you, the adjectival phrase proud of you is a maximal projection, since it is a projec­tion of the adjective proud but is not contained with­in any larger projection of the same adjective proud. By contrast, in a sentence such as He la proud, the adjective proud is both a minimal projection (by virtue of the fact that it is not a projection of some other head) and a maximal projection (by virtue of the fact that it is not contained within any larger structure which has the same head adjective).

Raising (predicate) The term raising is used in two senses. On the one hand, it is used in a general sense to denote any movement operation which involves moving some word or phase from a lower to a high­er position in a structure. On the other hand, it can also be used with the more specific sense of a subject-to-subject raising operation by which an expression is moved from one subject position to another (eg. From being the subject of VP to being the subject of IP).

Specifier-features Features which determine the kind of a specifier which e given type of head can have. For example, the specifier-features of the auxiliary has ere [3SNom], and these tell us that it requires a third person singular nominative subject like he/she/it.

Tree diagram A way of representing the syntactic structure of a phrase or sentence.


* Ouhalla, Jamal 1999 (1994). Introducing Transformational Grammar, From Principles and Parameters to Minimalism, London: Arnold.

* Task R. (1993): A Dictionary of Grammatical Terms in Linguistics. London: Routledge.


  • Introduction ...……………………………………………………………………… 1

  • Subcategorisation ………………………………………………………………….. 2

  • Selection and restriction …………………………………………………………… 4

  • How the lexicon can be separated from syntax ………………….………………… 6

  • Lexical derivation ………………………………………………………………….. 8

  • Categories as feature complexes ………………………………………………...... 13

  • Conclusion …………………………………………………………………………15

  • Glossary ……………………………………………………………………………16

  • Bibliography ……..……………………………………………………………..… 27

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