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Morphology and Syntax

February 21, 2012



Hierarchical structure of words Dissecting word structure Exercises


Word classes Phrasal structure

Word - Sentence Level

Phonetics: acoustics and articulation of speech Phonology: relevant sound segments Morphology: minimal units of meaning Syntax: sentence structure Semantics: sentence meaning Pragmatics: language in interaction

Sound Level Word Level

Sentence Level

Morphology Recap

Morphemes are the smallest meaningful units in language Not equal to words Free (independent words) and Bound (must attach to a free) Derivational: Can change the category of the word its attached to, will result in new dictionary entry (edit -> editor) Inectional: Cannot change the category of the word it attaches to, only adds grammatical information (goes, walked, eating)

Ordering rules

A word is not just a sequence of morphemes Each word has internal structure Morphemes are added in a strict order - reecting a hierarchy within the word Take the word unsystematic If we put it together step by step, we could have Noun + un = *Unsystem However, this results in a nonexistent word, as the order violates the hierarchy

Ordering rules

Unsystematic Noun + atic = Systematic un + adjective = Unsystematic The rst step attaches a derivational sufx atic to the (free) root noun. This forms an adjective The second step takes this adjective and attaches a derivational prex un, creating a new word, with the same category We use a tree structure to show the steps involved

Tree structure
Adjective Un Derivational Noun System Free Root atic Derivational Adjective


Structure is key to human language Words and sentences have component parts, relating to each other in rule-governed ways Well see trees again in syntax - sentence structure Theyre common to many areas of linguistics

Some rules

Noun + atic = Adjective (Systematic) Un + Adjective = Adjective (Unhappy) Adjective + al = Adjective (Egotistical, Fantastical) [Noun + al = Adjective (Autumnal, National)] Adjective + ly = Adverb (Happily, Hopefully)

Using these rules, work out the tree structure for unsystematically

Unsystematically (Adverb)
Adverb Adjective Adjective Adjective Noun System atic Deriv al ly




More rules

Some rules are more generative than others - i.e. Verb + able = Adjective (Adorable, Desirable) will be useful in more Adjective + en = Verb (Darken) Noun -> Adjective = ish/esque/ous/ate/ful/ic/like environments
(boyish, picturesque, joyous, affectionate, healthful, alcoholic, lifelike) Verb -> Noun = al/ance/ation/ence/er/ist/ion/dom (acquittal, clearance, accusation, conference, singer, conformist, prediction, freedom) Adjective -> Adverb = ly (exactly, quietly) Noun -> Verb = ize/ate/ish/n (moralize, vaccinate, brandish, hasten)

More rules

Not all derivational morphemes cause a change in grammatical class friend+ship, human+ity, un+do, re+cover, in+ammable This is often the case with prexes: a+moral, auto+biography, ex +wife, super+human, re+print, semi+annual And sufxes: vicar+age, old+ish, America+n, music+ian There is a vast list of morphemes, and many rules to do with ordering etc. Best to be familiar with a few examples of Noun -> Adjective, Adjective -> Adverb, Verb -> Adjective, Adjective -> Verb, Verb -> Noun

Rule breakers

Some combinations of root + afx are not allowed in English (as weve seen, morphological rules differ cross-linguistically, so this may well be different in different languages) E.g. *Unsystem is disallowed as its a combination of un + Noun 7Up used the slogan of The Uncola in the 70s This may have worked as its unusual - grabs our attention What about Untruth? Probably a back-formation from untruthful Not made up of un + truth


These are hypothetical ways in which people represent the internal structure of morphologically complex words We have a complex mental structure which we are unaware of Some words are structurally ambiguous Unlockable Why is this ambiguous? Work it out! Un + Verb = Unlock (V) + able = Adjective Verb + able = Lockable (Adj) + un = Adjective

Adjective Verb Verb Un Deriv Deriv Lock able Deriv Able to be unlocked Adjective



Deriv Verb Lock able Unable to be Deriv locked

Some more exercises

Draw the trees for: befriended endearment unpalatable mistreatment deactivation.

Verb Verb En ed Adj Adj Un

Noun Verb Adj dear ment

Be Noun friend

Noun palate


Noun Verb Verb treat Verb ment De Verb act Adj ive ate ion Noun Noun


Noun We dont have Noun mis+ Noun Verb treat

Noun Verb

Verb ment De Verb act Adj ive ate ion


Bound Roots

So far weve only looked at words with free roots We said that bound morphemes have to attach to a root This is true, however, the root can also be bound In this case, the bound root and the bound morpheme afxes cling to one another Think of words like unkempt, horrify, vengeance, inept, salvation Based on our knowledge of morphology so far, we can select the afxes, leaving us with the bound root. This cannot exist on its own

Trees with bound roots

Adjective Adjective Noun

Afx Un

Bound Root

Afx In

Bound Root

Bound Root

Afx ation




Types of word formation

Conversion Clipping Blends Back formation Acronyms Compounds


This is when an already existing word is assigned a new syntactic category Even though theres no overt morpheme added, it still resembled morphological derivation because of the change in category and meaning This is sometimes called zero derivation (as if theres an invisible derivational morpheme)

N to V = butter (butter the bread)/ ship (ship the package) V to N = a permt from to prmit/ a cntest from to contst Adj to V = dirty (to dirty a shirt)/ empty (to empty the bin)


Clipping forms new words by deleting syllables Most common are names: Robert - Rob etc Some words which you may not know are examples of clippings are: (ham)burger, lab(oratory), (omni)bus, porn(ography), deli(catessen), zoo(logical garden)


Words that are created from non-morphemic parts of two already existing words, usually the start of one word and the end of another brunch from breakfast and lunch smog from smoke and fog telethon from telephone and marathon chunnel from channel and tunnel motel from motor and hotel

Back formation

Sometimes words enter our language because of an incorrect morphological analysis Here, a new word is created by removing an afx from an existing word Resurrect was backformed from resurrection Enthuse from enthusiasm Lots of examples such as edit from editor, housekeep from housekeeper


Acronyms are formed by taking the rst letters of a phrase or title and reading them as a word AIDs for Acquired Immune Deciency Syndrome UNICEF for United Nations International Childrens Emergency Fund Sometimes, acronyms enter normal vocabulary, so speakers arent aware of their provenance RADAR for Radio Detecting and Ranging SCUBA for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus Textspeak examples have entered the language - lol/ro


Another way to build words involves compounding, the combination of lexical categories (nouns, adjective, verbs, prepositions) Usually, the resulting compound is a noun, verb, or adjective Examples of compounds are words like greenhouse, spoonfeed, nationwide In compounds, we use the Right Hand Head rule to work out the category of the word Greenhouse is a Noun, because its rightmost morpheme is a Noun The morpheme that determines the category for the word is known as the Head

Right Hand Head

Work out the heads for each of these compounds: re-engine after-thought white-wash drop-kick red-hot in-grown.

Noun Noun Verb (Noun?) Verb (Noun?) Adjective Adjective

Compounds & stress

English orthography is inconsistent in how it represents compounds - sometimes theyre presented as single word, sometimes hyphenated, sometimes as separate words This is where stress can help

gren-hose vs gren hose blckbord vs blck bord wt sut vs wt sut

In non-compounds, the second element is usually stressed

Compounds & tense/plural

Another way of distinguishing compounds is looking at tense and plural markers These cannot typically be attached to the rst element, but to the compound as a whole *The player dropped kick the ball The player drop kicked the ball The foxes hunter did not have a licence The fox hunters did not have a licence

Endocentric vs Exocentric

There are two main types of compound In most cases the rightmost component of a compound determines something about the meaning of the entire compound. These compounds are called Endocentric However, in some cases, the meaning of the compound does not follow from the meaning of its parts These compounds are called Exocentric Endocentric = the head is contained within the word Exocentric = the head is not contained within the word


Endocentric compounds steamboat = a type of boat water hose = a hose that carries water bath tub = a tub in which people bathe bath towel = a towel used after bathing Exocentric compounds bluebottle = not a bottle that is blue, but a y redneck = not a neck that is red, but a hick


Are these compounds endocentric or exocentric? party hat bluestocking sugar-daddy dimwit underdog turncoat raincoat.

Endocentric Exocentric Exocentric Endocentric Exocentric Exocentric (semantic relationship) Endocentric

Summary of Morphology

Words consist of meaningful units called morphemes These, when afxed to a root, can change the meaning and/or category of a word Operations which can modify and combine morphemes include afxation, internal change, suppletion, reduplication Two basic forms of word formation = derivation (using derivational morphemes) and inection Key to remember is that morphemes are the smallest meaningful units Words have internal structure in a similar way to sentences, as well see next



Now were moving on from structure at a word level, to structure at a phrasal and sentence level Syntactic theory is about the rules and principles that determine how people combine words to make meaningful sentences Again, sentences are not just strings of words (in the same way that words are not just strings of morphemes) There are strict syntactic rules about the structure of sentences We know how to combine words in specic way to reach a certain meaning

Bag of words

Consider these words: Bit A The Dog Cat A cat bit the dog The cat bit a dog A dog bit the cat The dog bit a cat All of these have specic, and different meanings These different meanings come about solely from our combinations of words


Languages differ not only in sounds, or the way words are put together, but also the ways in which words can be put together into larger units This is Syntax Rules about how words can be put together differ according to language spoke, dialect spoken, social group, time frame etc They know not what they do - does not follow the rules we use for modern English, but was totally normal in the 17th Century Even though the word meanings havent changed, the syntax has

Prescriptive vs Descriptive

This is where this argument is very important Linguists do not tell people how they should be combining words, theyre describing what they actually do When a syntactician talks about rules, they mean generalisations based on observation of what actually happens, rather than instructions on how to behave When we describe a sentence that is considered ungrammatical, well use an asterisk beside it. This holds for most of linguistics Keelin ate the chocolate *Ate Keelin chocolate the

Word classes

People are often taught ways to remember word classes in school Noun = Person, place or thing Verb = Doing word Adjective = Word that describes a noun However, as well see as we learn more, these denitions can be too simple Chrissy gave us some denitions last week We need to look at operational denitions - how words function within a sentence

Denitions of word classes

We need denitions based on the function of words within a sentence Verbs (V): Finite verbs are verbs which indicate the tense, person, number of an element in the sentence

e.g. She dreams of retirement e.g. I walked home yesterday

We also have verb forms which dont express tense - innitive

Harry wants to leave the country

In the future tense, we also use the innitive form, but without to

Keelin will eat the chocolate cake later

Verbs (V)

Keelin will eat the chocolate cake later Here, we appear to have two verbs - whats going on? The will is known as an auxilliary verb will is telling us information about the tense, but eat is the main verb English is an SVO (Subject Verb Object) language, so if we have a declarative sentence, the verb can usually be found directly after the subject (which tends to be an NP)

Nouns (N)

We have multiple kinds of nouns, with multiple distinctions A noun that can take a plural is known as a count noun house - houses, cat - cats, etc However, we also have mass nouns. These are nouns that cannot be pluralised water - *waters, gold - *golds, etc Another distinction is abstract vs concrete abstract = luck, love, hate, justice concrete = bottle, oor, apple, etc

Nouns (N)

How do we determine if something is a noun? Nouns can be combined with a determiner denite = the, indenite = a/an/some, demonstrative = this/that/ these/those Proper nouns (names) dont t this criterion * The Keelin But, if we modify the noun slightly it works She is no longer the Keelin I used to know Verbs cannot combine with determiners: *The walked, *a breathes

Nouns vs Verbs

Verbs can combine directly with nouns Keelin examines books But nouns cannot combine directly with other nouns *Keelins examination books Keelins examination of books

Note: pronouns (it, he, she, etc). These stand for another noun. It should be clear from the context which noun they refer to

Adjectives (Adj)

Adjectives qualify a noun or noun phrase One way to test for adjectives is superlatives cold - colder - coldest, big - bigger - biggest etc Some are irregular: good - better - best Some add more and most: enthusiastic - more enthusiastic etc We talk about two kinds of adjective - predicative and attributive John is ill, Keelin is blonde, Chrissy is tall = predicative An ill man, a blonde woman, a tall woman = attributive

Adverbs (Adv)

Adverbs qualify a verb As we saw in morphology, adverbs are often hallmarked by the sufx -ly Keelin quickly ate all the cake But, as ever, we have exceptions - Chrissy often laughs, Simon presented well

Prepositions (P)

Prepositions can express ideas of place (in, on), time (during, throughout), direction (towards) etc They usually combine with a noun to their right Keelin ate cake in France

Phrase structure

We have rules in syntax about what word classes can pattern together in phrases NP -> (Det) N This means that Noun Phrases can be made up of Determiners and Nouns. Determiners are optional The girl Keelin Both of these are NPs - they each contain a N, and the rst also has a determiner

Phrase structure

We also have rules about Verb Phrases, Adjective Phrases, Prepositional Phrases etc NP -> (Det) N PP -> P NP VP -> V NP AP -> A NP Again, we use trees to represent this

Phrase Trees

Det The

N cat

P On

N wheels

Sentence structure

This allows us to build up sentences from phrases If I want to analyse the sentence the cat sat on the mat, I look at the internal phrases The cat sat on the mat Det N V P Det N

NP VP PP NP However, there are rules in syntax (as is morphology) about what order these interact in Its not just a bag of words!


A sentence is divided into groups of words. The connections between words in one group is closer than between words belonging to different groups A group of words that cling together is called a constituent To test whether a group of words is a constituent, we have 3 tests: Replacement/Substitution: a constituent can be replaced by a single word Movement: a constituent as a whole, can be placed in a different position in a sentence Clefting: Change sentences to it was...

Constituency tests

Replacement tests: we can use slightly different tests to test the constituency of different phrase types NPs can be replaced by pronouns PPs can be replaced by adverbs Adj Ps can be replaced by so VPs can be replaced by do so


If I want to check whether a car is a constituent of bought in the sentence Keelin bought a car, I use Replacement: Keelin bought it Movement: A car, Keelin bought Clefting: It was a car that Keelin bought All of these new sentences are grammatical. This means that a car is a constituent of bought In a way, it is licensed by the verb We can show this graphically this: NP is alike constituent of the VP, and so, [NP] [VP [NP]] is bracketed with it


I want to test whether over the hill is a constituent of the verb in the sentence She went over the hill Replacement: She went there Movement: Over the hill she went Clefting: It was over the hill she went All of these sentences are grammatical, and so I know that over the hill is a constituent of the V went She went over the hill [NP] [VP [PP]]

Test Exercises

She collected leprechaun statues - is leprechaun statues a constituent of the Verb? The water went under the bridge - is the bridge a constituent of the Preposition? Keelin felt sick - is sick a constituent of the Verb?


She collected leprechaun statues - is leprechaun statues a constituent of the Verb? She collected them / Leprechaun statues, she collected/ It was leprechaun statues that she collected. YES! The water went under the bridge - is the bridge a constituent of the Preposition? The water went under it / The bridge, the water went under / It was the bridge the water went under YES! Keelin felt sick - is sick a constituent of the Verb? Keelin felt sick, and so too did Chrissy / Sick, Keelin felt / It was sick that Keelin felt YES!

Next week

Constituency Syntactic trees More complex trees Semantics