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Linguistics for Teachers

Language and Meaning


In Today’s Class…
Grammar
-descriptive grammar
-open and closed class lexical categories
-prescriptive rules
-constituent analysis

Syntax
-generative grammar
-sentence structure and ambiguity
-phrase structure rules
-transformational rules
Linguistic Descriptions

an effective method

How can this phrase be described


 phonetically
 morphologically
 grammatically
GRAMMAR

To grammar even kings bow.

J.B. Molière, Les femmes savantes, II, 1672


What constitutes grammar?

Grammar

Phonetics Phonology Morphology Syntax


Two approaches to grammar

-form of the word


Descriptive
Grammar -function of the word
of a
Language
Prescriptive
-proper usage of
words
DESCRIPTIVE
GRAMMAR
Descriptive Grammar

form of the word (its parts of speech or lexical


categories)

function of the word (its role in the phrase or


clause)
Lexical Categories
OPEN CLASS
nouns
adjectives
verbs
adverbs
********************************
CLOSED CLASS
prepositions
conjunctions
pronouns
complementizers
determiners
auxiliary verbs
Practice - Presentation of Lexical Categories
Lexical Category Definition Morphological Syntactic
Description Description
Nouns -person, place, -inflectional suffix N
thing, quality, (‘-s’ for some plural
phenomena, idea, nouns) DET ___
creature -derivational suffix DET Adj ___
(ment, ship, ion,
ness)
Adjectives
Verbs
Adverbs
Prepositions
Conjunctions
Pronouns
Complementizers
Determiners
Auxiliary Verbs
Lexical Categories
OPEN CLASS
nouns -boy, smoking, dog, school, roughness
adjectives -happy, large, strange
verbs -go, talk, be, have, skate
adverbs -slowly, yesterday, very, plausibly
********************************
CLOSED CLASS
prepositions -at, with, near, in
conjunctions -and, but, because, when
pronouns -she, herself, they, it, you, one
complementizers -that, which
determiners -a, an, the, some, many, first
auxiliary verbs -be, have, do, can, should, must, ought to
Practice with Adjectives
For the following two-syllable adjectives, provide the most
“natural sounding” comparative forms. Can you identify
any patterns?
pleasant baffling focused silly
playful lovely nymph-like fussy
neutral hopeful manly catlike
skinny honest nimble gentle
careful subtle famous faithful
**Why can the words unhappy and unhealthy use -er as the
comparative inflection?
(Curzan & Adams, 2006, p.162)
Practice with Verbs
Provide example sentences for each of these descriptions:

a) the form of be as a main verb


b) a form of be as an auxiliary verb in a passive
construction
c) a form of have as an auxiliary verb in a past perfect
construction
d) a form of do as an auxiliary verb in a question
Conjunctions

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkO87mkgcNo
Nouns

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tc-ukN1Rvb8
Discussion
1. Were you taught grammar in elementary,
middle or high school? Was/Is it
necessary?

2. Do these videos represent a descriptive


or a prescriptive approach to grammar?
PRESCRIPTIVE
GRAMMAR

“It is a rule up with which we


should not put.”
Winston Churchill
To boldly go where
no man has gone
before…
Some prescriptive rules
split infinitive -I hope to safely return by morning.

-Hopefully you’re not getting sick.


hopefully

sentence-final -Where did you come from?


prepositions

it’s / its -It’s time to leave.


-Don’t carry your book by its cover.

singular generic they -A student should know their grammar.


More prescriptive rules
fragments → *Because they were late.

run-ons →
*The boy was happy he ran all the way home.
colons→ - The meaning is ambiguous: it can be
interpreted in three different ways.
semi-
colons → -The girl was terrified; she could barely move.

comma *The students were confused, they reread the


splices → chapter.
dangling *Clinging to the side of the aquarium, Mary saw a
participles → starfish.
*Considering the weather, the commute could
have been much worse.
Discussion
1. As teachers, which grammatical
approach is more appropriate? Why?

2. Which of these prescriptive rules do you


often break in everyday language use?

3. Should we be teaching any of these


prescriptive rules to our students?
Practice - What students might ask

The present tense can be used to express future


time in some but not all circumstances. Why can
we do this is some sentences but not in others?

1. I take the exam tomorrow.


2. *I pass the exam tomorrow.
3. We are having dinner at 7:00 tonight.
4. *We are having a good time at 7:00 tonight.
Practice - What students might ask

What is the difference between the simple past and the present
perfect? Look at the following sentences and then describe the
patterns of difference in meaning that you discover. Why can we use
both tenses? Do they mean the same thing?

a) Did you ever cheat on your boyfriend?


b) Have you ever cheated on your boyfriend?
c) We did our homework already.
d) We’ve done our homework already.
e) I discovered that I love grammar.
f) I’ve discovered that I love grammar. (Curzan & Adams, 2006, p.163)

**Which of these sentences are grammatically correct and which


are not?
CONSTITUENT ANALYSIS
Constituent Analysis

The boy saw the man with the telescope

My friend likes the handsome boy in the corner

Ricky watched “The Office” on television

She ate dinner alone

When you look at this chart, you can see 4 sets of


constituents.

Can you name them?


What makes up a constituent?
Substitution Test → a single word or a string of
words can be used interchangeably in the same
sentence and still retain a similar meaning.

They reread the chapter in the book.


The perplexed students reread it.
The perplexed students did so.
**Which word or words could be substituted for the
underlined words?
**How does this exercise answer the question above?
Hierarchical Organization

This type of analysis shows how the constituents of a sentence


occur at the word level, the phrase level, and at the sentence level.

This takes us to Syntax.


SYNTAX
What is syntax
the study of how words combine to form
phrases and sentences where the words
are related to each other in a specific way

Could we compare the words of a


sentence to the cars of a train? Why or
why not?
GENERATIVE GRAMMAR

“I will consider a language to be a set (finite


or infinite) of sentences, each finite in length
and constructed out of a finite set of
elements.”

(Chomsky, 1957)
Generative Grammar

there is a finite set of grammatical


rules that speakers of a language
know subconsciously - and that these
rules are subconsciously applied to
generate possibly an infinite number of
sentences

English syntax will be described


along these lines - this theory will
“articulate the rules that make some
things possible and others not
possible” (Curzan & Adams, 2006, p.168)
SENTENCE STRUCTURE

“Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies


like a banana.”

Groucho Marx
Surface and Deep Structure
Surface Structure Deep Structure

a) The cat is on the mat. a) and b) have different deep


b) The mat is on the cat. structures (different meanings)
(superficially similar)

c) Is Bob coming?
d) I wonder if Bob is coming. c) and d) have similar deep
(superficially different) structures (similar meanings)

**What does surface structure **What does deep structure


mean? mean?
Structural Ambiguity

We will oil your sewing machine and adjust


tension in your home for $10.00.

 We have ONE surface structure.


 Can we have more than one deep structure here?
 If so, how would the deep structures be different?

**Why is this called structural ambiguity?


Pragmatic Ambiguity

Is it hot in here?

 We have ONE surface structure.


 Can we have more than one deep structure here?
 If so, how would the deep structures be different?

**Why is this called pragmatic ambiguity?


Lexical Ambiguity

We had the president for dinner.

 We have ONE surface structure.


 Can we have more than one deep structure here?
 If so, how would the deep structures be different?

**Why is this called lexical ambiguity?


What has happened to these sentences?
Where is the ambiguity?
Where is the ambiguity?
Practice - Ambiguity
What kind of ambiguity is involved in each of
these sentences?

1. My nose was running all night.


2. We live in a dump.
3. We need more intelligent administrators.
4. Do you know how to get to the freeway from
here?
(Language Files, 2004, p.189)
SYNTACTIC DESCRIPTIONS
Syntactic Descriptions
S sentence * ‘ungrammatical
Det / Art determiner / article sentence’
Adj adjective
AdjP adjective phrase → ‘consists of’
N noun
( ) ‘optional constituent’
PN proper noun
NP noun phrase
{ } ‘one and only one of
Pro pronoun these constituents must
P / Prep preposition be selected’
PP prepositional phrase
Adv adverb
AdvP adverb phrase
Aux auxiliary
V verb
VP verb phrase
PHRASE STRUCTURE
RULES

“I really do not know that anything has


ever been more exciting than
diagramming sentences”
Gertrude Stein
What are phrase structure rules
• nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs
• prepositions, conjunctions, pronouns, complementizers,
Category determiners, auxiliary verbs

• string of categories (words)


• NP (the book), VP (was eating the cake), PP (into the
Phrase pond)

• phrases combine in specific ways using phrase


Sentence structure rules
Phrase Structure Rules
S → NP VP - a sentence consists of a noun phrase
and a verb phrase

- a noun phrase consists of a noun,


NP → (Det) (Adj) N possibly preceded by a determiner
(PP) and/or an adjective, and possibly
NP → Npro followed by a prepositional phrase ; a
noun phrase consists of a pronoun

- a verb phrase consists of a verb possibly


VP → (AdvP) V preceded by an adverb phrase, and
(NP/S) (PP) (AdvP) possibly followed by a noun phrase or
sentence, a prepositional phrase and/or
an adverb phrase

PP → P NP - a prepositional phrase consists of a


preposition and a noun phrase
Lexical Rules
Lexical Rules tell us which words we can
place in certain constituents:

PN → {Sharon, Susanne} V → {ate, speak, think}


N → {desk, chair, though} Adj → {happy, pretty}
DET → {a, that, whose} Prep → {at, across, for}
Pro → {she, anyone, what, this} Adv → {quickly, soon}
Practice - Find the phrases
Determine the NP, VP, AdvP and PPs in the following
sentences:

1. That boy is tall for his age. (NP?) (PP?)


2. You have to slice the banana. (VP?) (NP?)
3. A happy lion never chases a pigeon. (NP?) (AdvP?)
4. Can you explain the point of this exercise? (PP?) (VP?)
5. The cats dog our footsteps. (VP?) (NP?)
6. This is the end of the exercise. (NP?)
PHRASE STRUCTURE
TREES
What is a phrase structure tree?

Phrase: each phrase is composed of one or


more words, and a phrase structure tree
offers a useful way to represent this.
S
NP VP
DET N V Adv

the man fell slowly


Basic Phrase Structure Trees
Complex Phrase Structure Trees
a relative clause
Practice - phrase structure trees

Which of these sentences could be represented 1. The boat sailed


by this phrase structure tree? up the river.

2. A girl laughed at
a monkey.

3. The sheepdog
rolled in the mud.

4. The lions
roared in the
jungle.
Practice - phrase structure trees
Fill in the blanks:
Practice - phrase structure trees
Fill in the blanks:
TRANSFORMATIONAL
RULES
Transformational Rules
Practice
With a partner, look at the sentence and show how
it can transform from an active structure to a
passive structure. Use a tree diagram here.

Snow White kissed Grumpy.


Did your tree look something like this?

S S

NP1 VP
NP2 VP

be V -ed by NP1

V NP2
PN PN
PN

PN

Grumpy was kissed by Snow White


Snow White kissed Grumpy
How well do you understand
sentence structure?
 Look at these 3 sets of pictures.

 How should you punctuate the sentence for


each picture? (You are dealing here with
comma use).

 What kind of pattern do you observe? Can you


come up with a grammar rule for each one?
no pushing please
go get him doctors
look at that huge hot dog
Summary
Grammar
-descriptive grammar
-open and closed class lexical categories
-prescriptive rules
-constituent analysis
Syntax
-generative grammar
-sentence structure and ambiguity
-phrase structure rules
-transformational rules