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Continues discussion of ambiguities involving prepositional phrase modifiers in this case, in a complex noun phrase containing two such modifiers, where the two distinct interpretations correspond to two distinct hierarchical structures. This ambiguity is preserved when the prepositional phrase expands to a verb phrase, and also when this verb phrase expands to a finite clause, a relative clause modifying a noun. This serves as a basis for the syntactic analysis of relative clauses and of finite clauses more generally. Discusses how the VP modifier can create garden path effects in standard English, but not in other varieties. Extends analysis of relative clauses to infinitivals, which in some cases require ending the clause with a preposition. Contrasts the natural syntax of English with prescriptive rules prohibiting a stranded preposition at the end of a clause/sentence, a “split infinitive” where an adverb separates infinitival to and a verb, and the use of which in restrictive relative clauses – showing how these prohibitions are not well grounded.
Applies the syntactic structure discussed in the previous chapters to an analysis of the first sentence of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.Compares this structure to the over 5 million alternatives she might have written, to demonstrate why her formulation is better than any of them.
Extends discussion of ambiguity with adverbs in infinitival constructions to a similar ambiguity involving relative clauses, where a single linear order can be assigned two distinct hierarchical structures that support distinct interpretations. Another adverbial ambiguity involves verb phrases where the verb is modified by two adverbs, one to the left and one to the right of the verb – a single linear order with two distinct hierarchical structures. Displacing an adverb to the front of a clause eliminates the potential ambiguity. This constraint on displacement applies also to direct yes/no-questions where the displaced auxiliary can only be interpreted as modifying the main clause verb. The syntax of direct yes/no-questions requires an auxiliary do when the corresponding indicative contains only a finite main verb. This auxiliary occurs also in tag questions, verb phrase ellipsis, and wh-interrogatives, with an interrogative pronoun at the front of the clause. A syntactic analysis of yes/no- and wh-questions discusses wh-displacement in other constructions (clefts, pseudo-clefts, and headless relatives).
Discusses a syntactically complex example from Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, which he analyzes as a problematic use of the passive voice. Begins with Fowler’s analysis and then provides a more detailed syntactic analysis, which shows how the example involves not only displacement with the passive, but also auxiliary do and two distinct kinds of verbal ellipsis in English. The interaction of these factors illuminates how ellipsis in syntax is actually distinct from the operation that deletes phonetic material to produce ellipsis constructions.
Demonstrates how scope ambiguities involving modifiers used in coordinate structures that contain conjoined nouns correlate with different hierarchical structures that can be assigned to the same linear string of words. These different hierarchical structures, which can be clearly represented as tree diagrams, correspond to distinct interpretations, thereby showing how distinct hierarchical syntactic structures reflect a unique interpretation. This analysis is extended to layered coordinations, containing two conjunctions and three conjuncts, where one of these conjuncts is itself a coordinate structure. In these cases, one unique hierarchical structure will correspond to four distinct linear orders, where the interpretation is determined by the hierarchical structure of the construction, and not its linear order. These ambiguous constructions can be disambiguated by employing both with and and either with or.
Demonstrates how an 8-word title consisting of 4 modifier noun pairs, each containing the same noun, can be multiply ambiguous. One ambiguity concerns the possibility of interpreting the noun as either singular or plural; a second, whether the first modifier-noun pair is interpreted as distinct from the second pair; and a third, whether the third and fourth pairs refer to the first and second pairs or not. Investigates the connection between syntax and punctuation to determine to what extent these possible interpretations can be disambiguated with sentence internal punctuation.
Expands the discussion of coordinate structures started in the previous chapter to another kind to syntactic ambiguity involving a prepositional phrase in the title of the Princeton University introductory linguistics course: Introduction to Language and Linguistics. On one interpretation, the left conjunct is only Language; while on the other, it is Introduction to Language. Each interpretation corresponds to a unique hierarchical structure. To determine why one interpretation is more appropriate than the other, it is necessary to consider the meaning of the words language and linguistics, including how they relate. This leads to a basic discussion of what a language is and what language is from the perspective of modern linguistics. This chapter wraps up the analysis of coordinate structures with a discussion of the use and misuse of coordinate structures in writing. It demonstrates how coordinate structures can be a source of ambiguity, redundancy, and vagueness—all hallmarks of poor writing.
Extends discussion of infinitival syntax beyond relative clauses to constructions where the noun phrase interpreted as the subject of the infinitival predicate is pronounced the subject of a predicate that contains the infinitival clause, a syntactic phenomenon called “displacement”. Displacement also occurs with finite subordinate clauses, where the finite clause is interpreted as part of a predicate adjective phrase but is pronounced the subject of that predicate. Passive predicates also allow this type of displacement and the displacement of an infinitival subject to the subject position of the clause that contains it. In single clauses, passives require the displacement of a predicate object to subject position. This generalizes within a single noun phrase where the noun is either a derived nominal or a gerund. The utility of displacement is discussed, including the history of criticism against the use of passive voice, which is shown to be completely misguided, and the role of displacement in discourse via paragraph structure, examining how strong paragraphs can be rendered awful by eliminating displacement.
For anyone who wants to become a more effective writer, a more perceptive reader, and a more precise thinker, an understanding of English sentence structure is indispensable. This book shows you how to begin. Using clear and engaging examples from English, it introduces the basic concepts of syntactic structure to readers with no background in linguistics. Starting with simple, familiar phrases, and progressing to more complex sentences, it builds on what we already intuitively know, to provide a step-by-step account of why we understand these examples as we do. It then shows how that understanding can be applied to writing, helping us to avoid some of the common hallmarks of 'bad writing', such as ambiguity, redundancy, and vagueness. A unique and valuable resource, this book will enrich your understanding of English in ways that will make you a more effective user of the language. Publisher's note: The e-book edition of this title, like the print editions, contains color. For those e-reader devices and applications that cannot display color, the color material is available in pdf format as an online resource: www.cambridge.org/Freidin
Syntax: Basic Concepts and Applications provides a systematic introduction to core topics in syntax, focusing on how the basic concepts apply in the analysis of sentences. Assuming no background in linguistic analysis, the book gives students a working knowledge of syntactic analysis from a minimalist perspective. Step by step it explains the fundamentals of phrase structure, movement and deletion. Well-placed exercises throughout reinforce and extend the concepts and analyses presented in the text, allowing readers to gain understanding of progressively complex issues at a comfortable pace. Much of the data comes from English, but crucial examples are also drawn from a range of other languages, including Russian, Chinese, Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish, Irish, Welsh and Greek.
Having established the fundamentals of clause structure in the previous chapter, we turn now to the syntactic analysis of the elements in clauses that are involved in displacement phenomena. This chapter investigates displacement of non-interrogative NPs and also CPs; Chapter 7, of verbs and auxiliaries; and Chapter 8, of interrogative phrases (including NPs) and related elements. The first section of this chapter examines the mechanisms of the computational system that produced displacement constructions. As discussed in Chapter 2, displacement involves a mismatch between PF and LF representations: a phrase that is pronounced in one position in a sentence is interpreted as if it occupies another. Thus displacement is centrally concerned with issues of semantic interpretation. The second section of this chapter deals with constraints on argument structure that place restrictions on possible displacement constructions. The third section of this chapter explores the notion of syntactic Case and how it can be utilized for the formulation of additional constraints on displacement constructions. Given our analysis of infinitival complements in the previous chapter, this question generalizes to covert NPs not involved in displacement – namely PRO (see (66) in Chapter 5). The final section of this chapter takes up the issue of the limitations on the syntactic distance between an overt NP and the corresponding covert position in which it is interpreted.
Displacement and the computational system
Inter-clausal NP displacement provides a paradigm case with which to begin an investigation of the syntactic and semantic properties of displacement, starting with a comparison of the two sentences in (1).
(1) a. It seems that the students are enjoying their new laptops.
b. The students seem to be enjoying their new laptops.