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X-bar theory is a component of linguistic theory which attempts to identify syntactic features presumably common to all those human

languages that fit in a presupposed (1965) framework.[1] It claims that among their phrasal categories, all those languages share certain structural similarities, including one known as the "X-bar", which does not appear in traditional phrase structure rules for English or other natural languages. X-bar theory was first proposed by Noam Chomsky (1970)[2] and further developed by Ray Jackendoff (1977).[3] The letter X is used to signify an arbitrary lexical category (part of speech); when analyzing a specific utterance, specific categories are assigned. Thus, the X may become an N for noun, a V for verb, an A for adjective, or a P for preposition. The term X-bar is derived from the notation representing this new structure. Certain structures are represented by X (an X with an overbar). Because this is difficult to typeset, this is often written as X′, using the prime symbol. In English, however, this is still read as "X bar". The notation XP stands for X Phrase, and is equivalent to X-bar-bar (X with a double overbar), written X″, usually read aloud as X double bar.

Core concepts
There are three "syntax assembly" rules which form the basis of X-bar theory. These rules can be expressed in English, as immediate dominance rules for natural language (useful for example for programmers in the field of NLP—natural language processing), or visually as parse trees. All three representations are presented below. 1. An X Phrase consists of an optional specifier and an X-bar, in any order:
XP → (specifier), X′ / spec XP \ X' or XP / \ X̄ spec

2. One kind of X-bar consists of an X-bar and an adjunct, in either order:
(X′ → X′, adjunct)

Not all XPs contain X′s with adjuncts, so this rewrite rule is "optional".
X' / \ X' adjunct or adjunct X' / \ X'

3. Another kind of X-bar consists of an X (the head of the phrase) and any number of complements (possibly zero), in any order:

. XP / \ spec X' / \ X' adjunct / \ X complement | head Because all of the rules allow combination in any order. in any given language. the left-right position of the branches at any point may be reversed from what is shown in the example. including smaller trees that omit optional parts.. and additional layers of XPs and X′s of various types. [edit] A simple noun phrase The noun phrase "the cat" might be rendered like this: NP / Det | the \ N' | N | cat . whereas an adjunct has X-bar as a sibling. The above example maps naturally onto the left-to-right phrase order used in English. Because the rules are recursive. usually only one handedness for each rule is observed.X′ → X. structures with multiple complements. However. there is an infinite number of possible structures that could be generated.) X' / \ or X complement complement X' / \ X (a head-first and a head-final example showing one complement) [edit] How the rules combine The following diagram illustrates one way the rules might be combined to form a generic XP structure. Note that a complement-containing X' may be distinguished from an adjunct-containing X' by the fact that the complement has an X (head) as a sibling. (complement.

and heads are often omitted. determiners always precede their nouns if they are in the same noun phrase. The predicate parses the same way in both theories. A head-driven phrase structure grammar might parse this sentence differently. which at first was believed to be a type of specifier for nouns. specifiers precede the X-bar that contains the head. In this theory. More recently. different theories of grammar assign X-bar theory elements to phrase types in different ways. The head is the determiner (D) which projects into a determiner phrase (DP or DetP). The noun phrase (NP) that is the subject of the sentence is located in the specifier of the verb phrase. Other languages use different orders. Thus. In English. the sentence is modeled as a verb phrase (VP). See word order. A transformational grammar theory might parse this sentence as the following diagram shows: The "IP" is an inflectional phrase. adjuncts. Its main tenet is that all phrase structure (hence the X) can be reduced to recursive specifier-head configurations. so they end up being very linear. but this slot is usually considered to contain the unspoken "present tense" implied by the tense marker on the verb "studies". a verb phrase (VP). [edit] A full sentence For more complex utterances. Its specifier is the noun phrase (NP) which acts as the subject of the sentence. The complement of the IP is the predicate of the sentence. The DetP and NP above have no adjuncts or complements. There is no word in the sentence which explicitly acts as the head of the inflectional phrase. to reduce visual clutter. complements. X-bar theory captures the insight that all phrases share some essential structural properties. Consider the sentence He studies linguistics at the university. Note that branches with empty specifiers. Chomsky. X-bar theory is a generative theory of language conceived by Noam A. . It is a theory about the internal structure of syntactic constituents which was originally intended to place constraints on the power of phrase structure rules. The word cat is the noun phrase (NP) which acts as the complement of the determiner phrase.The word the is a determiner (specifically an article). it has been suggested that D is the head of the noun phrase.