Phrase Structure

1. Introduction
X-bar syntax Any phrase (e.g. NP, VP, AP) is a projection of its head (and complement(s) and specifier(s)) and at least contains a head. The head of an NP is the noun, the head of a VP is the verb, etc. • (1) • An X-phrase consists of an X-bar and an optional specifier: XP → (specifier), X’

The X-bar level: o One kind of X-bar consists of an X-bar and an adjunct, in either order:



→ X’

X’, adjunct X’ Adjunct X’



o Another kind of X-bar consists of an X (the head of the phrase) and any number of complements (possibly zero), in any order: (3) X’ → X’ X (4) Complement X, (complement) X’ Complement X

a student of physics with long hair NP

Det (Specifier)


a N student

N’ PP (Complement) P of NP physics

PP (Adjunct) P with NP long hair


a. f.Head. e. Complement: Complement is a semantic argument of the head of a phrase. b. which has the same category as that of the phrase. c. a big house *a house big a house big enough to hold ten people *a big enough to hold ten people house a house that can hold ten people *a that can hold ten people house (9) 2 . b. d. c. f. complement. e. d. English phrase structure Order of the head and its complement (see (5)) Order of the head and the adjunct: (7) a. d. carefully read the book read the book carefully read the book carefully enough *carefully enough read the book read the book so carefully that he can remember every detail of it *so carefully that he can remember every detail of it read the book (8) a. b. right in the park b. b. c. read the book carefully right in the park the huge loss very interested in music (6) 2. c. e. d. a. • read the book in the park the loss of the ship his unthinkable attack on his friend She is [interested in music]. *in the park right a. • (5) Adjunct: It is a modifier that modifies the head of a phrase (and the complement of the head). adjunct/modifier • Head: Each phrase consists of a head.

(10) a.’ Universal 3: “Languages with dominant VSO order are always prepositional” (Greenberg 1966: 78). then all adverbial modifiers of the verb likewise precede the verb” (Greenberg 1966: 80).’ Universal 7: “If in a language with dominant SOV order. *interesting very (11) a. 3 . very interesting b. *He read the book [carefully very]. b. there is no alternative basic order. or only OSV as the alternative. job (13) Zhangsan feichang xihuan Zhangsan very. it precedes the head X when the adjunct itself consists of a head alone. Chinese also displays properties of SOV languages by having verb modifiers that largely precede the verb ((13)) (cf. 3.’ • However. Universal 3 in Greenberg 1966). (12) Zhangsan meitian dou he kafei. Zhangsan in America make-PERF many friend ‘Zhangsan made many good friends in America. in cases where the adjunct consists of more elements than its own head.1 Introduction Chinese shows properties of not only SVO languages but also SOV and VSO languages. He read the book [very carefully]. In terms of the order of the head and the adjunct of an XP. • Moreover. except that such adjuncts of a verb and (its complement) can also follow the head of a VP. (14) Zhangsan zai Meiguo jieshi-le henduo pengyou. Universal 7 in Greenberg 1966). • Its basic SVO order is obviously a property of an SVO language ((12)). Chinese phrase structure 3.much like ‘Zhangsan likes his job a lot. it follows the head of the XP. ta-de he-MM gongzuo. However. Zhangsan every. Chinese behaves like a VSO language by being prepositional ( all drink coffee ‘Zhangsan drinks coffee every day.

In the literature. According to Huang (1998/1982) proposes that Chinese has the X him. 3.’ and (15b) incorrectly predicts that the frequency phrase cannot appear after the head. I really for he proud ‘I’m really proud of him.’ b. attempts have often been made to account for such a mixed picture of Chinese phrase structure in a neat way.2 Huang’s (1998/1982) account ̅ -structure in (15). Ta dui ziji-de gongzuo hen manyi. as shown in (16b) and (17). (16) a.) Problems • While (15a) captures the fact that PPs and VPs in Chinese are head-initial and NPs are head-final. san ci ‘three times’ cannot be the complement of jian ‘meet. (1a) should be interpreted as operating only on the lowest level of phrasal expansion. [Xn Xn-1 YP*] iff n=1 and X≠N b.’ b. Huang (1998/1982) and Li (1990) are two representative ones proposed within the framework of government and binding. Huang’s X as (18a) is concerned. Zhangsan wait-PERF I two-CL hour ‘Zhangsan waited for me for two hours. [Xn YP* Xn-1] otherwise (YP* means that more than one YP is allowed. it incorrectly predicts that APs in Chinese are always headinitial as far as the order of the head and its complement is concerned. he towards self-MM job very satisfied ‘He’s very satisfied with his job. I meet-EXP him three time ‘I met him three times before. Ta hen manyi ziji-de gongzuo. Zhangsan deng-le wo liang-ge xiaoshi.’ 4 . Among such accounts. there are also APs in which the head occurs after the complement.’ (17) Wo zhen wei ta zihao. Although there are APs like manyi ziji-de gongzuo in (16a) that are head-initial.’ • ̅ -structure incorrectly rules out sentences like (18). 27) (15) X a. Wo jian-guo ta san ci. (18) a. he very satisfied self-MM job ‘He is very satisfied with his job. As far Given (15b). ̅ -structure of Chinese (Huang 1998/1982: 7. see.

Huang’s X that such sentences are ungrammatical in Chinese. As these ̅ -structure incorrectly predicts phrases occur before the head in (19). Zhangsan gei Lisi ji-le yi-ben Zhangsan to Lisi send-PERF one-CL Intended: ‘Zhangsan sent a book to Lisi. According to (15a). it involves two levels of phrase structure. (21) Zhangsan lai-guo liangci. 2008). however. because of the requirement of any overt NP’s being assigned a Case and because of the left-to-right directionality of Case assignment in Chinese. Lisi As for Li’s (1990) account. it is not expected to occur after ji-le yi-ben shu ‘sent a book. which is really not a standard assumption in generative grammar. gei Lisi. these PPs should thus occur preverbally. shu. Zhangsan zai zhuozi-shang fang-le Zhangsan at table-on place-PERF Intended: ‘Zhangsan put a book on the table. Chinese is underlying head-final. if so. In (20). If this PP is analyzed as a sister of V’ as in (19a). not preverbally. Huang would not be able to give a successful account of sentences like (20). they are head-final both underlyingly and on the surface because nouns do not assign Case. Zhangsan come-EXP twice ‘Zhangsan came twice. at the cost of leaving some counterexamples unsettled and of making language-specific assumptions which are against the standard assumptions of generative grammar. but of V’. one-CL book (19) a.3 Li’s (1990) account Lisi. (21)). To account for the occurrence of such phrases after intransitive verbs (e.’ 5 .’ b. on this analysis sentences like (20) are incorrectly ruled out. the same PP as in (19a). Given (15b). Li claims that all intransitive verbs in Chinese can assign Case.’ (20) Zhangsan ji-le yi-ben shu gei Zhangsan send-PERF one-CL book to ‘Zhangsan sent a book to Lisi.• ̅ -structure in (15) also incorrectly rules out sentences like (19). This neat analysis of Chinese phrase structure is achieved.g. • Li (1990) analyzes postverbal duration and frequency phrases as NPs.’ given (15b). book yi-ben shu.’ 3. As a result. occurs at the end of the sentence. According to Li (1990. Both gei Huang’s X Lisi ‘to Lisi’ in (19a) and zai zhuozi-shang ‘on the table’ in (19b) are subcategorized complements. However. PPs and VPs in the language become head-initial on the surface. these subcategorized prepositional phrases are expected to occur postverbally. However. Huang may argue that the PPs in (19) are not a sister of V. As for NPs.

it is not clear how Cases are assigned when there are two preverbal NPs. Li (1990) does not discuss such counterexamples.• Li’s Case account of Chinese phrase structure incorrectly rules out sentences like (22) because there are three postverbal NPs that need Case and there is only one Case assigner. Moreover. namely the verb qingjiao. the verb and the first two NP form a complex verb that assigns Case to the frequency phrase. but you were not in. (24) Zhongguo lishi youjiu China history long ‘China has a long history. Recall that Li (1990) analyzes duration and frequency expressions as ‘I came to visit you twice. duration and frequency phrases may also occur preverbally.visit you all not be. at the Surface Structure these expressions must occur postverbally to meet the requirement of Case assignment.and. contrary to the prediction of the constraint proposed by Li. On her account. it would be quite a stretch to think that the verb and its subcategorized direct object and indirect object form a complex verb so as to assign Case to a non-subcategorized expression. (23) Wo liangci laifang ni dou bu zai I twice come. Li might approach this problem through incorporation. Since Li does not discuss whether the topic in the double nominative construction needs Case (and if so. I ask-EXPERIENTIAL he this-CL question twice ‘I asked him the question twice. as in the double nominative construction in (24). On this approach. as pointed by Huang (1992).’ 6 . there is no evidence for such an incorporation operation and such a mechanism is not independently motivated. as shown in (23). how it is assigned Case). (22) Wo qingjiao-guo ta zhe-ge wenti liangci.’ • Finally. the construction shown in (24) forms a potential problem for her analysis. and it is not clear how the frequency expression in (23) can receive Case at the Surface Structure because she assumes that Case is assigned from left to right in Chinese. However.’ Huang (1992: 254) • Li fails to account for sentences like (23). However.

Reminder Final project proposal due on 3/31. 7 .

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