How do we identify constituents?

Criteria for the identification of
syntactic constituents:

1. Replacement criterion. If you can replace a sequence of words in a sentence
with a single word without changing the overall structure of the sentence,
then that sequence functions as a constituent of the sentence.

E.g. Old Sam sunbathed beside a stream.
Peter’s father drove us to the airport.

2. Question criterion. Answers to wh-questions are constituents.

E.g. How did the island welcome you?
Where did Old Sam sunbathed?
Who drove you to the airport?

3. Clefting and pseudo-clefting criterion. Elements that can be made the
focus of a cleft or pseudo-cleft constructions are constituents.

E.g. It was my father who drove us to the airport.
Who drove us to the airport was my father.
It was to the airport that my father drove us.
Where my father drove us was to the airport.

4. Movement criterion. The possibility of moving a sequence of words from
one place to the other in the sentence for reasons of focus (thematic fronting,
passivization), etc. indicates that the sequence is a constituent.

E.g. Beside a stream, Old Sam sunbathed.
To the airport, Peter’s father drove us.

5. Omission criterion. If a sequence of words can be omitted from a sentence
leaving another good sentence, this is a good indication that the sequence is a
phrase functioning as a constituent in the structure of the sentence. However,
not all phrases are omissible.

E.g. The island welcomed me in a friendly manner.

Using all the standard tests for constituency. and in the same order. taking care that the trees correctly represent the constituent structures you discovered above. ensuring that the trees correctly represent the constituent structures you discovered above. work out what the constituents of each sentence must be. EXERCISES ON CONSTITUENCY 1. and in the same order. (2) Kim glanced at the actor through her binoculars. but again they each have different syntactic structures. (Tallerman 1998: 128) 2. Using at least three standard tests for constituency. Your answers should include contrasting grammatical and ungrammatical examples which reveal the syntactic differences between (1) and (2). Your answers should include contrasting grammatical and ungrammatical examples which reveal the syntactic differences between (1) and (2). but they each have different syntactic structures. The two sentences in (1) and (2) below again contain words from the same word classes. You should use at least two tests for each putative constituent. 3. and not random strings of words. g and H? d) What nodes does C dominate? Which are its daughters? e) Do g. Now make an effort to draw tree diagrams for (1) and (2). e and g form a constituent? g) Do g and i form a constituent? Concl. Work out the relationships between nodes in the following tree by answering the following questions: A B C d e F H g i j a) What nodes does A immediately dominate? b) What nodes does A dominate? c) Does B dominate F. (1) Kim glanced at the actor with a wig.: “a set of elements forms a constituent in a tree diagram iff (‘if and only if’) there is a single node that dominates just these elements. Can you provide any further evidence that (1) and (2) differ in their structure? What subclasses of verb does each example contain? (1) The skunk stunk out my garden. and no other items”. Use square brackets to indicate the constituents only. Now draw tree diagrams for (1) and (2). i and j form a constituent? f) Do d. work out what the constituents of each sentence must be. . The two sentences in (1) and (2) below contain words from the same word classes. (2) The skunk slung out my garden.

5. (8) John ran down my garden path. Sam managed to touch the man with the umbrella. iv. vi. In the machine the gremlin could be heard juggling with the ball-bearings. John considered visiting his great aunt ii. The standard tests for constituency won´t be of too much help in these cases: you will need to think about what words modify what other words in order to discover which are the heads and what their dependents are. Decide whether the italicised strings in the following sentences are constituents or not: i. (3) The leading leather furniture specialists. Maria retreated from the bollard she has just demolished. (1) The bus station manager’s office. and indicate the constituents using square brackets: all words should be included. In the machine the gremlin could be heard juggling with the ball-bearings. but unintended) reading ‘for a family that is large’.Maria retreated from the bollard she has hust demolished. v. rather than the (possible. (5) The intelligent woman’s guide to socialism and capitalism. (2) Your local family food store. iii. you will need different set of brackets to show each possible reading. Noel 1998: Analysing Sentences. Maggie 1998. Understanding Syntax. (7) I like Egyptian cotton shirts.Rory put a silencer on the gun. Try to work out what the constituent structure is in each example. how would this second reading be bracketed? Next turn to the Noun Phrases in (1) through (5). (6) They found a boy in the library. (adapted from Burton-Roberts. (4) The former American president’s family. First. 4. In the following example I have indicated the constituent structure using square brackets: [ large [ family [tissues]]] Note that this bracketing reflects the intended reading ‘family tissues which are large’. If you find any (sensible!) syntactic ambiguities. vii. Cambridge: CUP: chapter 1 andTallerman. London: Arnold: Chapter 5) .