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Lecture 1

LIN100Y1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Universal Grammar, Phenylalanine, Grammaticality

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Elaine Gold

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LIN 100 Introduction to General Linguistics
January 12, 2016: Syntax I
Grammaticality "We say the utterance is grammatical if native speakers judge it to be a possible
sentence of their language" p.139
Universal Grammar (UG): categories, operations shared by all languages;
all grammars have: lexicon (mental dictionary) + computational system
1. Categories of Words: (Table 5.1 p.141)
lexical categories: N, V, A, P, Adv
non-lexical/ functional categories:
Det (determiner), Deg (degree), Aux (auxiliary), Con (conjunction)
How to decide which category a word belongs to?
Can vary according to context eg. I like green parrots. He parrots my words.
They were dancing all night. Dancing is marvellous.
Have you been menued yet? All mimsy were the borogroves.
Approaches: a. meaning
b. inflection (affixes)
c. distribution: position in sentence; relationship to other categories
Substitute a familiar word for an unfamiliar word to help decide on the category.
2. Representing Sentence Structure
Dogs bark. This book about linguistics includes chapters on phonetics and syntax.
a. Phrase Structure
a sentence is not just a string of words - words group into phrases/constituents
Phrase Structure Blueprint: XP (P = Phrase)
/ \ (trees are mostly binary branching)
specifier X' (X' is pronounced ‘X-bar’)
/ \
X complement (X= N, V, A etc.)
Merge: combine words in a manner compatible with the X' schema
i. Heads: N head of Noun Phrase (NP); V head of Verb Phrase (VP); similarly AP, PP
- the head is obligatory; a phrase can be made up of a head alone
- the X' level can be excluded if it is not needed (see p.145)
| | | |
birds sing big out
Note: these are drawn vertically since no branches are needed for specifier or complement
ii. Specifiers - English specifiers are at left edge of the phrase
Determiner (Det) in NP, Adverb (Adv) in VP, Degree (Deg) in AP or PP
Draw: theDet boyN neverAdv readsV veryDeg hotA almostDeg inP
iii. Complements: a phrase with information about the head
Draw: inP [the room]NP fry [onions] NP booksN [about linguistics]PP
very certainA [of success]PP slowly eatV [a bagel]NP the clothes on the shelf
Use the X' level if there are both a specifier and a complement in the phrase eg. Figure 5.4 p.145.
Otherwise it can be omitted eg. Figure 5.6 p.145. But it is never wrong to leave it in!
Note: the text uses triangles to save space eg. p.145; you should not use triangles!
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