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Syntactic Structures
Meeting 4
In English, words are combined into larger
structures to convey more various
meaning. Words can be lexical and
functional. The combination of (no) more
than two words will produce various
structural meaning. The structures can be
divided into four principal groups.
What are the four groups?
Hungry people
 Home town
 Easily superior
As examples of structure of …………..
It is formed by the combination of:
…………… + …………………..
Structure of ….
Money talks
Soldiers have been killed
Snow kept falling
It is formed by the combination of:
…………… + …………………..
Structure of …
Speak truth
Be careful
Love your neighbour
Structure of …
Pins and needles
Hope and pray
Neither war nor peace
These are the basic structures as the
bases for more complex structures.
They can be used as the main outlines and
provide a framework of ideas and a basic
These structures are based on:
English syntax is a many-layered
organization of relatively few types of
basic units
Every structure may be divided into its
immediate consituents (ICs) and ten
subdivided until the ultimate consituents
Structure of Modification
It consists of two components:
Head + Modifier
Possible meanings of modifier:
- to broaden
- to qualify
- to select
- to change
- to describe
- to affect
the meaning of the head.
The head can be:
- noun
- verb
- adjective
- adverb
Unlike the head, the modifiers are limited
Noun as Head
The modifiers can be:
good book
great work
remarkable tales
The rule is: Adj + Noun
 Rarely Adjective follows the Noun (Noun + Adjective) in:
- technical terms or quotations: court-martial, darkness
- when adjectives is a part of a larger structure: a figure
vague and shadowy, a man taller than I thought
2. Nouns:
- in possessive:
my father’s house meaning house of my father
that woman’s doctor meaning doctor of that woman
- in noun-adjuct:
a father image meaning an image like father
that woman doctor meaning that doctor who is a woman
Post-head dependents which are not complements in a VP
are adjuncts
Adjuncts are never obligatory
Adjuncts modify some aspect of the possible reference of
the VP
Different types of phrases can act as an adjunct in a VP (XP
is an abbreviation for an unspecified type of phrase)
Adjuncts can be fronted to pre-Subject
Some characteristics of noun modifiers:
1. noun adjunct is almost always singular
Ex.: dog days vs dog’s life
2. Certain noun-determiners (this/these and that/those) exhibit the
phenomenon of concord
Ex.: that boy’s book = book of that boy
that boys book = that book for boys
those boys’ book = book of those boys
those boys’ books = books of those boys
those boys books= those books for boys
3. Most nonpersonal nouns do not have the (-‘s) inflection
Ex.: communications officer, reparations agreement,
4. A few nouns have certain irregular forms which can help identify
the possessive and plurality of the noun
Ex.: woman doctor (noun adjunct) vs woman’s doctor
women doctors (noun adjunct) vs women’s doctors
Appositive is a noun, noun-headed structure of modification, or a
structure of coordination made up of nouns or noun-headed
structures modifying a noun head which it follows.
ex.: - His brother, a doctor, was there also
- Mr. Jones, the art critic, praised the
- The children, both boys and girls, received
- the poet, Chaucer, …
- the product, cellophane, …
- Professor Jones …
- Vice-President Smith …
- The River Duddon
3. Verbs as modifiers
verbs can function as modifiers in the
following forms:
- present participle (pre or post head)
- past participle (pre or post head)
- to infinitive (always post head)
Present/past participle modifiers
Pre-Head (if they are by-itself).
Examples: - running water
- baked potatoes
Post-head (if they are parts of a larger
Examples: - water running in the street
- potatoes baked slowly
To infinitives
- Money to burn
- The man to see
What about the following:
A pleasing table
A rotting table
A dining table
Can you discriminate each of those?
4. Adverbs as Noun modifiers
In English it seldom occurs as noun modifiers. If so, it occurs
immediately after the noun modified. They are adverbs of
then (today, daily, seldom, etc.) and there (outside, ahead,
backward, etc.) groups.
Example: - the people here
- The temperature outside
- Heavens above
And the thus/so-class (easily, slowly, aloud, etc) groups only
modify present participle verbs, such as his speaking rapidly,
our acting together.
5. Prepositional Phrases as Noun modifiers
This phrase consists of prepositions and lexical words.
Preposition can be simple prepositions: one-morpheme
preposition (after, as, at, etc), two-morpheme prepositions
(about, above, across), and three-morpheme prepositions (
against, concerning, considering), compound prepositions
(adverb+preposition) such as across from, along with, apart
from, and phrasal prepositions (simple preposition, a noun,
and another simple preposition) such as in regard to, in spite
of, by means of, etc.
Example of Prepositional phrase as
- a way of doing
- a mile from here
- a book from under the table
Verbs as the Heads
Head: V
Pre-head modifier: AdvP
Post-head modifier: AdvP/PP
(Post-head) complement: NP/PP/AdvP/clause
Subject:NP Tense:AUX
head:V PtHdMod:AdvP
The boy
very quickly
Subject:NP Tense:AUX
The boy
very quickly
Adjective as the Head
• Head
• Dependents:
• Prehead Modifier (PrHdMod)
• Posthead Complement (Comp)
so very improbably
on that movie
about that movie
Adverb as the Head
• head: Adv
• dependents:
• prehead modifier: AdvP
• posthead complement: PP / clause
than Jo
so very
that he fell over
*than Jo/ that he fell over
Preposition as the Head
• head: P
• Prehead modifier: AdvP
• Posthead complement: NP/PP
the intersection
almost right
the crowd
the water