Spanish-English Contrasts: A Course in Spanish Linguistics

By M. Stanley Whitley | Go to book overview

Chapter 11
Word order and constituency

11.0 Rules of syntax.

The previous chapters have followed traditional grammar in treating each of the major parts of speech. We now turn to how these categories join to form sentences and how sentence structure is altered for different communicative effects. As explained in chapter 5, we are using a model of generative grammar that treats grammatical structure at two levels, deep and surface. One set of rules, phrase structure rules (PSRs), specify the underlying patterns of deep structure by describing the parts or CONSTITUENTS of a sentence (S), then the possible configurations of elements that make up those constituents, and so on until the phrase marker has branched into the terminal nodes onto which words are inserted according to their syntactic category (N, V, Adj, etc.). Another set of rules, transformations, may then convert these deep structures into various surface structures. Other models have different interpretations of the rules for syntax, but we will focus here on a single approach to the description of Spanish and English for applied purposes.


11.1 Phrase structure rules.

The rule S → NP VP (v. 5.2) is read as 'a sentence consists of a noun phrase joined with a verb phrase', 'expand S as NP VP', or 'rewrite S as NP and VP'.1 Through the use of parentheses for elements that are optionally present and of curly braces, { }, for 'or' (i.e., alternate "expansions" of structures of the same type), one PSR can abbreviate several options for constructing a sentence. In addition, PSRs specify a particular order: S is NP followed by VP, and the sequence VP NP for S will be disallowed (defined as ungrammatical) unless later transformations specifically produce it by rearrangement of the deep structure order.


11.1.1 Sentences.

In English, a Subj NP is obligatory for S. Even when there is no "logical" or real Subj of the verb, something occupies the initial NP node of S, as with the it of It snowed (v. 9.1.2). There are some apparent counterexamples whose surface structures lack an overt Subj: for example, Get out of here! and Want an apple? Yet these have an understood Subj you, and they are equivalent to the fuller structures You get out of

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