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The grammatical relation of a noun phrase to a S(entence) when it appears immediately below that S in a phrase structure tree, e.g., the zebra in The zebra has stripes.


direct object

The grammatical relation of a noun phrase when it appears immediately below the verb phrase (VP) and next to the verb in deep structure; the noun phrase
complement of a transitive verb, e.g., the puppy in the boy found the puppy.


rules of syntax

Principles of grammar that account for the grammaticality of sentences, their hierarchical structure, their word order, whether there is structural ambiguity, etc. See phrase structure rules, transformational rules.


phrase structure trees

A tree diagram with syntactic categories at each node that reveals both the linear and hierarchical structure of phrases and sentences.


syntactic categories

Traditionally called “parts of speech”; also called grammatical categories; expressions of the same grammatical category can generally substitute for one another without loss of grammaticality, e.g., noun phrase, verb phrase, adjective, auxiliary verb.


phrasal categories

The class of syntactic categories that occur on the left side of phrase structure rules, and are therefore composed of other categories, possibly including
other phrasal categories, e.g., noun phrase (NP). See lexical category, functional category.


lexical categories

A general term for the word-level syntactic categories of noun, verb, adjective, and adverb. These are the categories of content words like man, run, large, and rapidly, as opposed to functional category words such as the and and. See functional category, phrasal category, open class.


functional categories

One of the categories of function words, including determiner, Aux, complementizer, and preposition. These categories are not lexical or phrasal categories. See lexical category, phrasal category.


head (of a phrase)

The central word of a phrase whose lexical category defines the type of phrase, e.g., the noun man is the head of the noun phrase the man who came to dinner; the verb wrote is the head of the verb phrase wrote a letter to his mother; the adjective red is the head of the adjective phrase very bright red.



The constituent(s) in a phrase other than the head that complete(s) the meaning of the phrase and which is C-selected by the verb. In the verb phrase found a puppy, the noun phrase a puppy is a complement of the verb found.


phrase structure rules

Principles of grammar that specify the constituency of syntactic categories and of phrase structure trees, e.g., VP → V NP.



Any phrase structure tree generated by the phrase structure rules of a transformational grammar; the basic syntactic structures of the grammar. Also called deep structure. See transformational rule.



A phrase structure rule that repeats its own category on its right side, e.g., VP → VP PP, hence permitting phrase structures of potentially unlimited length, corresponding
to that aspect of speakers’ linguistic competence.



The component of the grammar containing speakers’ knowledge about morphemes and words; a speaker’s mental dictionary.


c-selection / subcategorization

The classifying of verbs and other lexical items in terms of the syntactic category of the complements that they accept (C stands for categorial), sometimes called subcategorization, e.g., the verb find C-selects, or is subcategorized for, a noun phrase complement.



The classifying of verbs and other lexical items in terms of the semantic category of the head and complements that they accept, e.g., the verb assassinate S-selects for a human subject and a prestigious, human NP complement.


Transformational rules

A syntactic rule that applies to an underlying
phrase structure tree of a sentence (either d-structure or an intermediate structure already affected by a transformation) and derives a new structure by moving or inserting elements, e.g., the transformational rules of wh movement and do insertion relate the deep structure sentence John saw who to the surface structure Who(m) did John see.



The structure that results from applying transformational rules to a d- structure. It is syntactically closest to actual utterances. Also called surface structure. See transformational rule.


structure dependent

A principle of Universal Grammar that states that the application of transformational rules is determined by phrase structure properties, as opposed to structureless sequences of words or specific sentences; (2) the way children construct rules using their knowledge of syntactic structure irrespective of the specific
words in the structure or their meaning.