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PowerPoint by Don L. F. Nilsen to accompany An Introduction to Language (8th or 9th edition 2007/2011) by Victoria Fromkin, Robert Rodman and Nina Hyams


When you read this chapter, the first thing you will notice is the Tree Diagrams. If you have learned other ways of diagraming sentences, you may ask yourself are tree diagrams really necessary?

The answer is YES!

(Fromkin Rodman Hyams 115-172)
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Like no other kind of diagrams, Tree Diagrams show the hierarchical nature of language.

Like no other kind of diagrams, Tree Diagrams are generative. The Phrase Structure Rules that are used to make Tree Diagrams are able to generate or create new sentences. Other types of diagraming can only analyze; they cant synthesize or generate language. 46 3 (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 115-172)

Like no other kind of diagrams, Tree Diagrams show the structure of phrases.
Tree Diagrams do this with Phrase Structure rules like: S NP VP NP Det N VP V NP (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 128)
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These Phrase Structure Rules end up as trees like: S / \ NP VP / \ / \ Det N V NP | | | /\ The boy saw the girl (cf Fromkin Rodman Hyams 130)
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In our sample Tree Diagram the Subject is defined as the NP which is dominated by S and is left-adjoined to VP.

The Direct Object is defined as the NP which is dominated by VP and is right-adjoined to Det.
This diagram also shows that the boy is an NP, saw the girl is a VP, and the girl is an NP. And it furthermore says that boy saw, and saw the are not phrases of any kind. 46 6 (cf Fromkin Rodman Hyams 130)

John swims well (Subject, Predicate, Adverb) John saw Mary (Subject, Predicate, Direct Object) Bush became President (Subject, Predicate, Subject-Complement) John gave Mary a mink coat (Subject, Predicate, Indirect Object, Direct Object) The country elected Bush President (Subject, Predicate, Direct Object, Object Complement) (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 162)
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John gave Mary a mink coat. Question: Did John give Mary a mink coat? Negative: John didnt give Mary a mink coat. Negative Question: Didnt John give Mary a mink coat? Information Question: Who gave Mary a mink coat? Tag Question: John gave Mary a mink coat, didnt he? 46 8 (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 163)

Whos on First?


John gave Mary a mink coat.

Passive: Mary was given a mink coat by John. A mink coat was given to Mary by John. Imperative: Give Mary a mink coat! Negative Imperative: Dont give Mary a mink coat! Contrastive Stress: John gave Mary a mink coat. (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 163)
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Whiz Deletion: I met the girl (who was) doing the dishes. Extraposition: For John to be nice is very difficult It is very difficult for John to be nice.

Expletive: Thirty-seven students are in the room There are thirty-seven students in the room. 46 11

Relative Clause as Substantive: He didnt know who had the bicycle.

Relative Clause as Modifier: Bill is the boy who has the bicycle. (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 130)



Present-Participle as Substantive: The young girls watching the children surprised everybody. Present-Participle as Modifier: I met the girl (who was) watching the children. (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 130)
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Infinitive as Substantive: For John to be nice is very hard.

Infinitive as Modifier: John came (in order) to be nice. (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 130)



That-Clause as Substantive: That John didnt get angry was a miracle. That-Clause as Modifier: I was surprised that John didnt get angry. (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 130)
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Possible only when information is PRONOMINALIZATION AND recoverable from linguistic context (antecedant) or social context: DELETION: John wanted Bill to buy the drinks. (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 201-202) 46 16

Lexical Categories: Noun, Verb, Adjective, Adverb Grammatical Categories Preposition, Conjunction, Auxiliary, Article Expletive Pro-Form Relative Pronoun, Interrogative Pronoun, Personal Pronoun, Indefinite Pronoun 46 17 (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 126-127)

A Noun can function as a Subject, Subject-Complement, Direct-Object, Indirect-Object, Object-Complement

A Verb can function as a Predicate

A Verbal can function as a Modifier An Adjective and an Adverb can 46 function as a Modifier



Can refer to things in the real world
Can be stressed Cannot be guessed in a Cloze Test

Can be inflected
46 Can enter into compounds 19

Look at the following English sentences: John is doing his homework. a. Is John doing his homework? b. John isnt doing his homework. c. John is doing his homework.

Notice that in each case something is happening to the auxiliary verb. In a, which is a question, the subject and auxiliary are inverted. In b, which is a negative, nt is attached to the auxiliary. And in c, which is stressed, the auxiliary is emphasized. (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 157-158) 46 20

English has two regular auxiliary verbs: have (coming from perfect and passive constructions) be (coming from progressive constructions) When an English sentences has no auxiliary verb, we need to provide one to form questions, negatives, or stressed auxiliary. Do serves this function. (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 157-158) 46 21

From the sentence Michael read the book. we get: Did Michael read the book.
Michael didnt read the book. Michael did read the book. (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 157-158)
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Smoking grass can be nauseating. Dick finally decided on the boat. The professors appointment was shocking. The design has big squares and circles. (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 164)
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That sheepdog is too hairy to eat.

Could this be the invisible mans hair tonic?

The governor is a dirty street fighter.

I cannot recommend him too highly. Terry loves his wife and so do I. They said she would go yesterday. No smoking section available

(Fromkin Rodman Hyams 164)




Sentences consist of Subjects and Predicates. The Subject is what we are talking about, and the Predicate is what we say about it. Therefore the Subject contains old information (so speakers will have something to talk about), and the Predicate contains new information (so speakers will be able to say something new). 46 25 (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 161)

Any transformation that moves a constituent up into the Subject or Topic position is called a Topicalization Transformation. Any transformation that moves a constituent down into the Predicate position is called a Focusing Transformation. (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 161)
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The Passive Transformation is both a Topicalization Transformation and a Focusing Transformation. John saw the girl The girl was seen by John The girl has undergone a Topicalization Transformation, and John has undergone a Focusing Transformation.
Note that this has not affected the truth value. John saw the girl is true if and only if The girl was seen 46 by John. 27 (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 161)

Notice that in a normal sentence the strongest stress is on the last word. This is because this is part of the Predicate or new information, and is important enough to be stressed. Therefore, changing the word that is stressed in a sentence is a focusing transformation. John saw ten girls on bicycles. John saw ten girls on bicycles. John saw ten girls on bicycles. John saw ten girls on bicycles. John saw ten girls on bycles. 46 28 (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 161)


This is the house that Jack built. This is the malt that lie in the house that Jack built. STUDENTS: Using embedded relative clauses expand this sentence. Notice that this expansion could go on until you run out of breath, run out of daylight, or die. The same is true of adding very as a modifier. 46 29 (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 133)

Other examples of infinitely recursive sentences are On the tenth day of Christmas, and The Farmer in the Dell, even though these examples do end. The Farmer in the Dell example ends with The cheese stands alone.

This is the basis for Robert Cormiers novel, I Am the Cheese, which is about the Farmer family that is in the witness protection program and has no friends.
As Kurt Vonnegut would say, And so it goes (NOTE: No Final Period) (cf. Fromkin Rodman Hyams 133) 46 30


Grammars must be able to parse nonsense sentences. Otherwise they must conclude that nonsense sentences dont have any meaning. Since all nonsense sentences have the same meaning, zero, then they all mean the same thing. (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 292, 299) However, the following sentences do not mean the same thing:
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*I never saw a horse smoke a dozen oranges. (Martin Jooss example) *Enormous crickets in pink socks danced at the prom. *A verb crumpled the milk. *Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. (Noam Chomskys example). (Fromkin46Rodman Hyams 120) 32

Such sentences mean very different things and have very different functions in the English language.
For example only *Colorless green ideas sleep furiously is a grammatically well formed sentence, although all of the sentences demonstrate incompatabilities of certain words with other words in the same sentence.
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The asterisk in front of *Colorless green ideas sleep furiously means that the grammar doesnt generate this sentence. It should not occur in English. Ironically, this non-occuring sentence is the sentence most likely to occur in many linguistics classrooms.
Furthermore, its very poetic.
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You may have been told that a word gets its meaning from its linguistic context. This is both true and not true. Words out of context tend to be very ambiguous. What the linguistic context does is to disambiguate a word. Social and cultural context do the same thing.
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As an example, consider the word ball. The fact that this word is written rather than spoken already disallows another word that sounds the same bawl meaning to cry loudly. If we add a the (more linguistic context) we know the word is a noun and not the verb ball meaning to roll paper or mud into a ball
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As we add more linguistic context we make the word less and less ambiguous, so that the beach ball is different from the basketball or the harvest ball which is a dance.
In the case of Colorless green ideas sleep furiously, weve disambiguated the meanings down to zero, because of feature incompatibilities.

Something colorless cant be green. Abstract things like ideas cant be any color, and cant sleep. Sleeping is usually not done furiously,46etc. 37

Like Colorless green ideas sleep furiously, Twas brillig, and the slithy toves / Did Gire and gimble in the wabe is also syntactically well formed but semantically anomalous.
In the Colorless green example the words are incompatible; however in the Twas brillig example the content words dont even exist. The function words it, was and did, and in exist, but the content words brillig, slithy toves, gyre, gimble and wabe are not English words, and therefore the issue of their compatibility with other words is a mute point. (Fromkin Rodman Hyams 121)
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Now lets have some fun with syntax!

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Chiasmus is when words are repeated in inverted order:
Mae West said, Its not the men in my life that counts; its the life in my men. A bumper sticker reads, Aging is mind over matter: If you dont mind, it doesnt matter. Another bumper sticker reads, Marijuana is not a question of Hi, how are you but of How high are you? A one-liner that is popular around tax time reads, The IRS: Weve got what it takes to take what youve got.

(Nilsen & Nilsen 179) 40

Metonymy occurs when something is named for a quality that is in some way associated with the item. In the days of CB radios, people often chose handles that were descriptive of their physical characteristics or their hobbies.

Today with e-mail and the Internet some people choose nicknames that are metonymous. 46 41 (Nilsen & Nilsen 180)

People who used to read the Tom Swift novels invented a new type of joke: My name is Tom, he said Swiftly. This pattern is extended to: Id like my egg boiled, she whispered softly.
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Get to the back of the boat! he shouted sternly. Would you like another pancake? she asked flippantly.
She works in the mines, he roared ironically. (Nilsen & Nilsen 176)
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Intentional Faulty Parallelism is called Zeugma. Chuckles the Clown on the Mary Tyler Moore show said,
A little song A little dance A little Seltzer down your pants!

46 (Nilsen & Nilsen 179) 44

! Naturalist Joseph Wood Krutch wrote that the most serious charge that can be brought against New England is not Puritanism, but February.

Henry Clay declared that he would rather be right than President. (Nilsen & Nilsen 179)
Here are some more examples of 46 Zeugma:


!! When William F. Buckley Jr. was campaigning for mayor of New York City in 1965 and railed against the restrictions being put on New York City police, he complained that they couldnt use clubs or gas or dogs and then concluded with, I suppose they will have to use poison ivy. Sid Caesar said that tequila is our national drink because it kindles the spirits of our hearts. Then he added, And it keeps our cigarette lighters working. A Wall Street Journal cartoon by D. Cresci pictured a bank robber informing the teller, You wont get hurt if you hand over all the money, keep quiet, and 46 46 validate this parking ticket.

!!! Here are still more examples:

You were never lovelier, and I think its a shame. One swallow does not a summer make, but Humpty Dumpty makes a great fall. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may be radioactive. Theres no fool like an old fool; you just cant beat experience. An apple a day keeps the doctor away; an onion a day keeps everyone away. Rome wasnt built in a day; the pizza parlors alone took several weeks. 46 47

(Nilsen & Nilsen 179)

References: Clark, Virginia, Paul Eschholz, and Alfred Rosa. Language: Readings in Language and Culture, 6th Edition. New York, NY: St. Martins Press, 1998. Heny, Frank. Syntax: The Structure of Sentences (Clark 189-224). Fromkin, Victoria, Robert Rodman, and Nina Hyams. Syntax: The Sentence Patterns of Language. An Introduction to Language, 8th or 9th Edition. Boston, MA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2007/2011. Nilsen, Alleen Pace, and Don L. F. Nilsen. Encyclopedia of 20th Century American Humor. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000. Truss, Lynne. Eats(,) Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation!. Aukland, New Zealand: Gotham Books, 2004.