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PROPERTIES OF

GRAMMATICAL RELATIONS
A. Coding Properties
B. Behavioral Properties

A. Coding Properties
1. Morphological:
- verb agreement
- case marking
2. Syntactic:
- the position of an argument in the sentence.

Verb agreement
A unique property of subject in English
- Rules to be observed according to subjectpredicate agreement
e.g. singularia tantum nouns
pluralia tantum nouns
collective nouns
mass nouns
-

Case marking
- Specific to languages with highly complex
morphological systems
- Concerns the identification of syntactic relationships
between words in a sentence through such contrasts as
Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative
- In traditional grammar this array of cases is based on
variations in the morphological forms of the word,
each form being analyzed in terms of a specific range
of meaning, e.g. nominative is primarily the case of
the grammatical subject of the sentence, genitive
refers to such notions as possession, origin, and so on.

- In English, for example, the only case form


which is so marked is the genitive (as in girls
or girls). All other forms have no ending, the
remaining case meanings being expressed
using prepositions e.g. with a girl, to the
girl, or word order, e.g. the contrast between
the cat chases the rat and the rat chases the
cat.

Position of an Argument in the


Sentence
- In languages without verb agreement or case marking,
the only coding property is position of an argument in
the clause.
Position of an NP in the clause is the signal for its
grammatical relation. In English, the subject is
typically the NP occurring before the verb, while the
direct object is the direct NP immediately following
the verb. The subject is clause initial, the direct object
follows the verb. There is a very strong tendency for
the subject to precede the direct and indirect objects.

A. Behavioural Properties
- The behavioural properties of grammatical relations
are the range of constructions that they may be
involved in. If a construction uniquely targets a
specific term in a language, then involvement in that
construction is a property of the particular
grammatical relation in that language.
- Relational syntactic analysis looks for restrictions that
make some type of argument privileged with respect
to a particular construction, e.g. the only argument
that can trigger verb agreement is the subject.

SUBJECT
A. Behavioural Properties of Subject in
Simple Sentences
a. Imperative Construction
b. Reflexivization
c. WH-Question
d. Cleft-Formation

Imperative Construction
- a construction which seems to come close to universally
targeting subjects
- the second-person subject is normally omitted and is
interpreted as the addressee
- the verb is in a special, usually tenseless form, as illustrated
below:
e.g.a. Open the door !
English
b. Deschide ua !
Romanian
c. Ouvres la porte !
French
In all of these commands the addressee is understood to be the
subject of the verb this being normally a property of subjects;
this construction can be used as a useful test for subjecthood
in a language, English included.

Reflexivization
Which argument can be the antecedent of the reflexive
pronoun. Consider the examples below:
e.g. a. John saw himself.
Antecedent = subject
b. Bob told Susan about herself.
Antecedent
= direct object
c. Susan talked to Bob about himself.
Antecedent = indirect object
The antecedent can be one of the three grammatical relations
subject, direct object, indirect object

Wh-question
- unconstrained with respect to grammatical relations as seen in the examples:
e.g. a. Who drank my coffee ?
who = subject
b. Who did Tom see ? who = direct object
c. Who did Doris lend the book to ? who = indirect object
d. With whom did Dana go to the party ? whom = object of preposition
with
e. Whose blouse did she wear ?
whose = possessor
f. Who was Robert taller than ?
who = object of comparative than
- When WH-questions are restricted to a single term type, it is always subject .
- Because the WH-expression occurs in a position different from its canonical position in a
simple declarative sentence the construction is sometimes referred to as extraction
construction.

Cleft-Formation
Cleft-formation is unconstrained with respect to
grammatical relations as provided by the examples:
e.g. a. It was Tim who drank my coffee.
Tim = subject of drank
b. It was Tim who Tom saw.
Tim = direct object of saw
c. It was Tim who Doris lent the book to.
Tim = indirect object of lent
d. It was with Tim that Dana went to the party.
Tim = object of preposition with

e. It was Tim whose blouse she wore.


Tim = possessor of blouse
f. It was Tim who Robert was taller than.
Tim = object of comparative than
The NP Tim may be referred to as the clefted
NP. The same as WH-question, cleft-formation is an
extraction construction. When it is restricted to a single
term type, it is always subject.

Exercises
1. Fill in with the correct form paying attention to subject-predicate
agreement:
1: The rhythm of the pounding waves _____ calming.
is
are
2: All of the dogs in the neighborhood _____ barking.
were
was
3: A high tax, not to mention unemployment, _____ votes.
influence
influences
4: My friends and my mother _____ each other.
like
likes
5: The team and the band _____ on the field.
was
were

6: Building a good marriage and building a good log fire _____ similar in many ways.
is
are
7: John or Doris _____ to us regularly.
write
writes
8: Either Patty or Tom _____ asked to lead the meeting.
was
were
9: Neither Carol nor Ted _____ excluded from the meeting.
is
are
10: Neither the basket nor the apples _____ expensive.
was
were
11: Neither the apples nor the basket _____ expensive.
was
were

12: Either Maria or you _____ late for class.


was
were
13: Either you or Maria _____ late for class.
was
were
14: Hardest hit by the high temperatures and drought _____ the farmers.
was
were
15: Neither of them _____ going to the show.
like
likes
16: Each of them _____ a good seat.
has
have
17: Everybody in the class _____ tickets.
has
have

18: Every silver knife, fork, and spoon _____ to be counted.


has
have
19: Each cat and each dog _____ its own toy.
has
have
20: The committee _____ meeting today.
is
are
21: Ten million gallons of oil _____ a lot of oil.
is
are
22: The jury _____ today.
vote
votes
23: The number _____ very small.
is
are

24: A number of students _____ absent.


was
were
25: Ten million gallons of oil _____ spilled.
was
were
26: The majority of us _____ in favor.
is
are
27: Statistics _____ an interesting subject.
is
are

28: Statistics _____ often misleading.


is
are

2. Identify the subject, direct object and indirect object in each


of the grammatical sentences below. Comment upon the
behavioural evidence existent for the identification of each
grammatical relation.
a. Mary saw herself in the mirror.
b. Who did you meet yesterday ?
c. Who said that ?
d. Whose car was John driving ?
e. Who is Doris younger than ?
f. It was Victoria who rang me up.
g. It was with Jane that Mary went to the movie.