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Introduction to English Syntax


Rolf Kreyer and Joybrato Mukherjee

This book provides an overview of basic syntactic categories, analytical methods and theoretical frameworks that are needed for a comprehensive and systematic description and analysis of the syntax of English as it is spoken and written today. It is therefore useful for students of the English language but also for teachers who are looking for an overview of traditional syntactic analysis. In addition, the book explores various related aspects, such as syntactic variation, the relation between syntax and semantics, and psycholinguistic approaches to syntax. One focus throughout is to introduce the reader to the ‘art’ or science of syntactic argumentation. Almost all of the examples that are found in this book are drawn from language corpora – each syntactic concept, therefore, is exemplified by authentic language data.


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6 Clauses and Sentences


In the second chapter we looked at words as the basic building blocks of syntac- tic structures. In chapters 3 to 5, then, we explored how words of different word classes fulfil functions on the phrase level, namely as head, determiner, pre- modifier, or postmodifier. That is, we saw how an assemblage of words creates a structural unit on the next higher level, namely the level of phrases. In addition, we have seen in section 5.4 how phrases can also have functions within other phrases. In the present chapter we will see how phrases form the next higher structural unit, namely clauses or simple sentences. And just as phrases can be embedded in other phrases, so can clauses be embedded in other clauses; in that case we speak of a 'complex sentence', e.g. That syntax is boring is not true, where the subject of the whole clause is a clause itself, i.e. that syntax is boring. If more than one clause is co-ordinated, we speak of 'compound sentences', e.g. Syntax is not boring but it is demanding. Figure 6.1 below shows how the struc- tural units interact on different levels of linguistic description. The simple ar- rows mean 'form' whereas the rectangular arrows mean 'are embedded in'. words phrases clauses/ simple sentences complex sentences compound sentences Figure 6.1: The interaction of linguistic units on different levels of description. Note that there is a difference between the rectangular arrows on the phrase level and on the clause level. In the first...

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