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Introduction to English Syntax

Series:

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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10 Syntax and Meaning

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It might seem strange in a book on syntax to include a chapter on the relation- ship of syntax and meaning. These two aspects are usually relegated to different disciplines of the linguistic enterprise, which can be seen in the table of contents of most introductory textbooks into linguistics: usually we will find separate chapters on syntax, the study of the linear arrangement of words, and semantics, the study of meaning conveyed through language. Nevertheless, the two aspects are interrelated in many ways. The aim of the present chapter is to look at these interrelations in more detail. 10.1 Generative syntax and semantics The idea underlying a classical generative grammar is the following: if we find a set of rules, i.e. a grammar, that can generate all of the grammatical sentences of a language without generating any of the non-grammatical languages, then we have found an adequate description of this language. One part of the descriptive apparatus of generative grammars is what is called 'phrase structure rules' or 'rewrite rules'. These rules state the number and order of constituents that a su- perordinate constituent can consist of. For instance, we know that a sentence can consist of a noun phrase, followed by a verb phrase, followed by another noun phrase, as in the example NPThat VP[Vwas NP[an interesting period]] (s1a- 001:049). A rewrite rule that describes this sentence on the level of its immedi- ate constituents would be the following: (1) S NP VP Further rules are...

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