Lecture 2 notes

Ling 401                                                                                             09/05/13


Syntactic categories


Semantic definitions of categories are imperfect and it’s difficult to define categories as such based only on semantic criteria (a verb is not always an action, a noun is not always a place or a thing).


Nouns, adverbs, verbs, adverbs have specific properties such as position and endings.


  1. The blinkish trupet lampes kripatily with the zytups in the macrot.


Blinkish has an adjective ending –ish, appears after ‘the’ and before the noun

Trupet after an adjective before the verb

Lampes appears after the noun, has a verb ending –s

Kripatily after the verb has an adverb ending -ly

Zytups after the preposition and the determiner, has a noun ending –s for plural

Macrot same, but no ending.


It is definitely not by the meaning but through the information given by the morphology and the distribution that we can determine what part of speech a word is.


Morphological distribution

Affixes: derivational (creates a new word by changing its category)

Ex. ‘–al’ change a noun into an adjective. ‘–ly’ a adjective into an adverb; Some requires none (run: noun  and verb)


inflectional (doesn’t change the category of a word but is added to specific categories) –ed to verbs, -s to nouns, -er to adjectives, etc.


See: Kindness, joyful, amazement, speaker, national, performance.


Syntactic distribution: which nearby words appear.


Main parts of speech: Noun (N), Verb (V), Adjective (Adj),  Adverbs (Adv)


Derivational  Inflectional Syntactic distribution 
Noun -ness, -ation, -ist… -s After a determinerafter an adjective

after a prep


Object Direct

Indirect Object



Verb -ise/ize, -ate.. Present tense, past tense, progressive forms, passivized –en/ed, After auxiliary + modals, adverb,After subject



Adjective -ing, -able, -ly,-ish… Superlative, comparative  -er, -est b. det and nounsmodified by adv. very
Adverb -ly None Not after a det and before a noun – in complementary distribution with adjectives.Modified by very.

Beginning or end clause



Open vs. closed class

Open class: create new words

What categories?

Closed class: very unlikely to create new words


Lexical vs. functional parts of speech (+/- equivalent to open vs. closed class)

Lexical Contribute to the main meaning /content of the sentence

= verbs, nouns, adjective, adverbs


Functional: provide grammatical info and keep the sentence together

= Auxiliaries, complementizers, prepositions, conjunction, negation, modals, determiners


Functional Parts of Speech = closed class


Prepositions P

With, in, for, to…

Before nouns, in NPs


Determiners Det

Articles The, a/an, this, that, these, those

quantifiers every, some, many, most…

numerals: 1, 2, 3..

possessives pronouns: my, your, his, her…

wh words

Before nouns, beginning of NPs


Conjunctions Conj

Connect two phrases

And, or, nor, neither—nor, either…or


Complementizers C

Connect but embed (though you can have a ‘that’ clause starting a sentence)

That, for, if, whether


Tense T

Auxiliary: have, be, do

Modals: should, would, could, shall, can,…

Non-finite tense marker: to


Negation Neg ‘not’


Subcategories and features

Auxiliaries      T[-modal, -nonfinite]

Modal                         T [+modal, -nonfinite]

To                    T [-modal, +nonfinite]


Plurality: singular/plural  [± plural]


Mass/count [± count]

Mass nouns can’t take many but Count nouns can:

√ many apples          *much bottles

*many air                   √ much air

*many wind               √ much wind

√many cats                * much cats

cats [+count]  air, wind [-count]


Pronoun and anaphor: her / herself  [± pronoun, ± anaphor]

Him, herself

*the him , *the herself

* nice him, * nice herself

him [+pronoun, – anaphor] herself  [+pronoun, + anaphor]


Proper vs. common: proper noun can’t take a determiner

* The Andrew Carnie (unaccented)

Subcategories of verbs

Predicate and argument structure: each predicate has a specific valency, the number of (obligatory) arguments it requires.

Valency of 1 = one argument, intransitive (smile, arrive, sit, run)

Valency of 2 = two arguments, transitive (hit, love, kiss…)

Valency of 3 = three arguments, ditransitive (give, put, tell)


  1. Exercise 1 p.56

a)    The old rusty pot-belly stove was replaced.

D   adj  adj   adj            N        T         V


b)   The red-haired assistant put the vital documents through the new

D      Adj            N               V    D    Adj      N          P             D   Adj

efficient shredder.

Adj              N

c)    The large evil leathery alligator complained to his aging keeper about his

Det  Adj  Adj    Adj          N                       V            P  Det   Adj      N           P       Det

extremely unattractive description.

Adv                       Adj                 N


Leave a Reply