Blok 4, 2001/2002
2 Phrases and constituent structure
3 A minigrammar of Italian
5 Developing an Italian lexicon
Other predicates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
More on s-selection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
8 A constraint-based grammar
9 Remote Dependencies: movement
Phrases and constituent structure
• Define which phrases are formed from the following sequences of words
and draw a tree:
(i) libro ‘book’, telefono ‘telephone’;
(ii) il ragazzo ‘the boy’, una ragazza ‘a girl’;
(iii) Maria ‘Mary’, io ‘I’, Giovanni ‘John’;
(iv) bella ‘beautiful’, brutta ‘ugly’;
(v) grande casa ‘big house’, brutto sogno ‘ugly dream’;
(vi) a Maria ‘to Mary’, nel bosco ‘in the forest’;
(vii) contenta di Maria ‘happy about Mary’, arrabbiata con Giovanni ‘angry
(viii) moglie di Giovanni ‘wife of John’, sorella di Maria ‘sister of Mary’;
(ix) bevo ‘drink’, uccido ‘kill’, amo ‘love’;
(x) uccise Giovanni ‘killed John’, mangio’ pizza ‘ate pizza’;
(xi) va a Milano ‘goes to Milan’, vive a Roma ‘lives in Rome’;
(xii) da’ il libro a Giovanni ‘gives the book to John’, spedisce la lettera a
Maria ‘sents the letter to Mary’;
(xiii) dovrebbe mangiare mele ‘should eat apples’;
(xiv) Maria ama Giovanni ‘Mary loves John’, Giovanni mangia mele ‘John
(xv) che Giovanni ama Maria ‘that John loves Mary’;
(xvi) penso che Maria beve vino ‘think that Mary drinks wine’;
(xvii) vede Maria che mangia mele ‘sees Mary that eats apples;
A minigrammar of Italian
• Phrase structure rules define the structure of each type of phrase:
context-free rewrite rules.
a. PP → P DP
b. AP → A (PP)
c. NP → N (PP)
d. DP → D NP ; Name ; Pronoun
e. NP → A NP
f. VP → V (DP) (PP; CP; VP)
g. Sentence → DP VP
h. CP → C Sentence
• Trees consist of labeled nodes connected to one another by vertical or
diagonal lines. Each node represents a constituent.
• Terminal nodes vs. non terminal nodes.
• Every constituent dominates all its subconstituents.
• The nodes of the tree are arranged in a linear order: precedence.
• Precedence and dominance as crucial properties of sentence structure
which are represented by trees. They are transitive relations.
• Immediate precedence and immediate dominance are not transitive relations.
• If two nodes are immediately dominated by the same node, they are
sister of each other.
• Binary branching vs. ternary branching vs. non branching tree.
• Trees vs. labeled brackets as alternative way of representation.
• Draw trees for the following sentences:
s1 Maria spedira’ il nuovo libro all’ editore ‘ Mary will send the new
book to the editor’.
s2 L’ uomo credeva che Maria era una segretaria della scuola ‘The
man belived that Mary was a secretary of the school’.
s3 L’ uomo disse a Maria che sarebbe dovuta rimanere in questa casa
‘The man told Mary that she should stay in this house’.
(i) How many nonterminal nodes are in s1;
(ii) How many binary-branching nodes are in s2;
(iii) How many sisters does the determiner l’ have in s2;
(iv) How many nodes does the CP in s3 dominate;
Developing an Italian lexicon
• In order for the grammar to account for actual sentences a lexicon must
• Each lexical entry must include a representation of its selectional properties as well as a representation of its argument structure (for predicative categories).
• Verbs specify the arguments that they have as well as the roles that
are associated with these arguments: argument structure.
(i) ride ‘laughs’ is a one place predicate or a predicate taking one
(ii) mangia ‘eats’ is a two place predicate or a predicate taking two
arguments. The two arguments do not enter in the same relation
with the verb: one is the agent and the other is the theme. The
DP interpreted as the agent is the subject of the verb while the
DP interpreted as theme is the complement of the verb.
(iii) uccide ‘kill’ ?? agent, patient
(iv) odia ‘hates’ ?? experiencer, theme
(v) cammina ’walks’ ?? agent
(vi) ha ’has’ ?? possessor, theme
(vii) spedisce ‘sents’ ?? (vs. double-object construction in English)
agent, patient, goal
• Verbs are often classified according to how many arguments they have
in their argument structure: intransitive, transitive, ditransitive verbs.
• The kind of dependency between the various arguments of the verb
and the syntactic position/function in which they occur is known as
the Linking Property of the verb.
• Are the following verbs transitive, intransitive or ditransitive?
– Romeo sang to Juliet.
– Henry’s invasion of France terrified the Dauphin.
– Petruccio resided in Italy.
– The men gave Caesar a warning.
• Determine how many arguments the verb has, identify them and indicate their roles.
• Verbs are not the only categories that can have argument structure:
the same is true of adjectives, prepositions and nouns.
• Adjectives have normally one argument (theme): la bella ragazza ’the
beautiful girl’, Maria e’ bella ’Mary is beautful’. Some have two arguments (experiencer and theme): Maria e’ arrabbiata con Bill ‘Mary
was angry at Bill’.
• Prepositions can function as case markers: Maria e’ arrabbiata con
Bill ‘Mary was angry at Bill’. The PP functions as complement of the
• Prepositions can also function as predicates specifying a spatial or temporal relation between two arguments (Theme and Location or Figure
and Ground): Roma e’ in Italia ‘Rome is in Italy’.
• Nouns can refer to events or situations, in this case they have two
arguments: odio ‘hate’. Nouns such as libro ‘book’ also function as
predicates, they refer to properties attributed to the DPs that contain
More on s-selection
• Why are the following sentences ungrammatical?
(i) *Mary sent to John
(ii) *Sent to John
(iii) *Mary admires
(v) *Mary loves John to Bill
(vi) * Mary laughed Bill
• Are the following sentences grammatical?
(i) The king attacked.
(ii) Soldiers kill.
(iii) Mary laughed.
• In certain languages (Italian, Spanish), the subject can be omitted.
• Null pronouns in subject position as a parameter of cross-linguistic
• Selectional restrictions: verbs select certain intrinsic semantic properties of the arguments (animate, human).
• Predicates may impose restrictions on the lexical category of their arguments: PPs, DPs....
• Verbs with similar meaning might select arguments of different categories: arrivare ‘arrive’ and raggiungere ‘reach’.
• The lexical category of the selected verb is sometimes unpredictable
and must be specified in the lexical entry of the verb.
• Give examples of lexical entries.
A constraint-based grammar
• Phrase structure rules are not the only possible way to explain constituent structure.
• Many linguists believe that the grammars of the human languages do
not contain rules but constraints (general conditions).
• It is possible to formulate two general conditions that applies to the
rules given for Italian:
(i) Every phrase XP must contain a position reserved for a lexical
category of type X. This positio is called the head of the phrase.
(ii) Within XP, the X position is the leftmost subconstituent of XP,
preceding the complements selected by the head.
• Selectional restrictions of lexical items allow for the elimination of several phrase structure rules.
(i) DP → Name; Pronoun
S → DP VP
• It is possible to assume the presence of an empty D, while there are
languages where pronouns and determiners coincide.
• Sentences could be considered TP, that is projections of Tense.
• Every phrase XP contains a specifier position preceding the head.
Remote Dependencies: movement
• Which book do you think is going to win the prize?
• * Which book do you think are going to win the prize?
• What car did Mary drive?
• which book behaves as the subject of the clause, while what car behaves as the object of the clause: s-selction and c-selction seem to
work normally. The elements are displaced since they do not occur
in the position of the subject and complements of these verbs would
• Wh-movement is the process by which wh-questioned constituents are
realized as remote subjects and complements
• First step: the complement occurs in the normal position.
• Second step: the rule of wh-movement applies and the complement is
• The wh-moved constituent gets attached to CP.
• The movement can be rather long: Which book do you think that Mary
belives that John said is going to win the prize?
• Wh-movement is blocked in certain cases: *Who did Mary make the
claim that he saw last week?