Author Topic: The meaning of a sentence  (Read 284 times)

Offline Natalia

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The meaning of a sentence
« on: August 03, 2017, 01:56:16 PM »
Talking about phrasal compounds (phrase + noun combinations), Bauer et al. write that "It is even possible to use strings that are not syntactic constituents as initial elements (e.g. thumbs-up sign)."

I am not sure if I understand that sentence. What are "not syntactic" constituents?

« Last Edit: August 03, 2017, 03:12:30 PM by Natalia »

Offline Daniel

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Re: The meaning of a sentence
« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2017, 05:59:57 AM »
They are [not [syntactic constituents]].

A constituent is a node in a tree, or otherwise a syntactic combination that fits together.

In "the small dog", the phrase "small dog" is a constituent, as is "the small dog" (and all of the individual words). But not "the small", because that's not a complete phrase in itself.

I think they're saying that "thumbs up" is not a constituent, as in the phrase "the thumbs are up", or "put your thumbs up". But I'm not sure about that particular example because it depends on your analysis of "put your thumbs up" (it MIGHT be a constituent there, depending on the syntactic structure you believe it has). And it's certainly not a compound without other examples, even if they aren't normal syntax.  For example, you can just say to someone "thumbs up!" like "good job". And that's where the compound comes from, not some other syntactic phrase. It also is a constituent as a depictive small clause in the sentence "I saw the thumbs up". So that's not a good example. Without more evidence, I'm not sure I agree with them. Having a "syntactic constituent" requires a specific sentence. So they'd need to show that the phrase never occurs as a syntactic constituent in any sentence, and I find it unlikely. To use the example above, "the small" is an unlikely compound because it's never going to form a constituent in English.
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