Glossary of terms, abbreviations, and symbols


A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

* asterisk indicates a sentence's syntactic ill-formedness (ungrammaticality)
(1)   * The had pipsqueak the nerve confront me to.

Enclosing material that is preceded by an asterisk with parentheses indicates that including the material in parentheses is ungrammatical. Thus, (2) abbreviates the examples in (3).

(2) a.     The (*those) cats like treats.
b.     My cats like(*s) treats.
(3) a. i.   The cats like treats.
ii. * The those cats like treats.
b. i.   My cats like treats.
ii. * My cats likes treats.

On the other hand, prefixing an asterisk to material that is enclosed in parentheses indicates that the parenthesized material is obligatory. Thus, (4) abbreviates the examples in (5).

(4) a. i.   They consumed *(dinner).
b.     My cat like*(s) treats.
(5) a. i. * They consumed.
ii. They consumed dinner.
b. i. * My cat like treats.
ii.   My cat likes treats.
{ } curly brackets Curly brackets enclose alternatives. For instance, (1) abbreviates the two examples in (2).
(1)     They do { not, so } like your brother.
(2) a.   They do not like your brother.
b. They do so like your brother.
Curly brackets may be combined with parentheses.
( ) parentheses Parentheses enclose optional elements. For instance, (1) abbreviates the two examples in (2).
(1)     They do (not) like your brother.
(2) a. They do like your brother.
b. They do not like your brother.
Parentheses may be combined with curly brackets. For instance, (3) abbreviates the examples in (4).
(3)     They do ( { not, so } ) like your brother.
(4) a.   They do like your brother.
b. They do not like your brother.
b. They do so like your brother.
% percent A percent sign indicates that an example is accepted as grammatical by some speakers, but rejected by others.
(1) a. % This book was given me by my husband. (ok British; * American)
b. % We use a gas stove anymore; anymore, we use a gas stove. (chiefly Midwest, but found throughout United States except New England; earliest recorded examples from Northern Ireland)
# pound sign indicates a sentence's semantic or pragmatic ill-formedness
(1)   # Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

abl ablative case

acc accusative case
adposition Any P, regardless of whether it is head-initial or head-final. See Chapter 5 for examples.
See also postposition.

algorithm An explicit, step-by-step procedure for solving a problem.

Examples: instructions for installing a water filter or for filing your income taxes; a pesto recipe; a knitting pattern.

argument From the point of view of formal logic, an argument is an input to a predicate (in the formal logic sense). From the point of view of syntax, specifically X' theory, an argument is a linguistic expression occupying the specifier or complement position of a head. Because a predicate can have more semantic arguments than the X' schema provides, semantic arguments are not necessarily expressed as syntactic arguments. For discussion, see Chapter 3, Argumenthood and Chapter 4, More on the distinction between complements and adjuncts. Conversely, not all syntactic arguments are semantic arguments; see Expletive elements in English and Chapter 3, Predication for examples.

argument array A list of semantic arguments associated with a predicate. As we use the term in this book, the list is unordered. The semantic arguments in the array are mapped onto (= associated with) positions in syntactic structure. As discussed in more detail in Chapter 7, it is possible for the same argument array to be associated with more than one structure. Conversely, the same structure can be associated with more than one argument array.

auxiliary do

bound morpheme A morpheme that cannot stand alone, but must form part of a larger word, like plural -s, un-, or -ness. In contrast, free morphemes, like cat or happy, can stand alone. A trailing hyphen indicates that a bound morpheme is a prefix; a leading hyphen indicates a suffix.

Burzio's generalization A correlation according to which verbs that are not associated with a thematic role in their specifier position are unable to assign structural case. For more discussion, see Chapter 10.

clause A constituent that contains a subject, possibly silent (in boldface), and a predicate (in italics). Clauses can be subdivided into ordinary clauses and small clauses. Ordinary clauses can be further subdivided into finite clauses, which can stand alone, and nonfinite clauses, which can't. All ordinary clauses contain an Infl element (underlined)---a modal, auxiliary, silent tense morpheme, or the nonfinite marker to. Small clauses differ from ordinary clauses in lacking an Infl element.
(1) a. Finite clause   Our friends must be in Cancun by now.
b.   Bill has never seen a raccoon.
c.   They are our friends.
d.   Bill [past] arrived.
(2) a. Nonfinite clause   (John seems) ___ to be having problems.
b.   (I expect) ___ to know tomorrow.
c.   (I expect) them to know tomorrow.
d.   (We consider) them to be our friends.
(3) a. Small clause   (They made) us do it.
b.   (We consider) them our friends.

compound tense A tense that is expressed analytically, for instance, the English present progressive she is singing or the French passé composé elle a chanté 'she sang, she has sung'. Compound tenses contrast with simple tenses, which are formed synthetically, like the English simple past she sang or the French imparfait elle chantait 'she used to sing, she was singing'.

Compound tenses in one language can correspond functionally to simple tenses in another language, and vice versa. For instance, the English compound present progressive corresponds to a French simple present, whereas the English simple past often corresponds to a French passé composé.

constituent A unit of grammatical structure. Evidence for certain constituents comes from constituenthood tests. In tree structure, constituents are represented as nodes.
control verb A subclass of the verbs that take to infinitive complements, superficially similar to raising verbs. In contrast to the subject of a raising verb, however, the subject of a control verb starts out in the same clause as the control verb itself, undergoing subject movement, but not raising. Accordingly, the subject of the control verb's nonfinite complement is not a trace of the matrix subject, but rather a separate silent pronoun PRO, which is coindexed with the matrix subject. For more discussion, see Chapter 9.

count noun
dat dative case

demotion See grammatical relation.

determiner A syntactic category that includes the definite article the, the indefinite article a and its variant an, the demonstratives this and that, and ordinary and reflexive pronouns. English also has a silent determiner, marked by ___ in (1) below, which resembles some in that it can be used with both mass nouns and plural count nouns (see Nouns for more information on count nouns and mass nouns).
(1) a.   I see ___ rice on the table.
b. I heard ___ lions out in the bush last night.
direct question
empirical Concerning or pertaining to data. In the context of this course, the relevant data have to do with the grammatical status or the interpretation of phrases and sentences). When you are asked to give an empirical argument, your argument must be based on judgments concerning phrases or sentences, not on purely conceptual considerations like simplicity, economy, theory-internal consistency, and so on.

Exceptional Case Marking (ECM) A standard term for what we call head-spec licensing.

expletive (from Latin explere 'to fill out') A syntactic argument that isn't a semantic argument. See Expletive elements in English for more discussion.
f feminine gender

finite Finite verbs are verbs that are inflected for tense and person-number agreement. Finite clauses are clauses that can stand alone.

formative A general term for an abstract meaning unit. Like morphemes, formatives can be pronounced or silent, but they needn't be minimal meaning units.

free morpheme A morpheme that can stand alone, like cat or happy. In contrast, bound morphemes, like plural -s, un-, or -ness) are part of a larger word.

full noun phrase Any noun phrase that is not an ordinary pronoun or a reflexive pronoun.

Examples: John, the boy next door, the dog that ate the homework, a lame excuse, the problem with them, and Annabelle's confidence in herself.

As the last two examples show, a full noun phrase can contain an ordinary or reflexive pronoun; it just can't entirely consist of one.

fut future tense
gen genitive case

gender A set of mutually exclusive word classes for nouns and pronouns. In many languages, the genders of pronouns correspond to the biological sexes, but the gender assignment for nouns is typically more arbitrary. This is illustrated in (1) for German, a language with three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter.
(1) a.  
die     Wache,   das      Mädchen
the.fem sentinel the.neut girl
'the sentinel (male or female), the girl'
b.  
der      Hund, die     Katze
the.masc dog   the.fem cat
'the dog (male or female), the cat (male or female)'
b.  
der      Tisch, die     Tasse, das      Fenster
the.masc table  the.fem cup    the.neut window
'the table, the cup, the window

English doesn't have gender as a grammatical category, since the so-called genders of pronouns like he and she simply correspond to the sex of the person being referred to.

government Traditionally used to refer to the requirement of certain verbs and prepositions for their complements to appear in a particular case form. In generative grammar, the sense of the term has been extended to refer to the structural relation between a head and its complement.

grammatical relation The grammatical relations in a sentence are listed in (1); see Grammatical relations for more discussion.

(1)     Subject > Direct object > Indirect object > Object of preposition
<---- promotion ------------------ demotion ---->

Various syntactic operations can change the grammatical relation of a noun phrase. Depending on whether a noun phrase moves "up" or "down" the hierarchy in (1), the noun phrase is said to be promoted or demoted. For instance, the passive in English demotes the subject of an active sentence to the object of the preposition by. In addition, it promotes the the object to subject.

head The term head has three different meanings in syntactic theory.

First, in the theory of phrase structure, the term refers to the syntactic and semantic core of a phrase. In X' theory, the particular theory of phrase structure developed in this book, a head projects an intermediate and maximal projection, along with optional arguments.

Second, the head of a movement chain is simply the highest element in the chain. In the case of verb movement, the head in the chain sense happens to be a head in the X' sense. But when a maximal projection moves, the head of the chain is a maximal projection.

Third, the term head can refer to the noun that is modified by a relative clause. Given our analysis of relative clauses as involving wh- movement, and hence a chain (see Chapter 11), this usage is potentially especially confusing. In the relative clauses in (i), the head of the relative clause in this third sense is italicized, whereas the head of the chain formed by movement of the relative clause is underlined.

(i) a.   the book [CP [DP which ]i I am reading ti ]
b.   the author [CP [DP whose book ]i I like ti best ]

homograph One of two or more linguistic forms that are spelled alike, but different in function or meaning or in pronunciation.

Example: bank 'river bank' and bank 'financial institution' (different meaning)
read (infinitive) and read (participle) (different pronunciation)

homonym Can refer to either homograph or homophone.

homophone One of two or more linguistic forms that are pronounced alike, but distinct in function or meaning or in spelling.

Examples: bank 'river bank' and bank 'financial institution' (same spelling, different meaning)
reed and read (infinitive); red and read (participle) (related meaning, different spelling)

hypercorrection The psychological process of constructing a nonstandard linguistic form by analogy to a standard form. Also the resulting form itself.

Example: They feel badly, by false analogy to They drive badly. The standard form is They feel bad. In They drive badly, badly modifies drive, which is an ordinary verb. In They feel bad, on the other hand, feel is a linking verb, and bad is a predicative adjective (it predicates a particular property of the subject of the sentence; in other words, it attributes the property to the subject).

They feel badly is grammatical in standard English only if it is the verb feel that is being modified; that is, if the sentence is intended to mean They have a bad sense of touch.

imperf imperfect
indirect question

infin infinitive
intransitive Traditionally used of verbs that take no object. We use the term in a more general sense to refer to any syntactic category that takes no complement. For instance, the italicized heads are transitive in the (a) examples, but intransitive in their (b) counterparts.
(1) verb a.   We have eaten the pizza.
b.   We have eaten.
(2) preposition a.   They crawled underneath the table.
b.   They crawled underneath.
(3) determiner a.   I like that radio.
b.   I like that.
irr irrealis mood, often expressed morphologically by subjunctive forms of the verb

lexical ambiguity The association of a single word with more than one lexeme.

lexeme See word.

linking verb Also known as copular verb. One of a class of verbs including the copula be, as well as (among others) appear, become, feel, get, grow, look, prove, seem, smell, sound, taste, and turn, when used as in (1).
(1) a.   They { are, appear, became, grew, look, proved, seem } competent.
b. It { feels, looks, smells, sounds, tastes } fine.
c. He { became, got, grew } old.
d. It turned rancid.

See also feel.

m masculine gender

mass noun

matrix A structure that contains another structure. Typically used in the collocation 'matrix clause' of a CP or IP that contains another CP or IP.

morpheme A minimal meaning-bearing element.

Words are not necessarily the smallest meaning-bearing elements in a language. For instance, cats is a single word, but consists of two morphemes, cat and the plural morpheme -s. Unhappiness consists of the three morphemes un-, happy, and -ness.

Morphemes can be free or bound. Free morphemes (like cat and happy) can stand alone, whereas bound morphemes (like -s, un-, and -ness) cannot. A trailing hyphen indicates that a bound morpheme is a prefix; a leading hyphen indicates a suffix.

n neuter gender. Neither masculine nor feminine.
nom nominative case

nominal Of or relating to a noun or its projections (N, N', NP); more generally, of or relating to a noun phrase (DP).

OED Oxford English Dictionary

ordinary pronoun Synonymous with personal pronoun. The following table lists the English ordinary pronouns.

Person Number Nominative Oblique Possessive
Prenominal
(That's ___ book).
Absolute
(That book is ___; ___ is red.)
1 sg I me my mine
2 you you your yours
3 he, she, it him, her, it his, her, its his, hers, its
1 pl we us our ours
2 you you your yours
3 they them their theirs

pl plural
postposition A head-final P. Coined in order to avoid the expression 'head-final preposition', which offends the etymologically aware as a contradiction in terms. See Chapter 5 for examples.
See also adposition.

predicate The term 'predicate' in linguistics has two distinct (though related) senses, what we will call the subject-predicate sense and the predicate-argument sense.

The subject-predicate sense derives from traditional logic, where propositions are divided into two parts, the subject and the predicate, and the predicate is what is affirmed (or denied) of the subject.

In the history of formal logic, this original sense was generalized to include relations missing more than a single argument. In the resulting predicate-argument sense, in linguistics, the term 'predicate' refers to a head that expresses a logical relation. Typically, predicates in this sense are verbs, but other types of heads can function as predicates in this sense as well.

The two senses are illustrated in (1) and (2). The predicate is underlined; notice that the two senses can pick out the same expression, as in the (b) examples.

(1) a.   Subject-predicate sense: Bill gives money to charity.
b.   Bill swims.
(2) a.   Predicate-argument sense: Bill gives money to charity.
b.   Bill swims.
c.   Sheila's criticism of the plan

pres Present tense.
pro-form It is convenient to group together pronouns and expressions like do so and one as pro-forms (< Latin pro 'instead of').

Note that the traditional term 'pronoun' is misleading, since pronouns substitute for entire noun phrases, not just for nouns (the fact that Latin has no articles may explain the traditional term). A more accurate term for pronouns would therefore be pro–noun phrases; however, we continue to use the traditional term, at least where there is no danger of confusion.

promotion See grammatical relation.

proposition An expression in language of something that is either true or false. Also, the actual state of affairs so expressed.

The same proposition can be expressed by different linguistic forms. Conversely, the same linguistic form can express different propositions.

Examples:
Same meaning, different form: Aliens have abducted Eleanor. Eleanor has been abducted by aliens.
Same form, different meaning: We last saw Eleanor an hour ago (spoken on December 11, 2000 at 3 p.m. vs. on January 14, 2002 at 5 a.m.).

ps person

Most languages have three grammatical persons: first for speaker (or group including speaker), second for addressee, and third for other. Some languages distinguish between two kinds of first person plural: inclusive (including addressee) and exclusive (excluding addressee).

raising The movement of a subject from an embedded clause to a matrix clause.
raising verb A subclass of the verbs that takes to infinitive complements, superficially similar to control verbs. Raising verbs lack a specifier position and fail to assign case, in accordance with Burzio's Generalization. In contrast to the subjects of a control verb, the subject of a raising verb starts out as the subject of that verb's nonfinite complement clause and becomes the matrix subject by subject raising---hence, the name of the verbs class. For more discussion, see Chapter 9.
recursive In a recursive structure, one instance of a syntactic category contains, or dominates, another instance of the same category. The syntactic category in question is called a recursive category.

The relation between the two instances of the same category may be immediate dominance (the parent-child relation), but needn't be (a simple ancestor-descendant relation is sufficient).

refl reflexive

reflexive pronoun The English reflexive pronouns are easy to identify because they all contain a form of the morpheme self, as laid out in the following table.

  1 ps 2 ps 3 ps
sg myself yourself himself
herself
itself
pl ourselves yourselves themselves

sg singular

simple tense A tense that is expressed synthetically, for instance, the English simple past she sang or the French imparfait elle chantait 'she used to sing, she was singing'. Simple tenses contrast with compound tenses, which are formed analytically, like the English present progressive she is singing or the French passé composé elle a chanté 'she sang, she has sung'.

Simple tenses in one language can correspond functionally to compound tenses in another language, and vice versa. For instance, the English simple past often corresponds to a French passé compos´, whereas the English compound present progressive corresponds to a French simple present.

subcategorization Lexical items are said to be subcategorized according to the syntactic properties of their complement. For instance, verbs can be subcategorized according to whether their elementary tree has a complement or not, according to the syntactic category of the complement (CP, DP, IP, PP, and so on), according to other syntactic properties of the complement, (for instance, finiteness, case, and so on).

subject
subject movement The movement of a subject within a single clause (as opposed to raising. Usually, the term refers to the movement of a subject from Spec(VP) to Spec(IP). But the term can be used more generally to include movement from Spec(NP) to Spec(DP).
subject raising See raising.

subject-aux inversion The process that forms a yes-no question from the corresponding declarative sentence. In declarative sentences containing a modal, an auxiliary, or main verb be, subject-aux inversion consists in switching the order of the subject and that element (highlighted by italics below).
(1) a. Modal   He should apply to both schools. ----> Should he apply to both schools?
b. Auxiliary be   The guy she met last night is coming along. ----> Is the guy she met last night coming along?
c. Auxiliary do   They do have to clean their room. ----> Do they have to clean their room?
d. Auxiliary have   The mail has come. ----> Has the mail come?
e. Main verb be   They are superbly qualified. ----> Are they superbly qualified?

In all other declarative sentences, subject-aux inversion is accompanied by do support.

(2) a.   The little girl next door goes to Powel. ----> The little girl next door does go to Powel. ----> Does the little girl next door go to Powel?
b.   He met with Bill. ----> He did meet with Bill. ----> Did he meet with Bill?

tense A linguistic category associated with temporal reference (what is the relation of the time of the event under discussion to the time of speaking?) as well as with aspect (is the speaker's focus on the event's inception, completion, duration, repetition, general truth, and so on?).
transitive Traditionally used of verbs that take a single object. We use the term in a more general sense to refer to any syntactic category that takes a single complement.
See also intransitive.
wh- question

word The term 'word' has at least three distinct meanings.
  1. An orthographic word is a particular sequence of written characters. Bank in the sense of 'river bank' and 'financial institution' are the same orthographic word, as are read as an infinitive (to read a book), as a past tense form (I read the book) and as a past participle (I have read the book). See also homograph, homophone.
  2. A word form is a linguistic form of a particular grammatical type. For instance, cut can be an infinitive (to cut), a present tense form (Whenever I stuff envelopes, I cut myself), a past tense form (Yesterday, I cut myself), or a past participle (I have cut myself again). In this case, four distinct word forms are associated with a single orthographic word.
  3. A lexeme is an abstract meaning unit that can subsume several different word forms. For instance, the lexeme be subsumes the eight word forms am, are, be, been, being, is, was, and were. The lexeme cut subsumes the three word forms cut, cuts, and cutting. In lexical ambiguity, the same orthographic word is associated with more than one lexeme, as in the case of bank 'river bank' and bank 'financial institution'.
yes-no question