Linguistics 001      Fall 2000      Homework 6      Due We 10/25

Constituent structure of complex nominals

A "complex nominal" is a sequence of one or more nouns or adjectives preceding a noun, such as "olive oil", "credit card", or "ivy league school."

When a complex nominal contains more than two words, understanding its meaning usually requires figuring out how order to put the words together, in the same way that we need to figure out the structure of an arithmetic expression.

Just as ((2 + 3) * 4) means something different from (2 + (3 * 4)) -- 20 vs. 14 -- so ((light house) keeper) means something different from (light (house keeper)).

1. Showing constituent structure with parentheses

In the examples below, use parentheses in the same way to indicate the structure of each phrase. Use a "binary bracketing" -- that is, add parentheses in a way that always groups words or word sequences in pairs. Note that your parentheses must always balance -- every left parenthesis must always have a corresponding right parenthesis somewhere, and vice versa. Each pair of parentheses surrounds a subexpression.

Answers are given for the first four examples.

  1. Ancient Studies Center ((ancient studies) center)
  2. Biology Graduate Group (biology (graduate group))
  3. Penn Language Center (penn (language center))
  4. Annenberg Public Policy Center (annenberg ((public policy) center))
  5. Pennsylvania Muscle Institute
  6. Plant Science Institute
  7. Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board
  8. Wharton Real Estate Center
  9. South Asia Regional Studies Department
  10. mobile phone industry
  11. venture capital food chain

2. Showing constituent structure with tree diagrams

For the following examples, indicate the structure by drawing "tree diagrams" instead of using parentheses.A "tree diagram" uses branching lines to symbolize the same structures that you indicated earlier with parentheses.

((A B) C)        (A (B C))

A tree diagram consists of edges (symbolized by lines on the paper) and nodes (the places where lines join). The single node at the top of the diagram is called the root of the tree. The edges leaving the root may branch at additional nodes, forming two new edges each time, or they may simply end in terminal nodes. In this exercise, the terminal nodes have labels, which are the letters A/B/C above, but will be words in the diagrams you draw. (In more general types of tree diagrams, non-terminal nodes may also have labels). The sequence of labels on the terminal nodes of a tree is called its terminal string.

Each node in such a tree diagram represents a subexpression: thus in the tree for ((A B) C), there is a node for the subexpression (A B) as well as a node -- the root node -- for the whole sequence (A B C). Here are some examples showing tree diagrams for complex nominals that were discussed in class.

((ancient studies) center)         (biology (graduate group))

Don't worry about the angles of the lines and so forth -- only the relationships matter. However, your diagrams will probably be easier to read if you simply write the terminal string (the phrase to be analyzed) on a line, and then draw the tree diagram on top of it, placing nodes about in the middle of their subexpressions. It will also usually be easier if you draw the lower-level relationships first, something like as shown here:

  1. U.S. cable households
  2. cross-border banking merger
  3. U.S. Japan Management Studies Center
  4. Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Marketing Department
  5. New York Stock Exchange
  6. 7,300 kilometer fiber-optic network

3. Constituent structure with conjunctions and prepositions

Now let's move a little bit towards normal English sentence structure, by adding conjunctions such as "and", "or"; and prepositions such as "for", "on", "of".

Treat the conjunctions as establishing a 3-element constituent, of the form (A and B), where the letters A and B stand for constituents of arbitrary size. Thus (Lee and Kim), ((open and shut) case), ((Penn State) and Duke).

Treat the prepositions as forming a 2-element constituent with the noun phrase that follows them. Thus (billions (of stars)), (late (to (linguistics class))).

In the examples below, indicate the consituent structure using either parentheses or tree structures, as you please.

  1. Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research
  2. Pennsylvania College and University Security Information Act
  3. Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development
  4. Port of Pittsburgh Commision.
  5. Regional Laser and Biotechnology Laboratory
  6. Risk Management and Decision Processes Center
  7. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Office of the Budget




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