Linguistics

Clauses, Structural Relations, And Binding Theory

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Assessment Type

Course Work

Word Count

500 words

Subject

Linguistics

Assignment Criteria

1. Consider sentences (a) – (e) below and answer the following questions:

i. Underline the main verb (i.e. the lexical verb) in each clause.

ii. Decide which is the root/matrix clause in each example. Bold its main verb.

iii. Give at least one piece of evidence for root/matrix clause status.

iv. Determine if the embedded clauses (when applicable) are subject clauses, complements or adjuncts. Briefly explain your decision.

a. Jim can't believe that the man with the Martini is James Bond.

b. Max knows it's unhealthy but he still ate two deep-fried Mars bars.

c. Since you speak Dothraki so well, we want to hire you to act in Game of Thrones.

d. To become an Olympic athlete takes years of intensive training.

e. Fiona thinks that Max bought a copy of Syntactic Structures so that he can impress Lilly.

2. Draw a tree for sentence (b) in question (1) (Note: do not use X-bar tree representations in this assignment). Consider the pronoun/pro-form 'it'. What does 'it' binds to (i.e. what does 'it' stand for)? Describe its binding domain and state what principle of binding theory is involved here.

3. Answer questions (i) and (ii) below before you attempt (iii) and (iv). Consider the (rather peculiar) words ever and anything exemplified in the following sentences (also called 'Negative Polarity Items' or NPIs):

a. Lilly bought anything.

b. Lilly didn't buy anything.

c. Someone will ever come here again.

d. No one will ever come here again.

i. Examine sentences (a) – (d) and decide which are grammatical and which are not.

ii. What appears to determine the grammaticality of sentences containing ever and anything given your judgment of (a) – (d)?

Now consider sentences (e) – (j):

e. No one bought anything.

f. No one gave money to anyone.

g. Lilly gave nothing to anyone.

h. Anyone saw nothing.

i. Anyone gave money to no one.

j. Lilly gave anything to no one.

k. A picture of no one fell on anyone.

i. Again, decide on which sentences are grammatical and which are not.

ii. Formulate a hypothesis describing what the rule for the use of words such as anything, anyone and ever might be. Your explanation should make use of structural relations in a syntactic tree. Exemplify by drawing the tree for sentence (k). (Note: in sentence (b), assume that negation merges with the auxiliary did and that both are part of the same node).

iii. What other class of linguistic items do NPIs behave like?

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Assignment Solution

  1. i) a. Jim can't believe that the man with the Martini is James Bond.
  2. Max knows it's unhealthy but he still ate two deep fried Mars bars.
  3. Since you speak Dothraki so well, we want to hire you to act in Game of Thrones.
  4. To become an Olympic athlete takes years of intensive training. 
  5. Fliona thinks that Max bought a copy of Syntactic Structures so that he can impress Lily.  
  6. ii) a. Jim can't believe that the man with the Martini is James Bond
  7. Max Knows it's unhealthy but he still ate two deep fried Mars bars. 
  8. Since you speak Dithraki so well, we want to hire you to act in Game of Thrones. 
  9. To become an Olympic athlete (it) takes years of intensive training
  10. Fliona thinks that Max bought a copy of Syntactic Structures so that he can impress Lily

iii) Matrix clause determines the central situation in the sentence. Hence the clause embedded acts as an element of the situation described by the Matrix clause. For example, in the sentence, 'Jim can't believe that the man with the Martini is James Bond.', the event occurs around 'Jim', who can't 'believe…….'. Hence, 'Jim can't believe ….' gets the status of matrix clause. 

iv) a. The man with the Martini is James Bond

Subject clause

Reason: the subject in the clause is the focal point in the embedded clause.

but he still ate two deep fried Mars bars.

Adjunct

Reason: the matrix cause can exist even without the embedded clause.

Since you speak Dokrakhi so well

Complement

Reason: the embedded clause gives the complete meaning to the main clause.

(it) takes years of intensive training

subject clause

reason: 'it' holds the place of the subjects

Max bought a copy of Syntactic structure so that he can impress Lily.

Subject clause

Reason: the subject 'Max' is the point of attention in the clause who is the 'doer'.

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