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Syntax

Abels, K; (2015) Syntax. In: Cummings, L and Braber, N and Morrish, L, (eds.) Exploring Language and Linguistics. (pp. 137-167). Cambridge University Press Green open access

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Abstract

This chapter examines the question of what limits there are in the way in which languages can differ from each other structurally. Whenever we utter a sentence in any language, the words come in a particular order and are grouped into phrases in a particular way. While it is obvious that words in a sentence are ordered, the organization into phrases is less obvious, often imperceptible. This chapter argues that the variation between languages is largely confined to perceptible properties of word order, while the imperceptible organization into phrases is the same – or very nearly so – in all languages. Whether this view is true and, if so, why, is at the heart of some of the most fundamental debates in linguistics with implications for all of cognitive science. The chapter starts by motivating the existence of abstract phrase structure and by outlining what kinds of facts the syntactic description of a language must account for. A sufficiently explicit discussion requires some technical tools and notions, which will be introduced. The chapter then explains the goals of a general syntactic theory: to delimit and explain the range of variation found in human languages. This is followed by a case study of the word order found in noun phrases across languages. The case study focuses on the idea that languages differ in word order but resemble each other in phrasal organization.

Type: Book chapter
Title: Syntax
ISBN-13: 9781107662506
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: This material has been published in Exploring Language and Linguistics by / by Natalie Braber (Editor),‎ Louise Cummings (Editor),‎ Liz Morrish (Editor). This version is free to view and download for personal use only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. © Cambridge University Press.
Keywords: Gloss, rule, constituent, node, root, leaf, mother, dominate, daughter, sister, c-command, word order, linguistic universal, linguistic parameter.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Linguistics
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1475716

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