Education

We have already looked a bit at what nouns are and at some of their properties. Noun phrases can be extremely complex. In this chapter, we will explore some fundamentals of how noun phrases are structured. We won't cover everything. In particular, we’ll leave certain issues of complex layering, where the NP contains many different elements, to a later chapter.

We will start by looking more closely at nouns themselves. In the previous chapter, we discovered that there are different types of verbs, and that those verb types influenced the structure of the verb phrase. With nouns as well, there are different subtypes, and those types play a role in the structure of the noun phrase.

In the previous chapter, we examined some of the basics of sentence structure. Over the next few chapters, we will deepen our understanding by studying how the most important phrase types are structured. Because every sentence has a predicate, and every predicate is a verb phrase, every sentence is ultimately structured around a verb. We will therefore begin with verb phrases.
Syntax concerns the way that words are arranged into larger units. That is, words are the basic units—the building blocks—of syntactic analysis. The largest unit that syntactic analysis usually considers is the sentence. For this reason, syntax is often equated with the study of sentence structure, even though the things we analyze may not always be complete sentences. Language, of course, rarely consists merely of isolated sentences. We string sentences together into larger units—paragraphs, essays, books. When we spend a great deal of time focused on sentence-level analysis, as we will in the following chapters, it's easy to lose sight of the larger purposes of syntactic study. So before we plunge into the forest, it's worth considering why we should spend so much effort on the task.
One of the first things that people noticed when they started thinking about language as language was that words tend to fall into categories and that the members of these categories behave in similar ways. The traditional name for those categories is the "parts of speech." In this chapter, we will look at these word categories and see how the traditional account is somewhat misleading, as well as inaccurate. With a more accurate idea of word categories, we will be equipped with the basics that we need to begin studying sentence structure.
This book is under construction. I am adding pages to it in my spare time, and converting a text originally written for dead trees to an online format requires a certain amount of rewriting. So while I certainly want to hear about any mistakes, please hold off on complaints about what has been omitted until I have time to put the complete text online. I have left place-holders for the chapters not yet online so you can get some sense of the whole work's outline.

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