Advanced syntax: Verb phrases (9 hours)
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Now that you've learned about the basics of syntactic analysis, we will use some of those
concepts to further examine a specific issue in syntax: the structure of verb phrases. We will see that there
is hidden structure within a verb phrase, which can be revealed by linguistic tests. By the end of the module,
hopefully you will be able to do the following things:
- Explain what the IP (or TP) is and describe the evidence for its existence;
- Identify whether or not a language features raising of main verbs to I (or T);
- Comment on the limitations of claiming that two languages are "similar" or "different".
This module includes eight tasks. For each task, you will need to read something and then
answer some questions; some of these questions may require a long time to think about. These tasks are meant to
be done in order (i.e., the intention is for you to not start one task until you have done the previous task; when
this was taught via an LMS the later modules would be "locked" until the student completed the previous ones). To
receive credit for completing this module, you must complete all the tasks at a satisfactory level of quality.
Next to each task I have written an estimate of how much time you might need to complete the
task. This is, of course, a rough estimate, and the real time may be different for different students.
- Pre-reflection (5 minutes)
- Background concepts (25 minutes)
- Syntactic differences between main verbs and auxiliary verbs:
- The Inflectional Phrase (2 hours)
- Main verbs and auxiliary verbs in French (2 hours)
- Bringing it all together: verbs and the IP in Chinese (3 hours)
Suggested discussion topics/activities
- Brainstorm extra complications to the story told in this module. When I do this in class I give students a prompt
along the following lines:
- "Remember what we discussed in the first module: grammar is a recipe for how to say things in your
language. It's a set of rules you can use to say things. In this module we saw a detailed example of
one way that the recipe of two different languages can be different in ways that might surprise you,
or can be similar in ways that might surprise you: we saw that English and French verbs actually work
very differently, and Chinese and French verbs surprisingly work very similarly.
"One piece of evidence we looked at was the way questions are made, but actually in the module I made
some simplifications just to make the point clearer. Today, to get some more practice in analyzing
grammars, let's try to address some of the extra issues about how questions work.
"Try to come up with a complete 'recipe' for how to form questions in English. In the module we talked
about some of the basic facts—i.e. how certain kinds of words can move to the front of the sentence
and certain kinds can't. But we oversimplified some things. e.g., for 'He eats pie', the rule I said was
'You can't move a main verb to the front, so you have to first make a fake auxiliary verb do
and move that to the front'. But that isn't quite right; doing that would give us "Do he eats pie?"
So there's another step that was missing. Think about what that step might be.
"Make sure your 'recipe' is as general as possible and can cover as many types of sentences as possible.
In the module, I started by making a recipe for turning 'He is angry' into a question, but that recipe
didn't work for 'He eats pie'. Make sure your recipe doesn't have problems like this. Can your recipe
create questions out of both auxiliary verbs and main verbs? Can your recipe create questions like 'What
does he eat'? Try to brainstorm lots of different situations to test your recipe and find if there are
any situations where it doesn't work."
- "People often have the impression that English has complicated grammar rules but Chinese doesn't, Chinese
is simple and just focuses on meaning, etc. But this isn't true—as you should remember from the first
module, all languages have grammar rules, and all languages are complex in their own way
"For Chinese, let's look at that A-not-A structure, which I also oversimplified in the module. We can
use A-not-A to make a question, but how exactly do we do it? Again, try to make a 'recipe' for turning
regular sentences into A-not-A questions. Make sure you explain what things can go in A-not-A and which
can't. And explain what happens with multi-syllable words. e.g., how do you turn 喜欢 into
a question, how do you turn 食飯 into a question, how do you turn 咳嗽 into a
question—are there differences in these? Are there some words you can shorten (like xi-bu-xihuan)
and some you can't? If so, what's the rule controlling how these things work? How would you turn
something like 'zhangsan kan shu' into a question vs. how would you turn something like 'zhangsan
xiaoxin-de kan shu'?
- Try to brainstorm other cases like this where ostensibly different languages are counterintuitively similar, or
ostensibly similar languages are counterintuitively different.
by Stephen Politzer-Ahles. Last modified on 2021-04-23. CC-BY-4.0.