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English Symbol Set


KEY TO SYMBOLS

Functions (specified with CAPITAL letters)

Forms (specified with small letters)

The stacking convention


1. FUNCTIONS (SPECIFIED WITH CAPITAL LETTERS)

 

1.1. UTTERANCE (OR DISCOURSE) FUNCTIONS

We employ a very general cover symbol, UTT (for Utterance), which can be used in place of any of the more specific five utterance functions with which we operate: STA, QUE, COM, EXC, PER.

STA

Statement

  • I am late.
  • I wonder why he couldn't come.
  • At nine.
  • Your turn.
  • Yes, please.
  • Nope.

QUE

Question

  • Are you coming?
  • What time is it?
  • You like him, don't you?
  • You don't want it?
  • She said what?
  • He did?
  • My turn?
  • Why?

COM

Command

  • Leave me alone!
  • Follow that cab!
  • Get out!
  • Shut up!
  • Run!
  • Don't!
  • Out!

EXC

Exclamation

  • That's not fair!
  • Never again!
  • My God!
  • Ouch!

PER

Performative

  • I pronounce you man and wife.
  • I christen this ship 'Santa Maria'.
  • You're out!
  • Safe!

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1.2. CLAUSE FUNCTIONS (that is, functions which constituents may have within a clause)

 

1.2.1. BASIC CLAUSE FUNCTIONS

We operate with FIVE basic clause functions: S, P, O, A, C.

S

Subject

  • He is my brother.
  • That man is a fool.
  • Yesterday she wrote me a letter
  • To know her is to love her.
  • Never have I seen such a sight.

P

Predicator

  • She loves me.
  • I have been here before.
  • We have never visited Rome.
  • When will you arrive?
  • Get out!

O

Object

(NB: The label O is a cover symbol for different types of object. As such it does not appear in analyses. But see Od, Of, and Oi.)

A

Adverbial

(NB: In our system, prepositional groups are never indirect objects; where some grammarians speak here of Oi (q.v.) or Op we speak of A.)

  • I saw him yesterday.
  • When is he arriving?
  • He could not read.
  • He couldn't read.
  • Come this way.
  • I met him on the train.
  • Unfortunately, he was late.
  • I gave the computer to my brother.
  • She is, though, a very good friend.

C

Complement

(NB: The label C is a cover symbol for different types of complement. As such it does not appear in analyses. But see Cs and Co.)

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1.2.2. ADDITIONAL CLAUSE FUNCTIONS

Three of the five basic functions can be further subdivided. These are S, O, C. This gives rise to the following subtypes:

  • S: S, Sf
  • O: Od, Of, Oi
  • C: Cs, Co

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1.2.2.1. TYPES OF SUBJECT

Where appropriate, we distinguish between the Real Subject (Sr) and the Provisional Subject (Sp).

S

Subject

S with no Sf:

  • He is my brother.
  • That man is a fool.
  • Yesterday she wrote me a letter
  • To know her is to love her.
  • Never have I seen such a sight.

S in combination with Sf:

  • It is odd that he is not here.
  • It annoys me that taxes are so high.
  • It's fun to travel.
  • There is a stranger at the door.
  • There are no wild elephants here.

Sf

Formal (or Provisional) Subject

(NB: This can only be "it" or "there".)

  • It is odd that he is not here.
  • It annoys me that taxes are so high.
  • It's fun to travel.
  • There is a stranger at the door.
  • There are no wild elephants here.

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1.2.2.2 TYPES OF OBJECT

Where appropriate, we distinguish between the Direct Object (Od) and the Indirect Object (Oi). Where necessary, we also distinguish between the Real Object (Or) and the Provisional Object (Op).

Od

Direct Object

 

NB1: This can appear on its own, in combination with Of and in combination with Oi.

NB2: In our system, prepositional groups are never Od (see A).

 

Od with no other objects:

  • He cut the ribbon.
  • She loves him.
  • Hand it over!
  • She said that it was raining.
  • This argument I don't like.
  • Do you know what time it is?
  • We want to leave now.

Od in combination with Of:

  • I take it you are finished.
  • I find it odd that he would make such a remark.
  • We have it on good authority that he plans to run for the presidency.

Od in combination with Oi:

  • I gave my brother a new computer.
  • My father bought me a plane ticket.
  • He told Susan that he would be late.
  • She asked me if I knew the answer.
  • He advised his friend to see a lawyer.

Oi

Indirect Object

NB: In our system, prepositional groups are never Oi ( see A).

  • I gave my brother a new computer.
  • My father bought me a plane ticket.
  • He told Susan that he would be late.
  • She asked me if I knew the answer.
  • He advised his friend to see a lawyer.

Of

Formal (or Provisional) Object

(NB: This can only be "it". Of occurs in combination with Od)

  • I take it you are finished.
  • I find it odd that he would make such a remark.
  • We have it on good authority that he plans to run for the presidency.

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1.2.2.3. TYPES OF COMPLEMENT

We distinguish between the Subject Complement (Cs) and the Object Complement (Co).

Cs

Subject Complement

  • She is my friend.
  • The sunset was so beautiful!
  • His lecture was quite remarkable.
  • The sky grew dark.
  • This food tastes funny.
  • I feel rather odd.
  • Lincoln was a good president.
  • How stupid can you be?

Co

Object Complement

  • This makes me angry.
  • We elected him chairman.
  • My aunt found her bird cage empty.
  • You should color the grass green.
  • They called him Ivanhoe.
  • They considered him unqualified.
  • He pronounced them man and wife.

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1.2.3. SUBORDINATE CLAUSES

The clause functions within subordinate clauses are the same as those within main clauses, with one addition: SUB.

SUB

Subordinator

  • She said that she would be here.
  • If he comes, let me know.
  • I wonder whether he's right.
  • He is angry because you didn't write.
  • I read the letter after he left.
  • She sings better than her sister does.
  • He is not as old as I thought.
  • He is so rich that he owns four cars.

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1.2.4. COMPOUND UNITS (paratagma)

A compound unit contains two or more co-ordinated words, groups or clauses normally joined by "and" or "or". In some cases compound units are co-ordinated by such pairs as "both ... and", "either ... or", "neither ... nor".

CJT
Conjunct (or Conjoint)
  • She wanted a beer or a martini.
  • He came and he conquered.
  • Neither William nor Mary graduated from high school.
CO
Coordinator
  • She wanted a beer or a martini.
  • He came and he conquered.
  • Neither William nor Mary graduated from high school.

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1.3. GROUP FUNCTIONS (that is, functions which constituents may have within a group)

A group is by definition a HEAD with one or more DEPENDENTS. Consequently,in our system there are only TWO functions which constituents may have within a group. These are H (Head) and D (Dependent).

The basic groups can be recognized (and labeled) by the head of the group.This gives us FIVE basic types of group:

  • noun groups
  • verb groups
  • adjective groups
  • adverb groups
  • preposition groups

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1.3.1. NOUN GROUPS

H

Head

  • The blanket is dirty.
  • Your salad looks delicious.
  • He bought an orange.
  • These books are mine.
  • He lost three dollars.
  • Those are lovely pictures.
  • Clothes that Mary selects are always expensive.

D

Dependent

  • The blanket is dirty.
  • Your salad looks delicious.
  • He bought an orange.
  • These books are mine.
  • He lost three dollars.
  • Those are lovely pictures.
  • Clothes that Mary selects are always expensive.

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1.3.2. VERB GROUPS

H

Head

  • She was reading.
  • Why did he leave?
  • I have never been to Rome.
  • He should park his car in the garage.
  • I could not understand his argument.

D

Dependent

  • She was reading.
  • Why did he leave?
  • I have never been to Rome.
  • He should park his car in the garage.
  • I could not understand his argument.

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1.3.3. ADJECTIVE GROUPS

H

Head

  • She was quite reasonable.
  • Why is it so cold?
  • I never saw him more upset.
  • Are these big enough?
  • He is so rich that he owns four cars.

D

Dependent

  • She was quite reasonable.
  • Why is it so cold?
  • I never saw him more upset.
  • Are these big enough?
  • He is so rich that he owns four cars.

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1.3.4. ADVERB GROUPS

H

Head

  • You speak remarkably well.
  • How long were you away?
  • You sing too loudly.
  • He can not run as fast as I can.

D

Dependent

  • You speak remarkably well.
  • How long were you away?
  • You sing too loudly.
  • He can not run as fast as I can.

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1.3.5. PREPOSITION GROUPS

H

Head

  • When are you going to Rome?.
  • I received a letter from my father yesterday.
  • You just went through a red light.
  • Which book are you talking about?
  • This page has not been written on yet.

D

Dependent

  • When are you going to Rome?.
  • I received a letter from my father yesterday.
  • You just went through a red light.
  • Which book are you talking about?
  • This page has not been written on yet.

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2. Forms (specified with small letters)

We operate with FOUR types of forms: cl, par (= cu), g, "word class".

 

2.1. Clause

Clause is abbreviated "cl", which can represent a main clause or a subordinate clause, finite or non-finite.

cl

clause

  • Where is he going?
  • Come here!
  • I wonder where he is going.
  • She would like to visit France some day.
  • Fishing from this pier is forbidden.
  • If in doubt, read the instructions.

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2.2. Compound unit

The compound unit is abbreviated "cu" or "par" (for paratagma). A paratgma or compound unit consists of one or more CONJUNCTS (also called CONJOINTS), abbreviated CJT, connected by one or more COORDINATORS, abbreviated CO. Here are some examples:

par

paratagma

  • Neither William nor Mary graduated from high school.
  • She wanted a beer or a martini.
  • He came and he conquered.

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2.3. Group

Group is abbreviated "g", which can represent a noun group, a verb group, an adjective group, an adverb group, or a preposition group. Since the type of group is uniquely determined by the nature of the head (e.g. a noun group is a group with a noun as its head), it is not necessary to write e.g. ng (for noun group) or vg (for verb group). All five types of group are illustrated below:

g

group

  • Your salad looks delicious.
  • I have never been to Rome.
  • Are these big enough?
  • How long have you been away?
  • You just went through a red light.

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2.4. Word classes

We operate with 11 word classes. Each of these is illustrated below:

n

noun

Your salad looks delicious.

v

verb

I drove to Rome.

adj

adjective

Are these big enough?

adv

adverb

He left yesterday.

art

article

Here is the salad dressing.

pron

pronoun

Where is your ticket?

prp

preposition

You just went through a red light.

conj

conjunction

Are you left-handed or right-handed?

infm

infinitive marker

I'd like to leave now.

num

numeral

That's your third beer.

intj

interjection

Ouch! That hurts.

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3. The stacking convention

It is often the case, particularly when coordinating conjunctions are involved, that constitutents seem to come together to form a syntactic unit which does not fall within our list of recognized form and/or function labels. There are several potential solutions to the problems created thereby. One such solution we call the "stacking convention". In this convention we use a capital X for an otherwise unspecified function, and a small x for an otherwise unspecified form:

X

FUNCTION STACK

Example of X:cu

He went down to the bar and bought a beer.

x

form stack

Example of CJT:x (twice)

He went down to the bar and bought a beer.

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