Hey, what’s up guys? Today I’m continuing my Introduction to linguistics video series and today’s video is all about syntax now syntax is the study of the rules that govern the Structure of our sentences and this is not something we think about all the time but sentences are actually very complex Linguistic units and there’s a lot to say about how they’re formed And it can actually give us some useful insights into the languages that we’re learning So as usual Of course If you have any comments questions concerns about the material that I’m presenting to you here in this video Please leave me a comment below in the comment section if I leave any confusion in your mind by the end of this video I would love the opportunity to clear that up for you and Maybe refine my explanations a little bit now before we go on and talk about the study of structural rules I have to define what I mean by a structural rule because I think sometimes using the word rule Can be a little bit confusing now in my first video about linguistics I mentioned that linguists don’t care about the rules in your grammar books. They study the way that people actually Speak and the rules that the people actually follow. Most of us are aware of the quote unquote rule That says me cannot be in the subject of a sentence This means that given the three example sentences below. Only number one can be considered a grammatical sentence Of course We constantly hear people using sentences like number two and number three which means as far as linguists are concerned These are both perfectly grammatical Sentences and they’re not breaking any structural rules, but that doesn’t mean that there are no rules that constrain our speech There are a ton of actual rules that govern the way we speak in real life. Most of which you are only Subconsciously aware of and you follow these rules without realizing it. So in this example, we see that the pronoun us cannot be used as the subject of a sentence in English. For syntacticians the asterisk denotes an ungrammatical sentence and here it’s obvious that no native speaker of English would ever be tempted to make this mistake. Because it just sounds so bad. That’s what I’m talking about when I say “rules”.
As native speakers It doesn’t take any effort to follow the actual rules of the language Those rules are just ingrained in our head and we do it naturally. We know that sentences are made up of words But how do we decide what order to put those words in when we’re forming our sentences? Well, the rules of grammar actually allow us some leeway. I used all the same words in two different sentences I just rearranged the words but the sentences still mean the same thing. We can take whole phrases and move them around or we can actually take Individual words and swap them. You can see that I changed Han and Greedo to Greedo and Han, and the sentence still mean the same thing. But we’re not completely unrestrained as far as word order. Otherwise, it would be grammatical to make sentences like this “Shot Han talking someone Greedo were first and while.” So how can we know exactly how much leeway our language allows us for changing words around? In order to discuss this we need to talk about constituents. A constituent is a word or group of words that functions as a single unit within a hierarchical structure. You can see here that I’ve divided the sentence into two separate constituents each of which is meaningful in some way. “While Han and Greedo we’re talking in the cantina” and “someone shot first.” All sentences can be broken down into constituents and some constituents can be further subdivided into smaller constituents. For the purpose of this example, I’m just going to focus on the first constituent here, which I have highlighted in yellow. We see that “Han and Greedo we’re talking” is still a constituent. The same is true of “Han and Greedo” the phrase “Han and Greedo” has a meaning that you can still understand, as does the word Han all by itself. So we can see that single words can still be constituents even without any other words grouped with them. Let’s compare those examples to groups of words that are not constituents such as “while Han”. What does that even mean? It’s not a group of words We would put together naturally and derive some kind of meaning out of it. So going back to my example from earlier. We see that the concept of Constituency is a piece of the puzzle that can help us understand how words are allowed to move within the sentence. If you take the first constituent and move it to the end of the sentence and take the last constituent and move it forward you get A sentence that is still grammatical. The words “Han” and “Greedo” could also be swapped because they’re both mini Constituents that play the same role within a larger constituent We also see that if you divide words into groups that are not constituents they can’t be moved and if we try it we get something horrible like this sentence “Cantina someone shot first while Han and Greedo we’re talking in the.” Now it’s possible to view sentences as simple strings of words going from left to right, but it’s actually much more revealing to view them as hierarchies with different levels that you can go deeper and deeper into so you get a constituent within a constituent within a constituent and so on and so forth. Let’s take this example sentence and divide it into two parts the subject and the predicate. And we see that our sentence is now made up of a noun phrase and a verb phrase So we’re gonna label them as such. I know that the word ‘I’ is technically a pronoun but it’s a substitute for a noun, so we’re still gonna call it a noun phrase and if you examine other sentences in English You’ll find that actually all sentences are composed of at least one noun phrase and one verb phrase. So that’s why we’re calling it a noun phrase even though it’s a pronoun. It’s a generalization that allows us to make our rule simpler. Now. Let’s go a little deeper into the hierarchy. Here we see that our verb phrase is subdivided into a verb and another noun phrase, Which is one of only a few ways that you can construct a verb phrase in English. And all transitive verbs require that you have at least these two components. And now we’re one level deeper than we were at the previous level of analysis. And if you keep going Your sentence is eventually going to look like this. Now you can really see all the different levels of depth within the sentence. This type of diagram is really important for the study of syntax and it’s called a tree diagram. I guess because all the little lines kinda look like Tree branches turned upside down or maybe it’s supposed to represent the roots of a tree. I don’t know, but we call it a tree diagram for some reason. And believe it or not this is actually a very oversimplified version of a tree diagram. Real syntacticians would take this a lot deeper and make it way more complex. And once you get really good at syntax, you’ll be able to make syntax trees that look like this: And then you’ll be able to see a lo t of the underlying phenomena that you didn’t notice when you viewed your sentence as a simple Left-to-right string of words. And importantly for language learners once you go deep enough into your understanding of syntax You’ll start to see that all human languages actually follow the same set of rules Even though they seem so incredibly different. English sets word order as subject verb object whereas Japanese sets it as subject object verb. In English you put the adjectives before your noun and Spanish you put the adjectives after your noun. The structure of these languages seems like they have nothing in common But an advanced understanding of syntax will actually reveal that they’re very much the same and I believe even sign languages follow the same syntactic rules. I don’t have any time to go any deeper in this video But stay tuned because I’ll definitely be putting up more videos to give you a deeper understanding of syntax. This video has just been the bare basics that you need to get started. And again, if you have any questions or concerns, please let me know in the comment section below You can also connect with me on twitter at at thing tim lanes Thanks for watching the video and we’ll see you guys in the next one