Phrase Structure Rules - Definition

Definition

Phrase structure rules are usually of the following form:

meaning that the constituent is separated into the two subconstituents and . Some further examples for English are as follows:

The first rule reads: An S (sentence) consists of an NP (noun phrase) followed by a VP (verb phrase). The second rule reads: A noun phrase consists of a Det (determiner) followed by an N (noun). Some further categories are listed here: AP (adjective phrase), AdvP (adverb phrase), PP (prepositional phrase), etc. Applying the phrase structure rules in a neutral manner, it is possible to generate many proper sentences of English. But it is also quite possible that the rules generate syntactically correct but semantically nonsensical sentences. The following example sentence is notorious in this regard, since it is complete nonsense, even though it is syntactically correct:

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously

This sentence was constructed by Noam Chomsky as an illustration that phrase structure rules are capable of generating syntactically correct but semantically incorrect sentences. Phrase structure rules break sentences down into their constituent parts. These constituents are often represented as tree structures. The tree for Chomsky's famous sentence can be rendered as follows:

A constituent is any word or combination of words that is dominated by a single node. Thus each individual word is a constituent. Further, the subject NP Colorless green ideas, the minor NP green ideas, and the VP sleep furiously are constituents. Phrase structure rules and the tree structures that are associated with them are a form of immediate constituent analysis.

Read more about this topic:  Phrase Structure Rules

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