In the previous sections we have presented the sentence as structured into a subject DP followed by a VP, and the VP as structured into the verb and its complements:
We developed this structure by noting certain distributional patterns, such as the subject the bull could be replaced by the pronoun it and the VP worried the china-shop owner could be replaced by the verb charged:
As we claimed, the distribution of an element shows us that it has a certain status in the sentence and all elements which have the same distribution will have the same status. This is why we could use observations about distribution to demonstrate the structure of the sentence: the fact that the bull has the same distribution as it shows that the bull is a constituent, specifically a DP as, as argued above, pronouns are determiners. Furthermore, the fact that worried the china-shop owner has the same distribution as charged shows that the former is also a constituent, specifically a VP as charge is a verb. In other words, we can use distributional observations such as these to test the structure of any sentence: for any part of the sentence, if we find it distributes like some element that we know what its categorial status is, then we can assume that that part of the sentence has the same status as that element.
Let us consider another sentence to show how this might work:
|(78)||the bishop that just left was hiding a gun under his mitre|
At first glance, you might be tempted to claim that the subject of this sentence is the bishop. But note that this cannot be replaced by a pronoun, though the whole string the bishop that just left can be:
|(79)||a||*he that just left was hiding a gun under his mitre|
||b||he was hiding a gun under his mitre|
Thus we conclude that the subject of this sentence is the bishop that just left, not just the bishop.
The rest of the sentence was hiding a gun under his mitre can be replaced by a single verb:
|(80)||[the bishop that just left] disappeared|
Hence we may assume that this part of the sentence constitutes the VP:
Turning to the VP, we note that the word a gun can also be replaced by a pronoun it and hence this is also a DP – this time it is a DP complement, i.e. the object:
|(82)||[DP the bishop that just left] was hiding it under his mitre|
Furthermore, the part of the sentence his mitre can also be replaced by a pronoun and so this must be a DP too:
|(83)||a||[DP the bishop that just left] [VP was hiding [DP a gun] under it]|
||b||[DP the bishop that just left] [VP was hiding [DP a gun] under [DP his mitre]|
Next, we note that under his mitre can be replaced by the word there:
|(84)||[DP the bishop that just left] [VP was hiding [DP a gun] there]|
This shows us that the string of words, under his mitre forms a constituent of the sentence, but the category of this constituent is not so easy to determine from the category of its replacement. We might suppose that there is a pronoun and therefore it replaces DPs, but this constituent is made up of a preposition (under) followed by a DP (his mitre) which does not distribute like a DP:
|(85)||a||*[under his mitre] disappeared|
||b||*the bishop was hiding [under his mitre]|
(85b) is ungrammatical if we take under his mitre to name what it is that is being hidden, equivalent to a gun in (78) (though it is grammatical with the interpretation that it names the place where the bishop was hiding! In this case it does not function as the object and hence is not distributing like one). We called this kind of constituent a prepositional phrase above and we will continue to assume this and therefore we can conclude that there is in fact a pronominal preposition phrase as this is what it seems to replace.
Turning to the structural position of the auxiliary verb was note also that the part of the VP that follows this can also be replaced by a verb:
|(86)||[DP the bishop that just left] was smiling|
We concluded above that if something can be replaced by a verb it has the status of a VP and hence we have one VP inside another in this case, which tallies with our description of auxiliary verbs that they take verbal complements.
Putting this together, we have now derived the structure:
Turning to the subject, we note that the part of this DP bishop that just left can be replaced by a single noun:
|(88)||[DP the impostor] [VP was [VP hiding [DP a gun] [PP under [DP his mitre]]]]|
We may conclude, therefore that this part of the structure is also a phrase, presumably a noun phrase, as the word impostor is a noun. This NP is constructed of a noun followed by that just left, which as it is introduced by a complementiser we can conclude is some kind of a clause, though admittedly it doesn’t look much like a clause and a lot more needs to be said to show that it is. For now, let us just accept that it is a clause and stop our analysis at this point. What we have therefore is the following structure:
In our discussion so far we have shown that whole DPs can be replaced by a pronoun and, indeed, that a PP can be replaced by the prepositional ‘pronoun’ there. But for VP we have used intransitive verb to demonstrate the distributional properties of the phrase. Is there a ‘pronoun’ for a VP? I may be that the words do so function as a kind of pronominal replacement for VPs, though its use is a little more restricted than other pronouns:
|(90)||the bishop hid his gun and the verger did so too|
In this example, we have two sentences: the bishop hid his gun; the verger did so too. These two sentences are made into one sentence by placing them either side of the word and. The phenomena is known as coordination, about which we will have more to say in a little while. Given that the words did so in (90) are interpreted as meaning hid his gun, we can see that they replace the VP in the second sentence, forcing this VP to be interpreted the same as the VP of the first sentence. This is similar to the use of the pronoun in the following:
|(91)||the bishop hid his gun and he jumped into the getaway car|
Given this similarity, we might take the words do so to be a pronoun which replaces VPs and hence we can test whether a constituent is a VP by seeing if it can be replaced by do so.
The NP inside the DP may also have a pronominal replacement. Consider the following:
|(92)||this robbery of a bank was more successful than that one|
In this sentence the word one replaces robbery of a bank, which is an NP. Note that it does not replace the whole DP, as do pronouns such as it, that, him, etc. We can therefore claim that one is a pronoun which replaces NPs and hence anything that can be replaced by one is an NP.
Pronominalising adjective phrases is more restricted than the other phrases we have considered. It appears that only APs functioning as predicates can be pronominalised and not those which are modifiers:
|(93)||a||the bishop was guilty and so was the verger|
||b||*the guilty bishop and the so verger|
As we can see the pronoun for APs is so, though as it is restricted to predicative APs and it also plays a role in Pronominalising VPs, we might consider it as a general pronoun for replacing predicates. Nevertheless it can still be used as a constituent test as anything that functions as a predicate is a constituent of one type or another.
Finally in this section, let us consider pronouns which replace clauses. In some cases, the pronoun it can be used for this purpose:
|(94)||they said the bishop robbed the bank, but I don’t believe it|
Given that the it stands for the bishop robbed the bank and that this is a clause, this word can be claimed to be a clausal pronoun (as well as a DP pronoun).
The word so can also replace whole clauses:
|(95)||they said the bishop is dangerous, but I don’t think so|
Thus, besides being a general predicative pronoun, so can also be a clausal pronoun. Like other pronouns, then, it can provide us with evidence as to what counts as a constituent in a sentence.