functional category

categories without lexical content, fulfilling some grammatical function in a given structure: inflections, determiners, degree adverbs and complementisers.

noun phrase (NP)

a phrase headed by a noun. Noun heads can take PP or CP complements, DP complements are excluded since nouns are not Case assigners. The specifier position of an NP is occupied by what are generally called post-determiners. NPs are complements of DPs.

thematic category

categories with lexical content: verbs, nouns, adjectives, prepositions.

verb phrase (VP)

a phrase headed by a verb. It is in the VP together with the vp(s) that the basic argument structure of the clause is formed, thus, theta-role assignment takes place here. The specifier position of the VP is occupied by the constituent bearing the theme/patient theta role. In passive structures this constituent has to move from the specifier position of the verb to the specifier position of IP in order to get Case. A VP can have different types of complements such as a DP, CP, IP, PP.

Basic English Syntax with Exercises

4.4 Conclusion

In this chapter we have introduced the structure of the DP, the projection of a functional category. We will contrast this in the next chapter with the VP, which is obviously the projection of a thematic category. As far as the X-bar structure is concerned, the two are very similar. But, as we know, lexical properties have a very strong influence on structure and hence we might expect that the phrases headed by functional and thematic heads will differ to some extent.

As far as the DP is concerned, an important observation that we have made in this chapter is that the possibilities for its complementation are very limited. Determiners take NP complements or no complements. This is typical of functional heads and contrasts strongly with thematic heads. In the next chapter this difference will be made clear.