argument-movement, the syntactically motivated movement of arguments from argument positions to argument positions. The Case-motivated movement of DPs in passive and raising structures is a typical example for this movement type. See also A'-movement.


A-bar movement, non-argument movement, the movement of arguments or non-arguments to non-argument positions, e.g. wh-movement or focus fronting.

abstract Case

being Case-marked is assumed to be a universal property of overt nominal expressions. Whenever there is no visible marking, we assume there to be invisible Case on the given nominal expression.

abstract light verb

the head position of a vP can be occupied by a phonetically empty light verb.

accusative Case

the case of DPs appearing after verbs, prepositions and visible subjects of infinitival clauses. In English it is visible only on certain pronouns, e.g. him/her.

active voice

a structure with no passivisation, where the subject of the clause does not originate in the object position but in the specifier position of the vP. Compare with passive voice, see also voice.


according to traditional analyses Case assigner and Case assignee must be adjacent, next to each other. This accounts for why the sentence *Mary speaks fluently English is ungrammatical.


a constituent with the feature composition: [+N, +V, –F] modifying nouns, e.g. mad in mad cow. These constituents cannot have nominal complements, their semantically nominal complement must appear as a Prepositional Phrase with the rescue strategy of of-insertion.

adjective phrase (AP)

a phrase headed by an adjective. In the complement position we can find PPs and finite and non-finite CPs. DPs and exceptional clauses are excluded since adjectives are not Case assigners. APs are complements of DegPs.


a constituent not selected by a head.

adjunct rule

one of the three rules of X-bar theory, a recursive rule of the form

Xn → Xn, Y/YP

This rule states that an adjunct can be adjoined to the head, the intermediate projection or the maximal projection. Heads can be adjoined to heads, phrases can be adjoined to the intermediate or maximal projection.

The constituent an adjunct is adjoined to is doubled. The comma in the rule indicates that the order of the two constituents is not fixed.


a type of movement where a new position is formed as a result of the movement creating an adjunction structure, like the (simplified) movement of the PP in the following tree structure representation where the S node is doubled:


a constituent with the feature composition [+N, +V, –F] used to modify a verb (as in everything went smoothly) or a sentence (as in Unfortunately, I did not pass the first exam). In this approach adverbs and adjectives belong to the same category, the difference between them being what they modify.


a bound morpheme added to the beginning or end of a word, a prefix or a suffix.

Affix Lowering

the downward movement of the bound inflectional morpheme s, ed or the zero inflectional morpheme onto the verbal head. This is the only movement type where we move a constituent down. Assuming downward movement to take place is necessary in the traditional framework because it is assumed that lexical verbs in English cannot leave the VP and this way we can also account for the order of sentence medial adverbs relative to the verb: She often invites her friends.


one of the thematic or theta-roles, where the argument deliberately performs an action, as Jamie in Jamie sang a song or Robert in Robert kicked the cat. In terms of the UTAH the agentive theta-role is assigned to the specifier position of vP, similarly to experiencer arguments.


stems are allowed to support more than one bound morpheme and hence there are complex words being formed from a series of inflectional morphemes.


a syntactic process whereby certain constituents must share certain features, e.g. subjects must agree with the inflection on the verb in person and number.


see lexical aspect.


a structure is ambiguous if it can be interpreted in more than one way. We differentiate lexical ambiguity from structural ambiguity.


a reflexive (e.g. himself) or a reciprocal (e.g. each other). A DP without independent reference needing an antecedent.

anaphoric operator

an operator that behaves like an anaphor, one that is referentially dependent on another constituent in the sentence, like a wh-element in relative clauses.


a constituent another constituent without independent reference (such as an anaphor or a trace) takes reference from/is coreferential with. In the sentence ‘Mary is enjoying herself’ the antecedent of herself is Mary. We indicate coreference with coindexation.


see Adjective Phrase


based on the phonological form of a certain word we cannot predict its meaning. The same word can mean different things in different languages.

arbitrary reference

in certain contexts PRO does not need an antecedent, it has a generic interpretation similarly to the pronoun one:

[CP PRO to be] or [CP PRO not to be], that is the question


the participants minimally involved in an action defined by the predicate. The complements and the subject, the latter also called an external argument.


a semantic property of verbs expressing how a certain event is viewed. See lexical aspect and grammatical aspect.

aspectual auxiliary verb

those dummy auxiliary verbs that participate in forming the progressive (different forms of be as in They are waiting.) or the perfective aspect (different forms of have as in I have read this book.). They are not generated in the head position of IPs (as opposed to modal auxiliaries) but in vP, and can undergo upward movement to the head position of IP. Feature composition: [–N, +V]

aspectual morpheme

the morphemes -ing and -en responsible for the progressive and perfective aspectual meanings, respectively.


a. a symbol used to indicate an ungrammatical structure.

b. in a rewrite rule it indicates that there can be any number of the constituent marked with this symbol

bare infinitive

an infinitive without to, a non-finite verb form appearing after auxiliaries, not to be confused with the base form of the verb which can also be finite.


certain nodes in a tree form barriers to government, they ‘protect’ their constituents from government from the outside. A governor may be able to govern up to a barrier, but not through a barrier. Case assignment is impossible through a barrier. CPs are barriers to government.

base form

the (at least apparently) uninflected form of the verb. it can be finite (like in I like chocolate where a zero form of the inflection indicates SG1 agreement) or non-finite (like in I may invite Jamie where a verb form also called the bare infinitive is used, no inflection whatsoever is present on the verb, the inflectional head position is occupied by the modal auxiliary may).

base position

the position where a constituent first appears in the generative process.


to insert constituents into a position reflecting the basic semantic relationships. The arguments of the verb appear within the Verb Phrase but they may be forced to leave that position by different principles of grammar.

binary features

abstract representations of a contrasting linguistic unit such as [±Tense]. These units can have one of the two values + or –.


a nominal expression that gives reference to another nominal expression without independent reference. In the sentence Mary knows that she will pass the exam the constituent Mary can be the binder of the pronoun she (mind you, it is not necessarily so, the interpretation of the pronoun can be some other female character determined by the context)


an element that can be coreferential with another element (the most typically pronouns and anaphors) is bound by that element. This relationship is called binding. In the sentence Peter and Mary love each other the constituent Peter and Mary binds each other.

binding domain

the domain within which anaphors must be, pronouns cannot be bound. E.g. in the sentence Peter knows him the constituent Peter cannot be coreferent with the pronoun him since they are in the same domain. In the sentence Peter knows himself the anaphor has to be coreferent with Peter since it is the only available antecedent for it in the same domain as required by the binding principles.

binding principles

principles that refer to the interpretation of nominal expressions:

a) An anaphor must have a binder within the binding domain

b) A pronominal cannot have a binder within the binding domain

c) An R-expression must be free everywhere

bound morpheme

a morpheme that has to attach to another morpheme, it cannot stand on its own, e.g. ed, ment, un . See also free morpheme

boundedness of movement

bracketed representation

a representation of grammatical structure by bracketing those constituents that belong together, an alternative to tree diagrams.


lines connecting the nodes in tree-structure representations.

Burzio’s Generalisation

verbs which assign no theta-role to their subjects do not assign accusative Case to their objects.

canonical structural realisation principles

canonical subject position

the specifier position of the IP. This is the position where subjects are assigned Case. The canonical subject position, however, is not equivalent with the base position of the subject, as was assumed for a long time, see the VP-Internal Subject Hypothesis.


see abstract Case and morphological case.

Case assigner

a head that has the ability to assign Case, like V(erb), P(reposition) and finite I(nflection).

Case avoidance principle

Clauses avoid Case positions.

Case Filter

every overt DP must be assigned abstract Case.

Case position

a position where (nominative or accusative) Case can be assigned.

Case Theory

one of the modules of GB defining Case-assignment to DPs.

category variable

in X-bar theory and the rules of X-bar theory X is a category variable that can be substituted by any of the categories. XP can be NP, VP, PP, DP, etc.

central determiner

traditionally these are determiners following pre-determiners and preceding post-determiners. In GB central determiners occupy the head position of DP this way defining the definiteness of the phrase (e.g. a man/the man)


a moved element and its associated traces functioning as a single object made up of several parts. See also head of the chain, foot of the chain.


a structure containing a (visible or invisible) subject and a predicate.

cognate object

objects that are strongly related to the verb (mostly intransitive), usually they repeat the meaning of the verb: smile an evil smile, live a happy life.


an indication of coreference between two constituents by giving them the same subscript index symbol. In Peteri knows that Mary likes himi the i index indicates that in the sentence him is to be understood as referring to Peter, though in theory it could also be understood as referring to a third party previously mentioned.


it forms a full sentence together with a topic. The comment is the new information in the information structure of the sentence.

comparative form of adjectives

this form is used for comparison to a higher (or in the case of less lower) degree when two constituents are compared: He is taller than I am. This sentence contains inflectional comparative, but there is another, periphrastic way of comparison: This car is more expensive than that one.


an argument which follows the verb, or, more generally, a phrase selected by a head.

complement rule

one of the three rules of X-bar theory of the following form:

X' --> X YP which states that the intermediate category X' can be rewritten as X (the head) and YP (the complement, always a full phrase of some kind), in this order.

complementary distribution

two constituents are in complementary distribution if one of them never appears in any of the environments where the other appears. If two constituents are in complementary distribution it indicates that they compete for the same structural position. E.g. we cannot have both an inflectional ending and a modal auxiliary in the same clause as these two occupy the head position within an IP, thus the ungrammaticality of *She can dances.

complementiser phrase (CP)

a phrase headed by one of the three complementisers that, if or for (in structures like It is important [for Jim to pass this exam] where for is used not as a preposition but as a prepositional complementiser.) The complement of a CP is an IP, the specifier position is occupied by moved wh-elements or whether.


a constituent introducing a sentential complement. The complementisers in English are that, if ,and for. They occupy the head position of CP and have selectional restrictions on the force and finiteness of the clause. Feature composition: [+F, –N, –V]

complex transitive verb

a verb with a nominal and a prepositional complement, e.g. put (the newspaper on the desk)

compound noun

two nouns put together to form a single noun, e.g. homework.

conditional clause

constituency test

a test for deciding whether a certain string of words is a constituent or not, e.g. coordination, preposing, extraposition, substitution etc.


a linguistic expression that functions as a unit in grammatical structure. A group of words that undergo syntactic processes together.


a term related to the interpretation of PRO. E.g. in the sentence I promised [PRO to visit her] the constituent I controls PRO, gives reference to it. See also subject control, object control, arbitrary reference.

coordinating conjunction

elements connecting clauses or phrases on the same level: and, or and but


one of the constituency tests where two elements of the same type are put together to form a single element using a coordinating conjunction. The coordinated element acts like the two coordinated elements would individually.


when two or more referential phrases pick out the same entity in the world they are said to be coreferential. Coreference is indicated by coindexation: Peteri thinks that hei has every reason to be proud of himselfi.

count noun

a noun that shows number distinction, e.g. one book/two books.


invisible, without phonological realisation but still having grammatical function


see Complementiser Phrase

dative alternate

see dative construction.

dative construction

an alternative to the verb–indirect object–direct object construction where the indirect object appears in the form of a PP: I gave an apple to Peter as opposed to I gave Peter an apple.


an immediate constituent of a node which then is the mother node.

declarative clause

a positive or negative statement mainly used to convey information.


the structure before movement takes place, a representation of thematic relations.

defining relative clause

see restrictive relative clause.

definite determiner

a determiner like the or this that turns a nominal expression into a definite DP.


a category expressing whether a nominal expression is identifiable or not. In the sentences A man was walking in the park with a dog. The man sat on a bench and the dog ran away first we have indefinite individuals but in the second sentence they can already be identified from the context. Identification can also come from the situation or our knowledge of the world (the Sun).


the functional projection on top of APs (similarly to DPs taking NP complements) hosting degree modifiers like the superlative and comparative morpheme.

degree adverb

a subclass of adverbs which specifies the degree to which some property applies, e.g. very and extremely. Feature composition: [+F, +N, +V]

derivational morpheme

it forms a new word from an existing one in the lexicon with its own lexical properties. The meaning of the new word may differ from the original word. Lexical process

derived noun

a noun derived from a word belonging to another word category. See deverbal noun.


the head of a Determiner Phrase, a closed class item taking an NP complement defining its definiteness. Feature composition: [+F, –N, +V]

determiner phrase (DP)

a phrase headed by a central determiner or the possessive ’s morpheme. The complement of a DP is an NP, the specifier the DP the possessive ending attaches to.

deverbal noun

a noun derived from a verb, e.g. a bite from the verb to bite.

direct object

the DP complement of a verb most often bearing the theta-role of patient or theme.


the set of positions that the grammar determines to be possible for a given category. Words that distribute in the same way will belong to the same categories, words that distribute differently will belong to different categories.

ditransitive verb

a verb with two nominal complements, e.g. give.


see do-support.


a last resort operation when neither the auxiliary nor the lexical verb can move. We find it in the following structures:

(a) the VP has fronted: [crash the car] he did

(b) the inflection itself has inverted in a question: did he – crash the car?

(c) there is a negative between the I and the VP: he did not use the windscreen wipers

double-object construction

the special construction when the verb give selects two objects, an indirect object and a direct object, in this order, like in the sentence Peter gave Mary a teddy bear.

Doubly Filled COMP Filter

no CP can have both an overt specifier and an overt complementiser generated in C.


see Determiner Phrase.


the movement of DPs in passive and raising structures. In both cases the DP is base-generated in a position where it cannot be assigned Case. In terms of the Case Filter it has to move to a position where it can be Case-marked.

dummy auxiliary

a certain form of the auxiliary do, its main function is to support the tense morpheme when it cannot appear on the main verb

echo question

a question in which a previously uttered sentence is more or less repeated and a part of it that was either not heard or not believed is replaced by a wh-element. The meaning is quite clear: it is a request for someone to repeat or confirm the previous statement.

A: At the exam, I was asked about Zantedeschia.

B: You were asked about what?


see Exceptional Case-marking.


the language that is external to the speaker – the infinite set of expressions defined by the I-language – that linguists have access to when formulating their grammars

embedded clause

a clause that is part of a larger constituent (I know [that you like him], the man [that you like].

endocentric structure

one that gets its properties from an element that it contains, this element can function by itself as a whole phrase. Such phrases have a head that determines their categorial nature. It is a requirement in X-bar theory that phrases be endocentric. A noun projects a noun phrase, a verb a verb phrase etc.

ergative language

a language where the subject of an intransitive verb and the object of a transitive verb have the same Case form.

ergative verb

a verb that can appear in a VP either (a) with a single theme argument functioning as the subject of the clause (The ship sank), similarly to unaccusative structures or (b) in the presence of a light verb together with an agentive subject (They sank the ship), when the structure is similar to the structure of transitive verbs. As opposed to unaccusative verbs, ergative verbs cannot appear in the existential there construction (unless they are ambiguous between the two readings), and they are typically verbs expressing a change of state, like break, explode, grow.

event structure

verbs can express simple or complex events. Event structure describes what sub-events an event expressed by a certain verb is made up of. This has an effect on the syntactic organisation of elements within the VP. There is supposed to be an isomorphism between event structure and the structure of the VP: a VP breaks up into sub-vPs/VPs in a one-to-one correspondence with the sub-events.

Exceptional Case-marking (ECM)

in the normal case the Case assigner and the constituent which is assigned Case are in the same clause. There are structures, however, where it is impossible, e. g. in I believe him to be disappointed. The embedded clause contains non-finite Inflection, which is not a Case assigner. The only option for the subject DP to be assigned Case is by an outside governor, hence the term, ECM. The verb believe is a potential Case assigner since it can also take a DP complement to which it assigns accusative Case: I believe him.

exceptional clause

clauses selected by exceptional verbs such as believe. What makes them exceptional is that the clauses introduced by them are not CPs as clauses in general are, but IPs. Evidence for this comes from ungrammatical structures like *I believe for him to be the best. It is the insertion of the prepositional complementiser that makes the sentence ungrammatical indicating that the position to host it (head of CP) is not projected, the clause is not a CP.

exceptional verb

verbs selecting not a CP but an IP complement when their complement is clausal. The most typical representative is believe, which is an exceptional verb when it takes an infinitival complement (when its clausal complement is finite, it is a full CP).

existential there-construction

a structure where there is used as an expletive, introducing a nominal expression as in There were three girls waiting for me. In such structures the emphasis is on the existence (or non-existence) of the situation/the participants.

exocentric structure

one that contains no element that can have the same function as the whole phrase, it appears to have properties that are independent from the elements it contains. E.g. small clauses for a long time were assumed to be exocentric structures.


one of the thematic or theta-roles where the argument experiences some physical or mental state, like Mary in Mary was afraid of dogs. The experiencer theta-role is assigned in the specifier position of vP, similarly to the agent role. If both an agent and an experiencer argument are selected by the verb there are two vPs projected and the experiencer occupies the specifier position of the lower vP.

expletive subject

a subject without reference, its presence is merely required by the EPP. Expletive subjects have no theta-roles but they do receive Case from finite Inflection. The expletives in the English language are there introducing nominal expressions as in There lived a cruel dragon in the forest and it introducing clauses as in It occurred to me too late that he had not been invited. Both there and it have referential uses too!

extended projection

a Verb Phrase has an extended projection into IP and CP in a clause. Similarly to it a noun phrase has an extended projection into DP which may further project into a PP.

Extended Projection Principle (EPP)

every clause must have a (visible or invisible) subject.

external argument

the subject, occupying a position external to the verb, [Spec,IP]

extraction site

the position from which elements move.


a constituent (PP, CP) moved from the phrase where it belongs to a sentence final position: The rumour t has been circulating [that we will have an oral exam this semester].


one of the three basic binary features on which all categories can be defined. With the help of these features we can explain why we have the categories that we do and also describe how these categories are related. With the help of the three binary features we can predict what kinds of categories are possible in human language, we can give an exclusive list of them. [±F] is a feature used to distinguish between functional and thematic categories. [–F] categories have thematic content and [+F] categories do not. The categories with [+F] feature are the following: inflections, complementisers, determiners and degree adverbs. Certain categories are unspecified for the [±F] feature, see underspecification.

finite clause

a clause containing a finite verb.

finite verb form

a verb form that is inflected for tense in a visible or invisible form. In English this inflection is visible only in the past tense or in SG3 in the present tense.


whether a constituent (a clause or a verb) is understood as finite or non-finite.


the stressed element in a sentence that carries new information.

focus fronting

focus can be indicated either by stress alone or by movement in which latter case we speak about focus fronting, as the constituent that bears focus stress moves to the front of the clause, as in Peter I wouldn't trust

foot of a chain

the lowest position an element has been moved from containing the trace of the moved constituent; the extraction site of the moved element.


the distinction between declarative and interrogative interpretation.

free morpheme

a morpheme that can stand on its own, e.g. flower, walk. See also bound morpheme

functional category

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


the contrast between masculine and feminine, or (in some languages) animate and inanimate nominal expressions.

general ordering requirements

generative grammar

a grammar containing rules with the help of which we can generate all and only the well-formed expressions of a language (therefore excluding the ungrammatical structures).

genitive Case

in traditional terminology the ’s ending on a nominal expression (e.g. in Peter’s dog) is assumed to be the marker of genitive Case.


a verb form with a noun-like role in the sentence retaining characteristics of both verbs and nouns as in [The patient's refusing of the medicine] worried the doctors.


a structural relationship between a head and its complement. Government is a necessary condition for case-assignment.

Government and Binding Theory (GB)

a version of Noam Chomsky's universal grammar according to which linguistic expressions, though infinite in number, can be generated with the help of a restricted number of rules. Grammatical expressions are the result of several interacting modules within this system.

gradable adjective

an adjective that has comparative and superlative forms, e.g. nice/nicer/nicest.


(a) a (finite) set of rules which tell us how to recognise the infinite number of expressions that constitute the language that we speak. (b) a linguistic hypothesis about these rules.

grammatical aspect

refers to how the event is viewed as a process: whether it has stopped (perfect aspect) or is still going on (progressive aspect).

Head Movement Constraint (HMC)

a head must move to the next head position.

head of a chain

the position an element moves to, its final landing site.

headless relative

a relative clause that does not appear to be a modifier inside a nominal phrase as it appears without a noun, however it can be argued to function as such, like in I spoke to [whoever I met].

heavy DP-shift

when the DP is particularly long and complicated, it may undergo extraposition: You can post today [all the letters you have written in the past five days]./*You can post today them.


see Head Movement Constraint.


not predictable. The idiosyncratic properties of e.g. words are those that are specific to that word, such as its phonological form, meaning and subcategorisation frame. These properties cannot be described with the help of rules, so they must be encoded in the lexicon.


the language which is internal to the mind; a finite system that linguists try to model with grammars.

immediate constituent

the immediate constituent of a node is the node that is lower than the given constituent and is connected to it by a single branch. It is the constituent directly below the node it is the immediate constituent of.


a structure used to express a request or command. An imperative sentence usually has no visible subject: Eat your breakfast, please.

implicit argument

an argument that is not present in the syntactic structure but understood. In the sentence I am eating the transitive verb eating has no visible object, still, the sentence means that something is eaten.

indefinite determiner

a determiner like a or some turning a nominal expression into an indefinite DP.

indirect object

one of the objects of e.g. the verb give in the double object construction assigned the theta-role of beneficiary.


a non-finite, uninflected verb form either with or without to.


(a) a morpheme added to the end of words of a given category in sentence structure as required by the given structure, e.g. s in Peter like s his dog or er in Peter is clever er than Tony.

(b) the head of an Inflectional Phrase. It can be realised as a modal auxiliary or a zero agreement morpheme. Information about tense can be found in a separate vP directly under IP.

inflectional comparison

the comparative and superlative forms of the adjective are expressed with the help of the inflectional endings er and est. E.g. hungrier/hungriest. See also periphrastic comparison.

inflectional morpheme

it does not change the category of the lexical element to which it is added, it provides another form of the word, e.g. the past inflectional morpheme ed. The meaning of the original word does not change. Syntactic process.

inflectional phrase (IP)

in traditional grammars the IP is a phrase headed by an inflectional element which can be a modal auxiliary (e.g. may, should, will), infinitival to or the bound morphemes expressing tense ( ed, s) the latter undergoing Affix Lowering to form a unit with the verb. In the present approach, however, it has been argued that the head position of the IP contains only the modal auxiliaries and the (in English) invisible agreement morpheme, information about Tense can be found in an independent vP hosting infinitival to, and the bound morphemes -ed and -s also appear here. The specifier position of an IP is occupied by the subject (see canonical subject position), the complement of an I is usually a VP or vP (but see small clauses for an exception). IPs are complements of CPs or ECM verbs.

intermediate projection

the X-bar level projection connecting the zero-level (or word-level) projection X and the maximal (or phrase-level) projection XP.

interrogative clause

a structure mainly used to ask for information, either in the form of a yes–no question or a wh-question.

intransitive verb

a verb without a nominal complement (the object), e.g. ski. Its subject is either an agent or an experiencer, i.e. one of the theta-roles assigned to the specifier of a vP. Occasionally intransitive verbs appear with a cognate object.


see Inflectional Phrase.


cannot be described with the help of a rule, exceptional.


a one-to-one correspondence between the members of two sets.

I-to-C movement

the generative equivalent of the descriptive notion of subject–auxiliary inversion attested in questions like ‘Can you swim?’, where the auxiliary is assumed to move from the head position of IP to the head position of CP.

landing site

the position elements move to.


a system that enables people who speak it to produce and understand linguistic expressions.

lexical ambiguity

the source of ambiguity is a lexical constituent which is associated with more than one meaning in the lexicon, e.g. bank, hot.

lexical aspect or aktionsart

aspect internal to the meaning of the verb, e.g. some verbs describe events with an endpoint (eat), as opposed to others without a natural endpoint (sit).

lexical entry

a collection of the idiosyncratic properties of lexical items.

lexical verb

a verb with lexical content as opposed to one having grammatical function in the structure.


a mental dictionary where we store information about all the words we use focusing on the idiosyncratic properties such as pronunciation, meaning, etc.

light verb

a verb occupying the head of a vP used in combination with another element, typically a noun or verb, where the light verb’s contribution to the meaning of the whole construction is less than that of a fully thematic main verb, e.g. to take a shower=to shower. Certain verbs expressing aspectual (be, have) or modal (let) meaning also belong here. According to the proposals in the present book the following constituents can appear within the vP in a visible or abstract form (see also vP-shells):

– agentive arguments in the specifier positions

– experiencer arguments in the specifier position

– goal arguments in the double-object construction as specifiers

– the passive -en morpheme in the head of vP

– the aspectual morphemes -en and -ing in the head of vP

– the tense morpheme in the head of vP


the scientific study of language.

Locality Restriction on Theta-role Assignment

a predicate assigns its Θ-roles to either its complement or its specifier.

Locality Restrictions on Movement

a head cannot move over the top of another head, a subject cannot move over the top of another subject – a constituent cannot move over the top of a like constituent. See also Relativized Minimality.

locative inversion

a structure where a PP locative argument apparently sits in subject position while the DP theme sits behind the verb, as in In the corner sat a shadowy figure.

main clause

a clause that is not embedded in another clause. In the sentence I know that you are clever the main clause is I know selecting an embedded CP.

mass noun

a noun that does not show number distinction, e.g. tea/a cup of tea. See also partitive construction.

matrix clause

very often used as a synonym for main clause. However, in the case of multiple embeddings there is a difference between the two. In the sentence I know that she thinks she is hopeless the main clause is I know, which also functions as the matrix clause for the first embedding that she thinks she is hopeless. The matrix clause for she is hopeless is the clause selecting it that she thinks, but it is not a main clause.

maximal projection

the phrase-level projection, XP, where X is a categorial variable.

measure noun

a non-thematic, non-functional noun indicating quantity, e.g. loaf in a loaf of bread.

missing subject

in terms of the EPP every clause must have a subject, so clauses cannot have a missing subject. In certain structures it seems to be the case, however, it can be argued that these clauses only have a missing visible subject, there is an abstract element occupying the subject position in these clauses as well, either in the form of a trace or PRO.


GB is made up of different but interacting components called modules, e.g. Theta Theory, X-bar Theory, Case Theory. The interaction of these modules generates the grammatical structures of language.


the smallest meaningful unit. Words can be made up of one or more morphemes. See also bound morpheme, free morpheme.

morphological case

there is a morphologically visible indication of Case on the nominal expression (DP). In English case is not visible on lexical DPs, only in the pronoun system with several examples of case syncretism (he/him, she/her, but it, you)


the study of words and how words are structured.


a node directly above another node.

Move α

move anything anywhere. Further restrictions on movement come from factors independent from the formulation of the movement rule.


S-structure constituents do not always appear in the position where they are base-generated in D-structure, they often move from their base positions to other structural positions. There can be various reasons motivating movement, see wh-movement and DP-movement.

multiple light verb

the internal structure of the VP and the structure of the event expressed by the verb are isomorphic. If the event structure of the predicate is complex we have multiple light verbs in the structure. Light verbs can also express tense and aspect.

multiple wh-question

a single question that asks for more than one piece of information hence contains more than one wh-element, e.g. Who did you say said what?


one of the three basic binary features on which all categories can be defined. With the help of these features we can explain why we have the categories that we do and also describe how these categories are related. With the help of the three binary features we can predict what kinds of categories are possible in human language, we can give an exclusive list of them. Since we want to define verbs and nouns as polar opposites the abstract binary features [±N] and [±V] were introduced, though obviously they do not mean noun and verb and are used to define other categories besides nouns and verbs. A property linked to the [–N] feature is the ability to have a nominal complement. The categories with [+N] feature are the following: a. thematic: nouns, adjectives; b. functional: determiners, degree adverbs; unspecified for the [F] value: post-determiners, measure nouns.

negative fronting

a movement type where a negative element is placed at the beginning of the clause as in Never have I met such a talented musician!


a symbol defining syntactic units (heads, intermediate constituents, phrases) connected by branches in a tree structure representation.

nominative Case

the Case assigned to DPs in the subject position of finite clauses. The Case assigner is the finite Inflectional head.

non-defining relative clause

see non-restrictive relative clause.

non-finite clause

a clause in which no finite verb is present.

non-finite verb form

a verb form without independent tense interpretation. In the sentences I want to walk and I wanted to walk the embedded clause to walk is non-finite, its tense interpretation depends on the matrix clauses.


without reference. In the sentence There are 24 students in the group the expletive there is non-referential as opposed to there in She was standing there.

non-restrictive relative clause

this clause-type is used to add extra information rather than to restrict the application of the noun. They only have the wh-relative form (as opposed to restrictive relatives): Yesterday I met your father, who is a very intelligent man.


a word that names people, places or things that can have a plural form. Feature composition: [+N, –V, –F]

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.


see Noun Phrase.


see DP-movement.

Null Case

the Case assigned to PRO in the subject position of non-finite clauses.


a contrast between singular and plural as in a shirt/several shirts. The English regular plural marker is s.


a DP complement immediately following the verb. It can move to the subject position in passive sentences. See also direct object, indirect object.

object control

PRO can be coreferent either with the subject or the object of the preceding clause depending on the main verb. The verb tell is an object-control verb, in the sentence I told him [PRO to go] PRO is coreferent with the object.

object position

the specifier position of VP.


a rescue strategy to avoid a Case Filter violation. APs and NPs are unable to assign Case to their complements, so their semantic DP argument is realised as a PP and the preposition of is inserted: to be envious of Mary (compare with to envy Mary)

one-place predicate

a predicate with one argument, e.g. walk.


constituents affecting the interpretation of the sentence indicating a process that is needed to work out the meaning of the sentence that contains them; quantifiers and wh-elements.


visible, having phonological realisation


a non-finite verb form, can be past or present: Singing (present participle) always out of tune, I got on the nerves of my music teacher./I have never met most of the people invited (past participle) to the wedding.

partitive Case

Case that can be born only by indefinites, available in the post-verbal position in there-constructions.

partitive construction

if we want to count mass nouns we can do so by inserting an appropriate term expressing some unit of the given mass noun which will result in a partitive construction: two bars of chocolate, a glass of milk.

passive structure

a verb with the -en ending often (but not always) preceded by an inflected form of be. Passive verbs do not have a vP-projection  similar to vPs in active structures. The vP in passives is headed by the passive -en morpheme which does not assign theta role to the subject and for this reason it is unable to case-mark its nominal complement (see Burzio’s Generalisation), so the DP has to move from its base-position to a Case-position.

passive voice

the subject of the passive sentence is interpreted as the object of the verb.


one of the thematic or theta-roles where the argument is affected by the action described by the verb, e.g. in Peter stroked the cat the cat is directly affected by this activity.

perfect aspect

an action is viewed as being completed, e.g. in I have written my homework.

periphrastic comparison of adjectives

the comparative and superlative forms of the adjective are expressed with the degree adverbs more and most. E.g. more indignant/most indignant

phonologically empty

not having phonological, visible realisation, but still present, syntactically active in an abstract, unpronounced form, e.g. PRO is a phonologically empty category, similarly to traces.


the study of the sound patterns of language.

phrasal category

a category of phrases as opposed to words.

phrasal verb

see verb–particle construction.


a group of words that can undergo syntactic operations (e.g. movement) as a unit.


one of the strategies of wh-movement when the wh-element is part of a PP. The wh-element does not move alone, it takes the preposition along with it: [With who]i did you go to the cinema ti yesterday? See also preposition stranding.

pleonastic subject

see expletive subject.

plural noun

a noun denoting more than one entity, e.g. three teddy bears. Count nouns can be used either in the singular or the plural form.

positive form of adjectives

the base form of the adjective appearing in structures expressing comparison to the same degree, like in He is as tall as I am.


traditionally it is a determiner following a central determiner but within the framework of Government and Binding Theory it can be claimed that it is actually an AP that acts to quantify over a noun, and occupies the specifier position of NPs, e.g. many, few.


see Preposition Phrase.


a branch of linguistics concerned with the meaning of sentences as they are uttered in a given context. E.g. the sentence It's very hot in here can be understood as a request to open a window.


traditionally pre-determiners are those determiners that appear in front of central determiners within a nominal expression. These are three in number: all, both and half. In the present approach, however, they are analysed similarly to central determiners, they also occupy the head position of DP to account for why they can also be followed by a PP beginning with of as in all the girls/all of the girls.


the part of the clause excluding the subject giving information about the subject: Mary [is clever/likes chocolate/is waiting for Jamie/was in bed/is a university student].


a bound morpheme added to the beginning of a word, e.g. un- in unimportant.


the movement of PPs, VPs, negative expressions to the beginning of the sentence: Under no circumstances would I read another novel by him.


a syntactic unit preceding its complement, the most often a DP defining a special syntactic and/or semantic relationship between the complement and another constituent: cat in the bag/grapes of wrath/tea without sugar/a reduction of taxes. Feature composition: [–F, –N, –V].

preposition phrase (PP)

a phrase headed by a preposition. It usually takes a DP complement but certain types of CPs can also appear in the complement position of PPs. PPs themselves can be complements of different constituents such as verbs, nouns and adjectives.

preposition stranding

one of the strategies of wh-movement when the wh-element is part of a PP. The wh-element moves alone and leaves the preposition behind: Whoi did you laugh at ti? See also pied-piping. Preposition stranding can also be found in passive structures when a verb taking a PP complement is passivised, in this case preposition stranding is obligatory: The new student was talked about.

prepositional complementiser

the complementiser for, introducing non-finite declarative clauses. Due to its prepositional origin it can assign accusative Case to visible subjects of infinitival clauses, e.g. in It is important for Jane/her to win the game. It is very easy to make a difference between for used as a preposition and for used as a complementiser: when for is followed only by a DP it is a preposition (I bought a bar of chocolate for my kids on Saturday.), when it is followed by a DP and a to-infinitive it is a prepositional complementiser introducing an IP. The DP appears in the specifier position of this IP as subjects in general do (It is advisable for you to prepare well for the syntax exam.).

prepositional object

the complement DP of a preposition.

prepositional verb

a verb with a prepositional complement, e.g. look at sg


the phonologically empty DP appearing in the subject position of non-finite clauses. It bears Null Case and takes the theta-role assigned by the non-finite verb to its subject.

productive morpheme

a morpheme that can be attached regularly to any appropriate stem. The formation of the past tense with the ed ending is a productive process, a new verb that enters the English language will be formed with this morpheme, thus, the ed ending to express past tense is a productive morpheme.

progressive aspect

the event is viewed as being in progress, e.g. I was having a bath when my sister arrived. Having a bath was an activity in progress when the other past activity happened.

Projection Principle

lexical information is syntactically represented.


those DPs that cannot have a binder within the binding domain. See also anaphor.


a DP that usually refers to another DP, but contains only the grammatical features (number, person, gender) of it (I, you, he, she, etc.). Its interpretation depends on linguistic factors or the situation. Within the DP pronouns occupy the D head position, as they cannot be modified by determiners even on very special readings (as opposed to grammaticality of the John I met yesterday)

proper noun

a name, e.g. John, Wendy Smith, the Beatles. Within the DP it appears as an NP (as opposed to pronouns)

quantificational operator

an operator that is interpreted like quantificational pronouns like every, all, some, e.g. wh-elements in questions. See also anaphoric operator.


a determiner that expresses a definite or indefinite amount or number of the nominal expression it modifies, e.g. all, both, some, many, four.


the subject of weather-verbs (it in It's raining) and potentially there in existential there-constructions.


a process whereby the subject of an embedded infinitival clause moves to the subject position of the verb selecting the clause. In such structures the selecting verb is a one-argument verb selecting a clause (like seem). If the clause is non-finite, the subject of the embedded clause is not assigned Case within the clause, but since the subject position of the selecting verb is empty it can move there to be case-marked.

raising adjective

an adjective inducing raising, e.g. likely in Peter is likely to win.

raising verb

a verb inducing raising, e.g. seem, appear.


a constituent is recoverable if it can be identified even if it has undergone deletion. Recoverability is a condition on syntactic processes.

recursive rule

a rule where the definition refers to what is being defined, e.g. the adjunct rule. The same symbol appears on the left and on the right of the rewrite rule, so the rule can be applied indefinitely. The application of such a rule is optional for this reason.


something that refers to something. Lexical DPs are referential, e.g. anaphors are not, they gain reference by coindexation with a referential element.

reflexive pronoun

a DP without independent reference, e.g. himself. Reflexives always need an antecedent.


can be described with the help of a rule, e.g. the regular plural form of nominal expressions is formed by adding the plural morpheme s.

relative clause

relative clauses are adjoined to NPs, they give information about the nominal expression. See restrictive and non-restrictive relative clause.

Relativized Minimality

a rule expressing the locality conditions on movement, see also Locality Restrictions on Movement.

restrictive relative clause

a clause which modifies a noun by restricting its application to one of a number of possibilities. Restrictive relatives come in three forms: that-relative, wh-relative and zero relative.

rewrite rule

a phrase structure rule defining what the immediate constituents of e.g. a phrase are. On the left of the rule we find the phrase-type being defined followed by an arrow. On the right side of the arrow we can find the immediate constituents of the given phrase, which may be further rewritten. Bracketed constituents indicate optionality, the presence of a comma means that the order of the constituents is not restricted to the order found in the rule. See also adjunct rule, specifier rule, complement rule.


referential expression, a nominal with independent reference, e.g. Peter as opposed to he or himself.


the study of meaning. It covers both lexical meaning and the meaning of sentences with special emphasis on their truth conditions (under what circumstances a sentence is true/false).

sentence medial adverb

an adverb modifying the meaning of a verb appearing in a position adjoined to the VP. In traditional approaches it is used as a diagnostic test to decide whether a constituent moved upwards or downwards. If the sentence medial adverb precedes the inflected verb the inflectional head lowered onto the verbal head, e.g. in She ti always enjoy edi going to parties. If the sentence contains an inflected aspectual auxiliary this constituent precedes the sentence medial adverb indicating that the verbal head moved up to the inflectional head position: She is (bei +s) always ti singing./She has (havei+s) always ti enjoyed going to parties.

sentential adverb

an adverb which modifies the meaning of the sentence, e.g. fortunately.

singular noun

a noun denoting one entity, e.g. a teddy bear. Count nouns can be singular or plural.

sister nodes

two nodes that have the same mother.

small clause

a clause where a subject–predicate relationship is established but no inflectional element is present. The predicate can be expressed by an AP (I consider [her reliable]), a DP (I consider [her the best student]), or a PP (I want [these news in press]). Small clauses are often called verbless clauses but it is misleading since small clauses can contain VPs in certain cases like in I saw [him run away]. Such clauses are analysed as IPs where the zero agreement morpheme can be found as in several languages we find agreement markers on the subject and the predicate in these structures.


a nominal expression is specific if the speaker knows the identity of its reference. The sentence I am looking for a pen is ambiguous between a specific and a non-specific interpretation: the pen may be a certain pen the speaker has in mind or any pen may do.

specifier position

a position defined by X-bar Theory. The specifier is sister to X', daughter of XP. It is a phrasal position, the nature of the phrase depends on what it is the specifier of. E.g. the specifier of IP is the subject, the specifier of DP is the possessor in possessive structures.

specifier rule

one of the three rules of X-bar Theory of the following form:

XP ® YP X'

where the specifier is the phrase-sized constituent preceding the intermediate projection. The order of YP and X' is fixed.

structural ambiguity

the source of ambiguity is not lexical. The different interpretations can be explained by assigning different structural representations to the ambiguous expression, e.g. in the DP an analysis of sentences with mistakes the PP with mistakes can be interpreted either as referring to the analysis or sentences. The structural difference between the representations will be the placement of the adjunct PP: in the former meaning the PP is the adjunct of the DP analysis, in the latter case it is the adjunct of the DP sentences.

Structure Preservation Principle

no movement can alter the basic X-bar nature of structure, structures are projected from the lexicon at all levels.

subcategorisation frame

that part of the lexical entry that states the categorial status of the complement.


a category under a main category, e.g. the category of intransitive verbs is a subcategory of the verbal category.


the argument that precedes the VP in the sentence. Also called the external argument since it occupies the specifier position of IP, the canonical subject position.

subject control

PRO can be coreferent either with the subject or the object of the preceding clause depending on the main verb. The verb promise is a subject-control verb, in the sentence I promise [PRO not to destroy my brother's castle again] PRO is coreferent with the subject.

subject movement

the movement of the subject from its base position (Spec,vP or Spec,VP) to a Case position (Spec,IP).

subject position

the position where subjects appear in the tree. The base position of the subject depends on its theta role. Agents and experiencers are generated in Spec,vP. Theme subjects appear in Spec,VP. These positions are not Case positions, so the subjects move to the canonical subject position, Spec, IP.

subject–auxiliary inversion

a descriptive cover term for the reverse order of the subject and the auxiliary in questions like Can you dance?, see also I-to-C movement.


a) one of the constituency tests to define whether a certain constituent is the same type as another. If a constituent can be substituted by another one it is assumed to be of the same type. E.g. lexical nominal expressions can be substituted by pronoun forms, so they are both assumed to be DPs: The girl I met yesterday/She will visit her family tomorrow.

b) a type of movement where a constituent is moved into an empty position already existing prior to movement, see also adjunction.


a bound morpheme added to the end of the word, e.g. ful in mouthful.

superlative form of adjectives

comparison to a higher (or in the case of least lower) degree when there are more than two agents involved: He is the tallest of us. The periphrastic way of forming the superlative is with the help of most: He is the most sophisticated man I have ever met.


post-movement structure containing the traces of moved constituents.


the study of sentence structure


a syntactic category with the help of which we can locate an event or situation in time. In syntactic representation information about tense can be found within the vP appearing directly under the IP in the form of -s, -ed or the zero tense morpheme.


a relative clause that is introduced by the complementiser that: The cat that I found yesterday.

thematic category

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

thematic hierarchy

the hierarchy of the assignment of thematic roles. Agents are higher than experiencers, which in turn are higher than themes. The theta-roles lower on the hierarchy have to be assigned first (if present).

thematic role

see theta-role.


one of the thematic roles where the argument is not affected by the action described by the verb e.g. in Peter saw John nothing directly happens to John as a result of being seen. In terms of the UTAH the theme theta-role is assigned to the specifier position of the VP.

there-construction: see existential there-construction.

Theta Criterion

– a Θ-role must be assigned to one and only one argument

– an argument must bear one and only one Θ-role.

Theta Theory

a module of GB accounting for how verbs assign theta-roles to their arguments.


that part of a predicate’s lexical entry which informs us about what theta-roles the predicate has.


the assignment of theta-roles.

theta role

the semantic role of the participants as required by the predicate. E.g. verbs define what kind of semantic relationship is to be established between the verb itself and the arguments of the verb, and arguments are selected accordingly. The verb kick calls for an agent subject, so its subject position cannot be occupied by e.g. my CD-player.

three-place predicate

a predicate with three arguments, e.g. give.


an infinitive appearing with to, a non-finite verb-form.


an element appearing in front of the subject with a special interpretation (something like ‘as far as topic is concerned’). Topics have either already been mentioned before in a conversation or can be interpreted as easily accessible due to the context.


a process which moves an element interpreted as a topic to the front of the sentence.


moved constituents leave traces in the position where they have been moved from. Once a trace is present in a structure, no other constituent can land in the position occupied by it.

transitive verb

a verb with a nominal complement, e.g. read, buy. The agentive subject occupies the specifier position of vP, the theme object occupies the specifier position of VP.

tree diagram

a representation of grammatical structure containing nodes connected by branches.

two-place predicate

a predicate with two arguments, e.g. write.

unaccusative verb

a verb taking one argument to which it assigns a theme theta-role in the specifier position of a VP. They may also optionally take a location or path argument expressed by a PP. Some of the unaccusative verbs in English are arrive, appear, sit, they are typically verbs of movement or location. Unaccusative verbs can appear in the existential there construction or locative inversion structures. They do not take objects of any kind, see also cognate object.


a feature can have values which are not determined. [±F] is supposed to be such a feature in the classification of word categories. The categories with underspecified features are the following: aspectual auxiliaries [–N, +V], measure nouns [+N, –V], post-determiners [+N, +V], the non-thematic, non-functional uses of the prepositions of and by [–N, –V]

ungradable adjective

an adjective that has no comparative and superlative forms. The absence of these forms is due to semantic reasons. E.g. polar, atomic

Uniform Theta-role Assignment Hypothesis (UTAH)

a Θ-role is assigned in the same structural position in all structures in which it is present.


see phonologically empty


one of the three basic binary features on which all categories can be defined. With the help of these features we can explain why we have the categories that we do and also describe how these categories are related. With the help of the three binary features we can predict what kinds of categories are possible in human language, we can give an exclusive list of them. Since we want to define verbs and nouns as polar opposites the abstract binary features [±N] and [±V] were introduced, though obviously they do not mean noun and verb and are used to define other categories besides nouns and verbs. The categories with [±V] feature are the following: a. thematic: verbs, prepositions; b. functional: inflections, degree adverbs, aspectual auxiliaries; unspecified for the [F] value: aspectual auxiliaries, post-determiners.


a word used to describe an event or situation that can appear in one of the five verb forms. Feature composition: [–N, +V, –F].

verb forms

base form, past tense form, the third person singular present form, the perfective (same as passive) form and the progressive form.

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.

verb–particle construction

a structure where the particle appearing together with the verb does not function as a preposition, which forms a unit with its DP complement. Rather, the particle seems to form a unit with the verb. Several differences between verb–particle constructions and prepositional verb structures follow from this, e.g. a preposition can be moved together with its DP complement, a particle cannot: in this hut, he lived for ten years/*off this hat, he took in an instant.


a distinction between active voice and passive voice. It applies only to sentences containing transitive verbs.

voiced sound

a sound produced with the vibration of the vocal cords, e.g. d, z, g.

voiceless/unvoiced sound

a sound produced without the vibration of the vocal cords, e.g. t, s, k.

vP (pronounced: little vP)

a phrase headed by a light verb taking a VP complement hosting agent or experiencer arguments in its specifier position. For a list of elements that can appear in vp see light verb.

VP adverb

an adverb which modifies the meaning of the verb, e.g. always, already, never.

VP-Internal Subject Hypothesis

the hypothesis according to which subjects are not base-generated in the specifier position of IP but move there from within the vP or VP where they are selected and theta-marked by the verb (see also canonical subject position). The movement of the DP is case-motivated.


vP-projection(s) on VP: if the event structure of the verb is complex, the structural representation of the verb will be complex, too. The number of vP-shells surrounding the VP core depends on the theta-role of the arguments. If there is an agent or an experiencer selected by the verb one vP-projection is needed. If both an agent and an experiencer are present there are two vPs, the lower hosting the experiencer.


question word. Question words often but not always begin with these letters, e.g. where, what, when, who, whom. The question word how is also considered a wh-element. Whether, although a word beginning with wh is not considered to be a wh-element in this sense.


though in certain cases whether is interchangeable with if, which is a complementiser, whether cannot be regarded as such since it does not impose selectional restrictions on the finiteness of the clause following it. Both I wonder whether to invite him and I wonder whether I should invite him are grammatical. Rather, whether is assumed to occupy the specifier position of CP similarly to wh-elements. An argument in favour of this approach is that whether also introduces only interrogative clauses.


the movement of wh-element to the beginning of the clause. This movement is obligatory in English.


a question containing a wh-element. It cannot be answered with yes or no.


a relative clause introduced not by a complementiser but a wh-element: The girl [whom I invited].

word category

a set of expressions that share certain linguistic features, a grouping of words that cluster together, e.g. noun, verb. See also functional category, thematic category.

X-bar theory

a module of GB containing three very simple rules to describe the structure of the expressions of a language. See also specifier rule, complement rule, adjunct rule.

yes–no question

a question that can be answered either with yes or no, formed either by inverting the auxiliary with the subject as in Would you like to go to the cinema? or the insertion of dummy do as in Did you enjoy the performance?.

zero inflectional morpheme

as the morphology of the English language is rather impoverished very often we have no visible markers of person and number agreement on the verb (the exception being the third person singular s morpheme in the present tense). In the other cases the inflection is assumed to be present in an invisible form. The zero inflectional morpheme is one without phonological realisation but it has syntactic functions to fulfil in the structure.

zero level projection

the head of a phrase, X in an XP.

zero relative

a relative clause that could be but is not introduced by an overt complementiser: The man [- I told you about yesterday].

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Basic English Syntax with Exercises