Some questions about part of speech

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wyl118
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Some questions about part of speech

Post by wyl118 »

Hi guys! I'm a graduate students from Korea. I have some questions about part of speech and tree. Could you help me a little? Thank you in advance!

And here are my three questions:

I know that in "give me the phone", "the phone" is a complement, but is "to me" or "me" also a complement in "give the phone to me"?

What is the part of speech of "eating" in "I'm eating a burger."? Is it adjective?

What is the relationship between "leather" and "sofa" in "the leather sofa"? Does "leather" modify "sofa"?

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Ser
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Re: Some questions about part of speech

Post by Ser »

wyl118 wrote:
23 Mar 2020 14:19
And here are my three questions:

I know that in "give me the phone", "the phone" is a complement, but is "to me" or "me" also a complement in "give the phone to me"?
Both "the phone" and "to me" could be considered complements of the verb "give". You may want to consider how the term "complement" has been defined in your class to know your professors expect. (This can be subject to different definitions.)
What is the part of speech of "eating" in "I'm eating a burger."? Is it adjective?
Man, I can see why you're struggling in this course... "Eating" is a verb here. They're probably assuming you already understand this...

Actually, I'm rather surprised you don't know, since most decent English speakers I've known from Korea have an alright understanding of English grammar. Maybe you're one of those that learned a lot from experience in plenty of exposure to real-world English. [:P]

In traditional English grammar (as in ESL, or typical English classes for native speakers when they're taught a little about grammar) "am eating" is considered one verb in the "present progressive tense", a form of the verb "to eat".

In English linguistics, "am" is an auxiliary verb and "eating" is a non-finite verb. Different people have different opinions on what the relationship between those two verbs is:
- Some will say "am" is the head of an "IP" (inflection phrase) or "TP" (tense phrase) or less commonly "VP" (verb phrase) while "eating" is a VP of its own inside that IP/TP/VP that "am" is the head of. (Tree)
- Others will say "eating" is the head of a VP, and "am" is an "Aux" modifier of its head. (Tree)

You need to review what has been taught in your class to know what answer is expected.
What is the relationship between "leather" and "sofa" in "the leather sofa"? Does "leather" modify "sofa"?
Yes, "leather" modifies "sofa". "Leather sofa" is a noun-noun compound. You may want to read about different types of compound nouns by the effects the components have on meaning, for example, here on Wikipedia.
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Salmoneus
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Re: Some questions about part of speech

Post by Salmoneus »

Ser wrote:
26 Mar 2020 22:08
What is the part of speech of "eating" in "I'm eating a burger."? Is it adjective?
Man, I can see why you're struggling in this course... "Eating" is a verb here.
Yeah, but... is it, though?
In English linguistics, "am" is an auxiliary verb and "eating" is a non-finite verb. Different people have different opinions on what the relationship between those two verbs is:
- Some will say "am" is the head of an "IP" (inflection phrase) or "TP" (tense phrase) or less commonly "VP" (verb phrase) while "eating" is a VP of its own inside that IP/TP/VP that "am" is the head of. (Tree)
- Others will say "eating" is the head of a VP, and "am" is an "Aux" modifier of its head. (Tree)
Yeah, but... is it, though?

"Eating" has the same form as a participle (and a participle is an adjective). "Eating" has the same syntax as a participle (once upon a time, they even agreed in number with the subject, back when adjectives agreed in number with things). "Eating" has the same semantics as a participle. Its distribution parallels other adjectives: "This is a blue dog" > "This dog is blue"; "This is a burning house" > "This house is burning", etc. You can even substantivise it in the same way as any other adjective (and in the same way that you can't do for verbs...): "Those who are replete should not steal from those who are lacking" > "The replete should not steal from the lacking".

Given the same phonology, morphology, word order, distribution and semantics as an adjective, isn't it kind of just sophistry to say that this adjective is in some sense "really" a verb? I mean, maybe linguists say that, sure, but linguists do talk a lot of nonsense much of the time (cf all that 'TP' malarky). Why should we believe them in this case?

Sure, the participle in a progressive construction is an unusual sort of adjective - like other participles, it takes a direct object, rather than an indirect or genitive object as other adjectives do. But that tiny difference aside, it's much more like another adjective (i.e. virtually identical) than like a verb (i.e. virtually nothing in common other than etymology).

And for what it's worth the type of linguist who talks about TPs and IPs and so on may call it a verb, but in my experience the type of linguist who talks about languages (the kind who write practical grammars, who write about historical and comparative linguistics, etc) tend to call this a periphrastic construction with progressive semantics, formed from a copula and a participle. To me, this analysis seems much more grounded in reality...

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Re: Some questions about part of speech

Post by Ser »

Well, I wrote my answer taking an educated guess on what wyl118's homework is likely about. You're preaching to the choir there.

I'm not much of a fan of TPs or IPs either, or of the various fashions that have appeared for thinking about trees in the Generative tradition. In practice, the model I tend to use is basically Dependency Grammar, with words being groupable into (possibly discontinuous) constituents.
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Re: Some questions about part of speech

Post by Nachtuil »

I'm with you guys too. haha.
It is a huge pedagogical gripe for me how sometimes it is presented as if "walking" in "I am walking" being the verb is the only legitimate analysis. That drives me up the wall though so many can't just explain "though there are other ways to look at this we are learning this system of analysis". One of my personal bugbears with some ideas in linguistics stem from when an analysis fails to look at things diachronically where so much of grammar is actually fluid and not static. I find approaches to linguistics which deal with data continuously rather than discretely much easier on my soul.

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Re: Some questions about part of speech

Post by Curlyjimsam »

Part of the purpose of this sort of exercise (at least at graduate level, I would hope) is to get students to think about tricky questions - is "eating" really a verb here? Why isn't it an adjective or a noun, given it can be used as an adjective or a noun in other contexts?

"give me the phone" presents another sort of difficulty. It looks like both me and the phone are complements, but is a verb even allowed to have two complements? What does that look like in the tree?

Is "leather" a noun or an adjective? What are the arguments each way?

Students need more than just "here are the correct answers, now go away and apply them to new data". We don't know the correct answers, and when we think we do we still need to understand the thought process behind them. That means weighing up the arguments behind each possibility. The intention of questions like these is to teach students to think like linguisticians, not just apply a preordained framework like an automaton.
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Re: Some questions about part of speech

Post by Ser »

Yeah, but judging by wyl118's previous questions about basic morphophonology like assimilation, it sounds like he might be taking an undergraduate linguistics course. Maybe he's actually in a computer science graduate program and just needs to take a couple linguistics courses alongside, or something along those lines.

And when I took some undergraduate courses, as you know, we were just presented with a model and then told to argue our way to fit sample data into the model. Here is what trees with TPs and CPs are like, now please make a tree of this sentence, and mention any problems you encounter. That kind of thing.
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