Phrase Constituency break-up   DP
(a) *Which do you want to read book? => [DP Which book] ...
(c) *What did she take class? => [DP Whose car]...
(c) *What did she take class? => [DP What class]...

In similar terms, we can extend the analogy here and account for the (non-standard) ungrammaticality of the preposition standing structure with a [-Nom] Case Wh-feature {-m} below:

(d) *Whom did you write the letter to =>
[PP to whom] [-Nom] case
  (i) To whom did you write the letter?  
  (ii) Who did you write the letter to?  
(Colloquial: no case feature)
(Prep standing is mandatory)
  (iii) *To who did you write the letter?  

NB. The reason for the colloquial (standard) acceptance of (ii) but not (iii) above may be due to the fact that no Case marking surfaces on the wh-word (who) in (ii): (this form of who seems to function as a "default status" Object apparently without the otherwise required [-Nom] case inflection of {m} and may be thought of has a default by which no functional features are projected--hence, given that there are no functional Case features in which to check, the Prep 'to' is "allowed" to remain stranded (a structure called Preposition Standing). In (iii), the [-Nom] case inflection does not surface on who yet the Preposition To (acting as the adjacent functional word involved with the case checking) has been moved and positioned as part of the PP chain specifically for the reason of feature/case checking. Interestingly, it seems that Prep Stranding may flourish in environments where the functional feature of case is ignored, but not otherwise.

(e) *Who did you borrow 's car => [DP Which book] ...
(f) *Who's did you borrow car?    
(g) Whose did you borrow? => [DP Whose] [+Pron/ +Gen]

The example in (220d) shows us that the Determiner whom must remain adjacent to the Preposition at least for two reasons: (i) in order to check-off the appropriate functional features having to do with Case--recalling our earlier discussion that a Preposition carries with it a [-Nom] Case feature--and (ii) to maintain its Phrase constituency. Consider the phrase structures of (221d,e) below:





4. Movement & Constituency

The idea of feature checking, forming chains, etc. now leads us to further examine the role of Movement and Constituency.

(223) Movement
Perhaps the most interesting linguistic phenomenon of all is the idea that language allows movement--and we are not talking about an abstract metaphysical idea of movement here, but a movement that is both physiologically and physically real: physiological in the sense that psycho-linguistic experiments have detected such movement/traces (in the brain), and physical in the sense that movement can even affect one's phonological output (see 'wanna' contraction below). For example, we had earlier looked at instances of movement regarding Aux. Inversion (of Yes-No Questions) where the Aux. was seen to move across the subject into front position: Are you t fixing dinner ? (You are fixing dinner) (leaving a trace (t) index behind to show movement). Well, movement in general seems to be a very productive means of forming abstract grammatical rules--the Yes-No Question Aux-inversion rule just being one amongst a number of possible movement operations. Below, we sketch out and organize some general movement operations by asking (i) "How" the movement takes place, and (ii) "Where" the movement takes place: our "how" question examines the movement operation per se and asks what types of elements are involved; while our "where" question examines at what level does the movement take place (e.g., word-level, phrase-level, etc.). Much of the discussion on Movement today centers around the idea that it is the need to check-off functional features which forces movement. In other words, if a given language-a were ever considered to hold no functional categories, then a strong case could be made that all sentences structure types would be base-generated (that is, all words would remain in their original positions) showing no movement. Claims of this kind have appeared showing that some languages have more movement as opposed to other languages, and that these differences in movement are directly linked to the qualitative & quantitative measures of the given language's functional features.

(224) Constituency
One very important finding that has come out of a Phrase-Structure grammar has been the notion of constituency. A Constituent is defined as a structural unit or component--i.e., an expression which is one of the components out of which a Phrase/Sentence is built up. For example, in considering a Verb Phrase likes ice-cream, the components which build up the VP would include the two constituents Verb like and Noun ice-cream--generating the Phrase [VP [ V like-s] [N ice-cream]]. What we have found in the study of syntax is that phrases form tightly knit constituencies that cannot be broken or torn apart by separating/movement operations. So, in a nut shell, what we can say is that whatever adjacency condition might have come out of our functional-to-lexical relationships as discussed through this text, a similar (and closely inter-dependent) condition also stipulates that the components which make-up a phrase must remain adjacent--keeping the phase whole.

(225) Particle/Inflection Movement

In a real sense, the smallest form of movement takes place at the morphological level--morphology being defined as the smallest unit of meaning. One classic example of this particle movement has come to be known as Affix Hoping (see below). The affix particle can be seen as moving and inserting itself across word boundaries in an number of ways. Consider the examples below showing different forms of affix movement (Inflection):

(226) Verb Tense Inflection: {s} & {ed} Movement

(227) Verb Inflection: {ing} Verb:


(228) Affix hopping
Consider the following example of affix hopping:

(i) The grammatical Aux. rule of the Present Perfect Progressive is:
[ [Subject] + Aux (=> Tense) + [have + {en}] + [ be + {ing}] + [Main Verb] ]

(ii) The exact sequence of the elements above should then give you:
* The student s have en be ing read (with read serving as the main verb here)
=> wrongly yielding: s-have en-be ing-read

(iii) The actual target sentence is:
The student ha-s be-en read-ing.
(The student has been reading)
In order to yield the proper sequencing of elements, movements or affix hopping must apply accordingly:

(229) => The student have + {s} be + {en} read + {ing}

So as you can see, there indeed is a real sense of movement even at the smallest level of language--the morpheme. This type of movement is usually what is behind the term Inflection since Inflectional Processes take a morphological (functional) affix and inflect it onto a (lexical) stem.

(230) Word level movement

The best examples of Word-Level movement can be found in operator movements such as Wh-Questions. Consider the word movements below:

(231) Wh-movement

In English, the Wh-words (what, where, when, who(m), why, which, how) originate at the end of a sentence (as a DP-object) and move into the front position (a term sometimes called Wh-fronting). The rule for such Wh-movement is also triggered by an adjacency condition which stipulates that a Wh-word can never sit alongside a subject--hence, the adjacent rule calls for an abstract Auxiliary "do" (or any other Aux. depending on the specific grammar at hand: e.g., progressive "be" or perfect "have") to insert in order to satisfy the condition--e.g., [Wh-word] + {Aux} + [Subject].

So what we have here is a Wh-word that has in fact originated at the end of the sentence, and has, via movement, positioned itself into the front of the sentence. Consider the examples below showing such Wh-movement:

(a) Ann is doing what?  
(a') What is Ann
doing t (i) showing Aux Inversion
(ii) showing Wh-movement
( the index t shows trace of the movement  


(b) You want which film?
(b) Which film do You
( the index t shows trace of the movement

Notice that which films functions as a DP-object constituent and cannot be torn apart via movement:

(c) *Which do you want film?

(233) Diagramming Wh-movement

Diagramming Wh-movements and Aux Inversions can be tricky. They require one to posit additional structure to a phrase tree. Thus far, we have been starting our Trees with an S (to mark Sentence): [S [DP][MVP]]. This seems to hold up nicely when drawing simple SVO sentences without movement. Once we incorporate movement however, we need some additional phrase markers to host the moved elements--a marker that must be added to the top outermost layer of an already established S-structure. In more recent syntactic analyses, the upper-most phrase which can host moved elements have been labeled Complementizer Phrase (CP). The CP then sits on top of an S. In more recent terminology, the "S" label has likewise been made redundant and has been reanalyzed as an Inflectional Phrase (IP) since as part of the definition of a Sentence, the [+Fin] Main Verb is required to be inflected for Aux. functional material. The Verb Phrase analysis has not changed. So then, using more recent Phrase Structure terminology, we get an IP>VP tree (where IP=S) for all SVO declarative structures and a CP>IP>VP for all interrogative structures. (See Appendix-1 for a final word regarding tree diagramming). While Considering the newly fashioned CP>IP>VP tree below, note that all trace indexes serve as a quasi-functional category in themselves, labeled herein as an empty-category. The syntactic role of the empty category (or trace) is to recall where the moved element originated from within the original basic order of the sentence. Due to theory internal assumptions, elements may only move upward through a tree (down-ward movement is banned).

(234) The full CP>IP>VP Tree

Note that the DP-object of the VP (which films) is shadowed in order to show that the DP object which contains a Wh-word (which) was originally generated VP-internal but has since moved into the CP in front of the sentence.

(235) Aux. movement
As mentioned above, the Auxiliary word too has the capacity to move:

(a) DO YOU take this (lovely) bride as your life-long (weary) wife?
(b) I DO!

Clearly, one can see the all too conspicuous movement of the Aux "do" (again, triggering the Yes-No question grammar: Do I? I do!). These above are easily recognizable examples of movement, but sometimes movement is less conspicuous and involves a more convoluted analysis. Consider examples of "wanna" contractions and Negative "not" movements below:

(236) wanna contraction
The "wanna" contraction example of movement is perhaps the most interesting of them all since it also demonstrates, in one full sweep, the fact that an empty category--indicated here by a trace--continues to have a real linguistic influence over the sentence. Although an empty category doesn't continue to have a phonological shape (there is no sound) it maintains a real syntactic presence. Consider the two sentence types below--where one overtly demonstrates the effect of a syntactically real empty (null) category (the e-category is denoted herein as e):

(237) Possible wanna contraction

Derived order (showing movement) Original order (before movement)
(a) Who do you want to help? (a') You want to help who?
=> Who do you "wanna" help? => You "wanna" help who?


Syntax showing traces/empty categories:
(b) Whoi doii You eii want to help ei?
(c) (You do want to help who?)


(238) No Possible wanna contraction

Derived order (showing movement) Original order (before movement)
(a) Who do you want to help you? (a') You want who to help you?
=> *Who do You wanna help you => *You do wanna who help you?
=> Who do You want to help you? (no contraction)


Syntax showing traces/empty categories:
(b) Whoi doii You eii want ei to help you?
(c) (You do want who to help who?)

Notice in (238b) above that there is an intervening empty category/trace (ei) situated between the Main Verb want and the following infinitive "to" particle (to help) which blocks any possible phonological contraction of want-to to "wanna". Hence, in a real sense, we can say that an otherwise phonologically null category maintains a certain amount of syntactic relevance in overt syntax. The "wanna" contraction cannot contract here since there is in the underlying syntax an empty category maker keeping a grip on its syntactic space. This should come at no surprise to us considering that we have discussed elsewhere the relevance of the zero allomorph {ø} in DPs--e.g., where a pronoun was said to take on a functional categorical status via an empty zero allomorph in D (restated here):


    I......speak English (English)
  (Yo) ø.....hablo inglés (Spanish)


(240) N't contraction

Similar to the "wanna" contraction, there's a type of movement that seemingly applies to a Negative "n't" when it is realized as a clitic (that is, when "n't" has no phonological syllabic structure of its own and is morphologically fastened onto a verb stem). Consider the negative clitic movement below:


(a) Marie does not speak French. :Base Order
(b) Doesn'tt Marie t speak French? :(moved clitic n't showing trace)
(c) Doest Marie t not speak French? :(lexical not remains in base position)
(d) *Does not Marie speak French? :(lexical not cannot move)
(e) *Does n't Marie speak French? :(clitic n't must attach to verb stem)
(f) * Does Marie n't speak French? :(clitic n't isn't a lexical word)

Note that when not is a lexical word (with its own syllabic stress), it cannot move across the Subject (Marie), but rather must preserve the original base order [Aux Verb + not] configuration. (Conversely, as a clitic {n't} can never be left dangling on its own without a verb stem.) It is only when not is generated as a clitic (= n't ) that we find it getting a free ride--'piggy-backing' on the Auxiliary verb do. Again, the reason for this syntactic maneuvering is due to the fact that the clitic n't is realized as part of the phonological Verb Stem, and so it travels wherever the verb goes (a kind of adhesive clue has been applied tying the clitic to the verb stem forming one phonological chunk).

(242) Phrase level

Having examined movement operations from a variety of word positions (e.g., Wh-word, Aux-word, wanna contraction and negative clitic movement) we can begin to look at the next level of language (the phrase) and see if movement can likewise be found. One example of movement found at the phrase level has to do with Prepositional Phrase (PP)-movement (or fronting). Recall that PPs originate at the back of the sentences since one of it major roles is to check the [-Nom] Accusative Case Feature to its counterpart DP-Object (sometimes this functional feature is referred to as Oblique Case). As a way of marking emphasis, the PP often gets fronted. Consider PP-movement below (noting that the constituency condition which stipulates that all phrases must be kept intact during movement operations continues to hold throughout):

(243) PP-movement

(a) In the beginning, God created the word (t). (showing PP-movement)

[PP [P In] [DP [-Nom] the beginning], God create the word.

(b) God created the word in the beginning. (showing original SVO base order)

(244) Other example of PP-movement

(a) Under no condition should children be left alone.
(b) Between you and me, I think our Presidential choice stinks.
(c) After the storm, the children played in the park.
(d) Without any hesitation, our militia killed the trained killers.
(e) With guns, our troops keep the peace.

Note that in (c) above where you have two PPs, (in the park & after the storm respectively) only the last of the two PPs fronts. One wouldn't say The children played after the storm in the park--the sequencing would have us utilize the last PP after the storm as a (time) modification to the (place-preposition) in the park (it seems "place" supercedes "time" according to a prepositional hierarchy). This kind of hierarchy might also be found amongst Adjectival Phrases (AdjP) whereby certain adjectives supercede others--e.g., The red brick house vs. *The brick red house, where "color" comes before "material", etc.).

Consider the structure below showing PP-fronting:

(245) Sentence: PP-move


(246) DP-Movement (Dative Shift)

A second type of movement at the phrase level has to do with DP-movement-- sometimes called Dative Shift. In a nutshell, Dative shift has to do with variable orderings of Direct and Indirect objects within the predicate. Typically speaking, the Direct Object (=DO) comes first as the complement of the verb with the Indirect Object (=IO) following (e.g., the complement of a Prepositional Phrase). Consider the sentences below which afford possible DP shifts:

(a) John gave the book to Mary.
  (i) John gave [ [DO DP1 the book] [PP to [IO DP2 Mary]] ]
(b) John gave Mary the book.
  (i) John gave [ [IO DP2 Mary] [DO DP1 the book] ]
  (ii) John gave [ [( PP to) IO DP2 Mary] [DO DP1 the book] ]

Note that the Preposition {to} may delete in (247b,i) due this Dative Shift. What is of interest to us here is that two DPs [ [D ø] [N Mary] ] & [ [D the] [N book] ] seem to switch position within the predicate. In tree diagramming such shifts, it's possible to simply draw the two DPs as an adjacent double phrase projection:

(248) Double DPs




(249) Clause Level

Movement at the Clause-Level is typically associated with certain sentence structure types such as Dep(endent) and Indep(endent) clauses (forming C(omplex) S(entences)). In most cases, the movement here involves the dependent clause--which is typically positioned as the final clause of the sentence--moving out from its final position and seating in the front position of the sentence. Consider the following Clause-Level movements within Complex sentences below:

(251) Sentence level

Movement at the Sentence-Level is typically associated with the Passive grammar. Whereas we normally speak in the SVO Active voice, the Passive voice turns the word order on its head yielding a kind of OVS mirror image ordering. (See (136) above). Consider the passive movement at the sentence level below:

(252) Passive voice

(a) John announced the names of the linguists. (S-VO active)
(a') The names of the linguists were announce by John. (OV-S passive)
(b) The French students gave a going-away party. (S-VO active)
(b') A 'going-away' party was given by the French students. (OV-S passive)


(253) Middle voice

(a) John easily slices the cheese. (active voice)
(a') The cheese was easily sliced by John. (passive voice)
(a") Cheese slices nicely. (middle voice)



5. A Summary of Common Grammatical Errors

In this last section, we draw our attention to grammatical mistakes. It is indeed the case that mistakes have gotten a bad rap in recent days and (prescriptive) teachers tend to shy away from them, expelling them at all coast. For the (descriptive) linguist however, mistakes can often provide a window into how the brain actually goes about processing language. In the following sections, we briefly examine common grammatical errors found at the various levels of language.

5.1 Feature-Level

Because Features are precisely the smallest (atomic) sub-particles of language, they can often go misspelled without very little notice. The first feature to consider is Case.

(254) Case

One classic error regarding Case has to do with the Prepositional Phrase. Recall in our discussions that the Preposition, (being a functional category) assigns a specific feature of [-Nom] Case to its complement DP-object. The confusion here typically has to do with PP-fronting and the relevant Case spell-out on the fronted DP. This type of error seems to rely on a confusion between the initial DP-object (which, due to fronting, might appear as a subject) and the embedded DP-subject. Consider the following Case errors below:

(a) Nonstandard: *Between you and I, the teachers need an increase in their pay.
(a') Standard: Between you and me, the teachers need an increase in their pay

The error seems to arise out of the counterexample:
(a") You and I/(*me) need pay raises.

Of course in (255a") above, the pronoun I gets [+Nom] Case because it's the subject--not so the case for (255a) where the teachers is the subject.

(b) Nonstandard: For *John and she, love seems to come naturally.
(b') Standard: For John and her, love seems to come naturally

The original base sentence here for (255b) is: Love seems to come naturally for John and her where the DP-subject Love takes a [+Nom] Case feature and John and her (=them) take on [-Nom] Case as the DP-object(s).

(c) Nonstandard: Mary cooked *John and I a Mexican dinner.
(c') Standard: Mary cooked John and me a Mexican dinner

The structure in (c) is: Mary cooked [ (for) us [DP-object] (=John and me) ] a dinner.

In addition to Preposition fronting, the seemingly innocent insertions of the conjunctions and or or also tend to cause confusion regarding proper Case spell-out. Consider the examples below:

(a) Nonstandard: *Me and John want to take syntax.
(a') Standard: John and I want to take syntax.
  => John and I (= We [+Nom] Case).
(b) Nonstandard: He offered *my sister and I a full grant.
(b') Standard: He offered my sister and me a full grant.
  => my sister and me (= Us [-Nom] Case)
(c) Nonstandard: Like *you and I, the teacher dislikes reciting notes.
  => you and me (= Us [-Nom] Case) => AdvP-fronting


A second classic example of Case errors has to do with the over extension of the [+Nom] Pronoun in the following copular examples:

(a) Nonstandard: It is/was I. It is/was we. It is/was she. It is/was they.
(b) Standard: It is/was me. It is/was us. It is/was her. It is/was them.

Although some prescriptive grammarians still maintain the old relic of Latin [+Nom] Case on the Pronouns for the above examples, I remain baffled to think that any relation at all should have ever arisen between English (a Germanic language) and Latin-based languages. It was once thought that English should be modeled after Latin (the so called 'mother of all tongues' ), and in Latin (notwithstanding variable word orders) the subject could be dropped rendering copular verb (be) construct øV, V,S orders (with the latter showing a type of subject movement) e.g., ø Is I, or in Italian ø Sono or Sono Io (= It's me), and Spanish ø Soy Yo. If we really want English to be a Latin language, then perhaps we should start-off by simply stipulating that all subjects can likewise be optionally dropped in all sentences (since Latin permits it). Note that Latin-based languages keep Subject Verb Agreement e.g., Sono Io ( = agreement " am I " and not " is I" ). Our English counterparts do no such thing: e.g., It is we (as opposed to the agreeing *It are we which is never spoken in English) goes without Subject [+Nom] Verb Agreement.

(258) Agreement

Typically speaking, errors of Agreement commonly result in (embedded) relative clauses where the Subject and Verb agreeing components might somehow get buried in the embedding. Consider the following relative clause examples:

(259) Nonstandard:
(a) The students in my class [who *is studying syntax] *does a lot of work.
  => Subject [3P,+Pl], (relative clause) Verb *[-Pl], Main Verb *[-Pl]
(b) The journalist [who *want to interview you] *work for the BBC.
(c) The book [that my father placed on the last two shelves] *are mine


(260) Standard:
(a') The students in my class [who are studying syntax] do a lot of work.
  => Subject [3P,+Pl], (relative clause) Verb [+Pl], Main Verb [+Pl]
(b') The journalist [who want-s to interview you] work-s for the BBC.
(c') The book [that my father placed on the last two shelves] is mine.

Very often the misspelling of agreement here relies on a confusion over where to identify the subject. For example, The book in (260c') is clearly the subject, however, there seems to be a general failure to recognize the true subject and, consequentially, erroneously treat the DP of the embedded clause as a subject since it is the closest to the verb (in adjacency). The DP the last two shelves in (c) very often gets wrongly treated as the DP-subject which in turn wrongly agrees with the adjacent verb. Factors of Phonology and adjacency seem to complicate the Agreeing mechanism of features

This same Agreement failure often occurs with the pleonastic DP There.


(a) Nonstandard: There's several people being fired from the company.
  => Several people *is/are...
  => Subject-DP [+Pl] Verb [+Pl]
(a') Standard: There are several people being fired from the company.

The pronoun (pleonastic) There has no referential Agreement of its own (unlike the pronoun (pleonastic) It which is [3P], [+/-Nom] and so must take on the features of its referential DP-subject--in the case above, several students is the true DP-subject carrying features. This type of referential agreement between adjacent DPs is somewhat similar to what we find with reflexives--e.g., John hurt himself/*herself/*ourselves, etc.

Our last example of Agreement error is perhaps the most common. It seems that an intervening preposition can often cause havoc with identifying the true subject:


(a) Nonstandard: The development of pedagogies *are discussed.
(b) Nonstandard: The war between the two Indian tribes *were bloody.
(c) Nonstandard: The man sitting on the steps *work-ø for me.
=> Feature crash: [ DP-Subject [-Pl] ] [Verb [+Pl] ]
(a') Standard: The development of pedagogies is discussed.
(b') Standard: The war between the two Indian tribes was bloody.
(c') Standard: The man sitting on the steps work-s for me
  [ DP-Subject [-Pl] ] [Verb [-Pl] ]


(263) Though note these rare exceptions:
(a) Nonstandard: There *is a number of problems with this paper.
(b) Standard: There are a number of problems with this paper.
(c) A number of cars are made available. (Collective number)
  Subject-DP [-Def] Verb [+Pl]
(d) A limited number of cars is made available. (Distributional number)
  Subject-DP [+Def] Verb [-Pl]


In the above exception, the pleonastic there takes on a referential [+Pl] feature corresponding to the noun problems which, on the surface syntax, functions not as the actual subject, but rather as a complement to the genitive phrase ("of-problems" ). The differences between (c) and (d) above have to do with the Definiteness [+/-Def] feature on the D--it seems that all it takes is the insertion here of the adjective limited to render the DP [+Def] and therefore specific, which in turn alters the Verb's Number feature to [-Pl]. (See (48) above).



5.2 Sentence-Level/Punctuation

In all of writing, perhaps the three most common errors that come-up time and time again have to do with the general failure to know precisely what a sentence is, how it functions in our language, and how it should be punctuated in our writing. This failure often leads to the three classic errors: the Comma Splice (C/S), the Run-on Sentence (R/S) and the Sentence Fragment (S/F). Let's take each of them in turn.

(264) Comma Splice
A comma splice error occurs when one inserts a comma [ , ] instead of a necessary period [ . ]. This error typically occurs when one strongly feels that there needs to be something 'extra' added to the content of the sentence--at the expense of its overall structure. Whenever I talk to students about this error, the student's reasoning behind the error always follows a similar line of logic--'Well, I need to say something more about this and, in any event, it's connected: so, surely this second part of the sentence needs to be an extension of the first. No?' Well, this kind of logic never seems to fail--it must be some kind of a universal. Anyway: 'No! It needn't be extended to the first part of the sentence'. What you probably have here are two very good independent sentences that each can stand on their own. The fact that their contents are connected or associated in some way (as a contributing piece of the story) has nothing to do with them being proper self-containing sentences. Students tend to fail me here and insist that if they are not strung together, the reader somehow will go astray and wrongly assume that there is no association/connection between the two sentence--a response to which I am forced to recite the nursery tale below:

' [1] Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall [.]
[2] Humpty Dumpty had a great fall' [.]

And so here you have it--two sentences with indeed a very important connection (and still marked as two independent sentences). Both short sentences contain the all essential grammatical ingredients in making a sentence: (i) a Subject and (ii) a Predicate (with a Main Verb [+Tense] ). That's it. The moment you provide a Subject and Main Verb, your job as a sentence writer is done: a sentence has been formed. Of course, there are always other factors involved: (i) the Verb's [+/-] Intransitivity, (ii) the extension and elongation of a basic sentence with conjunctions (and/or), and Adjectives, etc. (iii) the adding of material onto its predicate (e.g., making it a complex sentence, etc.). But one thing you cannot do is pretend that the two sentence are one by inserting a simple comma between them--e.g., *Humpty sat on the wall, Humpty had a great fall [C/S]. Consider the following examples showing typical Comma Splices below:

(a) I took Mary out to dinner last night *[,] we both ate French food for the first time [C/S]

=> Sentences:

[1] I took Mary out to dinner last night.
[2] We both ate French food for the first time.


(b) We are protected under the U.S. Constitution *[,] the police have no right to take away our free speech [C/S].

=> Sentences:

[1] I took Mary out to dinner last night.
[2] We both ate French food for the first time.


(c) John was cheating for ages *[,] however his wife never seemed to mind[C/S]

=> Sentences:

[1] John was cheating for ages .
[2] (However = conjunction): His wife never seemed to mind.
(The conjunction however here links two sentences)


(d) His wife is shy *[,] she doesn't say much [C/S].

=> Sentences:

[1] His wife is shy.
[2] She doesn't say much.

As an exercise, consider the (bracket diagram) sentence structure of (d) above:

(267) [S [DP [D His][N wife] [MVP [V is][Adj shy] ]]]
(See §1.2 for a review of copula linking verbs).


(268) Run-on
Run-on sentences are the result of the lack of punctuation. Like the C/S above, R/S errors fail to acknowledge a complete sentence by simply running-on two or more sentences together (via a lack of a period or semicolon). (Brackets *[] indicate the absence of a period).

(a) John was cheating for ages *[] his wife didn't even know about it [R/S]

(b) We are protected under the U.S. Constitution *[] the police have no right to take away our free speech [R/S].

(c) I took Mary out to dinner last night *[] we both ate French food for the first time [R/S]

=> Sentences:

[1] The grammar students still feel they are unprepared.
[2] They are eager to take the exam. (however = conjunction)


(269) Sentence Fragment
Sentence fragments result when one attempts to treat an incomplete sentence (or dependent clause [D.C.)) as a sentence by marking it with a period. S/Fs tend to occur due to a general lack of a Subject and/or a lack of a Finite [+Tense] Verb. Students tend to generate S/Fs by thinking they can piggy-back the S/F on the heels of a complete sentence--and again like C/Ss, the error tends to rely on the student's confusion in thinking that a sentence that came immediately before can carry over the meaning onto the following incomplete sentence (perhaps, by way of association/connection) (as in (a) below). Consider the S/F examples below:

(a) The Prof. is never late. *[] Works very hard with his students S/F

[] shows a missing subject.

=> S/F Corrected: He (The Prof) works very hard with his students.


(b) *[] Because she wanted to save money S/F (because=subordinate conjunction)

[] shows a missing Independent Clause (I.C.).

=> S/F corrected: [I.C.] She opened a bank account

[D.C] because she wanted to save money.


(c) He bought a new car. *[] Which was red S/F.

[] shows a missing Independent clause

=> S/F corrected: [I.C. He bought a new car [D.C. which was red. ]]


(d) *[] While I was driving home last night S/F. I saw an accident.

[] show a missing Independent Clause.

=> S/F corrected:

[D.C. While I was driving home last night,
[I.C. I saw an accident]] (comma shows movement of the D.C.).

=> While I was driving home last night [,] I saw an accident[.]


(270) A Note on Movement and the Comma

(270) A Note on Movement and the Comma
Note that the usage of the 'comma' here [,]--between the D.C. and the I.C. (and never vice versa)--indicates movement at the clause level. Movement can be readily indicated by punctuation. As a general rule, whenever you move a Phrase (such as in PP-fronting) or a Clause (such as in D.C-fronting), a comma usually surfaces at the boundary to mark the movement--similar to how I might write my name in reverse order (last to first) Galasso, Joseph (with a comma inserted between the two names to show movement from out of the base-order Joseph Galasso). As a recap, consider the punctuated moved elements below:

(271) Clause-movement & Comma
(a) While we were dinning in Paris last night [,] we were introduced to the lead tenor of the French Opera. (comma insert)

(a') We were introduced to the lead tenor of the French Opera while we were dining in Paris last night. (no comma insert)


(b) After we spoke for hours about Opera Buffa [,]
he began to sing arias from Mozart. (comma insert)

(b') He began to sing arias from Mozart
after we spoke for hours about Opera Buffa. (no comma insert)


(c) During the course of our dinner, (comma insert)
he often spoke favorably about the New York Met.

(c') He often spoke favorably about the New York Met
during the course of our dinner. (no comma insert)

(272) Phrase-movement & Comma
(a) In the beginning,
God created the word. (comma insert)
(a') God created the word in the beginning. (no comma insert)

(b) After the rain stopped,
the children played outdoors. (comma insert)
(b') The children played outdoors after the rain stopped. (no comma insert)

(273) Restrictive vs. Nonrestrictive Phrases & Comma

(a) Actors who have large egos are often insecure (= Restrictive)
=> Only those actors who have large egos are insecure.
=> Not all actors have large egos.
Cannot deleted the relative clause [who have large egos].

This is what is behind the term Restrictive--Due to the lack of commas here (which would otherwise make the relative clause optional via deletion and therefore Non-restrictive in nature), we are obliged to restrict only those actors who have large egos with being reportedly insecure.

Compare example (a) to (b):
  (b) Actors, who have large egos, are often insecure (= Non-restrictive)
(b') Actors [] are often insecure (relative clause [] deleted)
  => (All) Actors have large egos.
  => (All) Actors are often insecure.

This interpretation of Non-restriction comes about due to the fact that the commas have been inserted--thus, rendering the relative clause optional. As was presented above, the usage of commas/punctuation can affect the way we perceive meaning in sentences. Whereas fronting places an extra emphesis on the fronted topic, the comma usage found in Non/Restrictive clauses can equally exert specific differences in perceived meaning.

(274) Dangling Modifier
It has been something of a tradition for me to end my grammar sections with Dangling Modifiers--not that I hope to ever leave any of my students dangling. And so, it seems only natural that I end this text here. The term "Dangling Modifier" has become quite a catchy English Grammar cliché and is a term often bandied about when one wants to make the impression of being savvy on Grammar. Fine. However, for the most part, I have come to realize that very few people actually know (i) what the term denotes, (ii) if it is even an error, and/or (iii) how the underlying mechanism of the error works. What's nice about this error is that it seems to involve and traverse a number of grammatical concepts--all of which converge in forming one general cataclysmic error. Let's first define the term and then tackle it by deconstructing the various parts that make it an error.

Dangling Modifies (=D/M) succeed (like a virus) by feeding off of an array of confusions. Let's consider each potential contributing factor in turn below:

(275) Some factors the lead to Dangling Modifiers

(1) D/Ms denote the state of a modification that doesn't refer clearly or logically to its referent. In one       sense, we can claim here that D/Ms arise out of a Modification Feature mismatch between (i) the       subject of each clause in a complex sentence, and/or (ii) the subject and infinite verb of the matrix       clause.

(2) D/Ms rely on a confusion over proper SVO Word Order and Sentence structure--D/Ms tend to       emerge during passive construction where word orders are not base generated.

(3) D/Ms emerge when the Subject being modified is ether not clearly stated or is assumed by way of       pragmatics (discourse). For this reason, D/Ms often arise in elliptical clauses.

(4) From (3) we get a rule: "The subject of a Non-Finite Verb can only be deleted when it is the same as       the subject of the Finite Verb in the main clause". (See (284a) for an example of subject       deletion/elliptical clause).

Consider the different types of D/Ms along with their explanations and corrections:

(276) Dangling Infinitive/Passive:
(a) *To do well on the exams, syntax must be studied. ( [-Fin] Phrase-move)
(a') *Syntax must be studied to do well on the exams. (Base order)

(277) Explanation:

Syntax is not the logical subject of the predicate do well on the exams.

E.g., *Syntax does well on the exams.    
=> Semantic Features
    (i) DP-Subject [-Agent /-do-er] feature
    (ii) MVP/Predicate/Object [+Theme / +do-ee] feature

In order to maintain the proper thematic relationship of [+Theme], the counter structure must also contain the feature [+Agent]. In the example above, there is no coherent meaning behind the notion of DP-subject Syntax acting on the predicate do well on the exam--hence, the D/M error.

(278) Corrections:

(a) In order for him to do well on the exams, syntax must be studied. (passive)
(a') He must study syntax in order to do well on the exams. (active)

In either case, the DP-subject (He) must be overtly given in order to maintain the proper thematic roles. (See (279) below for the two relevant thematic roles).

As stated above, the grammatical feature mismatch has to do with presupposed thematic relationships or roles. (See Appendix-2 for the complete thematic grid):

(279) Thematic Roles:

(1) Theme = entity or person undergoing the effect of some action.

(Mary fell over. John hit the ball.)

(2) Agent = instigator of some action.

(John tripped Mary. John hit the ball.)


(280) Dangling Present Participle (=Pres/Part)

(a) *While studying for the exam, the lights went out. (Pres/Part-move)
(a') *The lights went out while studying for the exam. (Base order)

(281) Explanation:
The lights is not the logical subject of the Pres/Part studying for the exam.

E.g., *Lights studying for the exam.    
=> Semantic Features
    (i) DP-Subject [-Agent /-do-er] feature
    (ii) MVP/Predicate/Object [+Theme / +do-ee] feature

(282) Corrections:
(a) While I was studying for the exam, the lights went out.

The overtly stated subject-DP (I) carries the proper feature [+ Agent]

There is no sense behind the notion *Lights study and so due to a feature mismatch between the items associated with the modification, a D/M occurs.

(283) Dangling Past Participle (=Past/Part)

(a) While still planted in the ground, she cut off the stems.

Note the confusion over who/what is still planted in the ground. Cleary, one assumes that the plant is (planted) in the ground, though the unclear structure renders the DP-subject (She) to be still planted in the ground. Consider the counter examples below with the same elliptical D.C.:

(b) While seated in a chair, she listened to music.

Clearly, there is nothing odd with the observation that the DP-subject (She) associates with the Past/Part seated in a chair in this case. However, if we provide the same assumptions to (a) above, we get the notion that the DP-subject (She) was planted in the ground--a silly notion that can only result due to an unclear and ill-conceived D/M.

(284) Correction:
(a) While the plant was still planted in the ground, she cut off the stems.
(cf. (275, no. 4)).

(285) Passive D/Ms
(a) *While running, [John was hit by a motorist] (passive)
(b) [A motorist hit John] (active)
(c) *A motorist hit John while running.
(The motorist was driving not running).

(286) Correction:
  (a) A motorist hit John [while he was running].
(b) *A motorist hit John [while he was running].

Here below is my favorite example of a D/M. It might serve well to simply memorize it as a mnemonic device in order to recall the inner trappings behind dangling modification--and so I leave (i) an image and (ii) a syntactic structure for you to ponder:

(287) While driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, the lights of the city looked beautiful.