Sunday, April 17, 2011

Brackets in Syntax

Syntax often uses trees to represent sentence structures. However, brackets are also used. Though trees are more popular, many syntacticians also use brackets, especially to represent short sentences.

Here are two examples to illustrate:

S[NP[N[Diana]]VP[V[loves]NP[N[syntax]]]].

The sentence "Diana loves syntax" has four brackets at the end. One is for the noun "syntax." The next one to the right is for the NP "syntax." The next one to the right is for the VP "loves syntax" and the last one is for the sentence "Diana loves syntax."

S[NP[Det[my]N[aunt]]VP[V[is]PP[P[at]NP[Det[the]NP[N[game]]]]]].

The sentence "My aunt is at the game" has six brackets at the end. One is for the noun "game." The next one to the right is for the NP "game." The next one to the right is for the NP "the game." The fourth bracket is for the PP "at the game." The fifth bracket is for the VP "is at the game" and the final bracket is for the sentence "My aunt is at the game." Given that a short sentence such as this one ends with six brackets, longer sentences can end with far more.

Brackets are most often used in syntax for short and simple sentences. The large number of brackets necessary for long sentences makes them less popular than trees. Nevertheless, brackets continue to be used to represent syntactic structures.

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