General information

1.    What is syntax?

2.    Using the algebraic expression and the sentence below, explain generative grammar (Chomsky, 1957).
3x + 2y
The cat ran away from the dog.

Surface and Deep Structures

3.    What is the difference between a surface structure and a deep structure?

4.    Give some examples of sentences with a different surface structure and the same deep structure.

5.    Provide sentences with a different surface structure that would have the same deep structure as the following sentences.

a.    Kim was bitten by the black dog.                 ________________

b.    He put on his jacket.

c.    James took my book.

d.    I told him to turn down the volume.

Structural Ambiguity

6.    What are two possible meanings of each of the following sentences and phrases? How could you rewrite the sentences to make it clear which of the meanings is


7.    One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas, I’ll never know. (Groucho Marx)

8.    The old men and women went to the beach.

9.    An American history teacher

10.    Flying planes can be dangerous.

11.    The parents of the bride and groom are waiting.

Tree diagrams
S    sentence
PN    proper noun
Art    article
NP    noun phrase
N    noun
V    verb
Adv    adverb
VP    verb phrase    Pro    pronoun
Adj    adjective
Prep    preposition
PP    prep. phrase

12.    Break this sentence into a tree using the symbols above.

The dog chased the cat.

13.    Which of the following can be changed by the Particle Movement transformation? Why is this so?  (See Yule text.)

a.    He put down his glass.
b.    She threw away her dress.
c.    He pulled off his shirt.
d.    They jumped in the pool.

Semantics: meaning of words and sentences

Semantic roles

Sentence: The boy threw the rock.

1.    In this sentence, the agent (performs the action) is __________________.

2.    In this sentence, the theme (entity involved in or affected by the action) is ________________________.

3.    How can we change this sentence to include an instrument (used to perform action)?

4.    We are going to change the sentence above to include a location (where an entity is).

a.    More specifically, how can we add a source (where the entity moves from)?

b.    Also, how can we add a goal (where the entity moves to)?

5.    In the question below, what is the experiencer (sees, knows, or enjoys something)?

Did you hear that noise?

6.    Are these grammatically correct sentences?
•    Do they make sense?
•    If not, why not? (Use the terms to describe semantic roles above to explain why they might not make sense.)

The banana walked to the store.

The thief broke the window with a rubber band.

•    So, can we have grammatically correct sentences that don’t make sense?

Lexical relations

Synonyms: words with similar meanings
Ex:     cab-taxi
My father purchased a large automobile.
My dad bought a big car.

7.    What is the difference between these synonymous words and sentences?

8.    Provide some additional examples of synonymous words and sentences.

9.    Why can this be difficult for someone learning English?

Antonyms: words with opposite meanings
Ex:     fat-thin

10.    Provide some additional examples of antonyms.

Homonyms, homophones, homographs
Note: The definitions of homophones, homonyms, and homographs differ within the field. For our purposes, we will use the following definitions.

Homophones: different written form, different meanings, same pronunciation
Ex:       sail-sale

11.    Provide some additional examples of homophones.

Homographs: same spelling, different meaning, may or may not have same pronunciation (have different origins)
Ex:     ball (to throw)—ball (big dance)
spruce (tree)—spruce (to make neat)
axes (plural of ax)—axes (plural of axis)
sewer (conduit for waste)—sewer (person who sews)

12.    Provide some additional examples of homographs.

Homonyms: We will use the term homonym as an inclusive term that includes homophone and homograph, as defined in Random House Webster’s College Dictionary (1991). “A

word the same as another word in sound and spelling but different in meaning, as chase (to pursue) and chase (to ornament metal).”

13.    Why can homophones and homographs be difficult for someone learning English?


14.    In which sentences (a-i) is there redundancy?

15.    In the sentences where there is redundancy, what might be a reason for it?

a.    We should provide advance warning.

b.    I’ll make it my first priority.

c.    That was an unexpected surprise.

d.    Could you repeat that again?

e.    They had already heard that before.

f.    We got it for a cheap price.

g.    There was a general consensus.

h.    It was in close proximity.

i.    And that was his final conclusion.

16.    Conclusion: What are some semantic challenges that a native speaker of a language other than English would be likely to encounter when acquiring English?

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