Entity Modelling

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Sentence Constituents

According to Brinton:

The study of syntax is the analysis of the constituent parts of a sentence: their form, positioning, and function. Constituents are the proper subparts of sentences. There are different types of constituents classified by the categories which constitute them; these have different functions and internal structures with elements arranged in a specific way. And they may themselves be complex, containing other constituents. The structure of a sentence is hence hierarchical.

Brinton notes that not all sequences of words function as constituents. It is the context, he says, which determines whether a particular sequence forms a constituent or not. For example, the sequence of words beautiful flowers is a constituent in I received beautiful flowers for my birthday but not in Though they are beautiful, flowers cause me to sneeze. The sequence the house on the hill is a constituent in one reading of the ambiguous sentence I bought the house on the hill, but not in the other; it is a constituent in the sense `I bought the house which is on the hill', but not in the sense `I bought the house while standing on the hill'.

We can represent sentence constituent as an entity type generalising `phrase' and `word':

and show phrases as sequences of words:

this leads us to a single diagram as shown in figure 3.

  • a sentence constituent is either a word or a phrase
  • a phrase is composed of one or more sentence constituents
Figure 3
From Understanding Language