Sunday, January 06, 2008

Oh Xbar tree Oh Xbar tree . . .

I was browsing through the links over at Neal Whitman's Literal-Minded and I found a great little syntax resource. I hate using the draw feature on my word processing program to create the sentence trees so I'm very eager to try out phpSyntaxTree instead.

It works by interpreting the keyboard friendly notation of bracketing phrases and sentences. You may have noticed (on this and other linguistics blogs) sentences and phrases that look like this:

[synthetic [buffalo hides]]

And that phrase would likely be contrasted with the following:

[[synthetic buffalo] hides]

The phrase on its own is ambiguous because the structure is underlying and not apparent in normal speech or writing. Just like the old joke about the one eyed one horned flying purple people eater that no one needs to be afraid of -- unless you're a one eyed one horned flying purple person. There are some conventions of writing that can clarify these forms. Hyphens work pretty well to indicate which noun an ambiguous adjective is modifying. So a steel-string guitar is probably going to sound a lot better than a steel string guitar. It'd probably be a lot lighter too.

In the bracket notation (if we want to consider steel-string two words) the difference would be

[[steel string]guitar]
[steel[string guitar]]

plug-in something as simple at those two phrases and the program gives us the corresponding trees:

The program also works with labels for the phrases and accounts for them in the rendering of the lines. I'll borrow a sentence right out of the trusty ol' Radford syntax text to illustrate:

A lovely rendering of the following input form
[TP[PRN He][T'[T does][VP[V enjoy][N syntax]]]]

I've now linked to the program in the resources list in the right sidebar.

1 comment:

Thanks for reaching out.

You can also contact me at wishydig[at]gmail[d0t]com.