Students understanding the complexity of language

Chapter 02-01: Phrases I – Introduction


chapter 2: phrases i - introduction

This chapter will offer a brief introduction to the key phrases required for clauses: noun phrases and main verb phrases. It’s important to understand that a clause is a fundamental grammatical structure using both a nominal subject and a main verb phrase/predicate. If both elements are not present, then it cannot be a  clause. It’s also important to understand that a clause is NOT a sentence, although a sentence, if it is grammatically correct, must contain at least one independent clause, or it can contain many, many clauses. We will begin this discussion in more detail in Chapter 5.
The rules that govern  phrases and phrase structure within clauses can  help you understand how  sentences are transformed into passive voice, or how  independent  clauses can be transformed into dependent clauses such as relative clauses. Phrase structure can also clarify the role that a dependent  clause  might be playing in another clause. Phrase structure  is often represented by a phrase structure diagram, or tree diagram,  which  provides a visual map of the relations of words and phrases in a  clause. 
You can analyze a sentence fully by identifying the form and  function of each constituent in a linear fashion, as described in this textbook, and not use phrase  structure diagrams at all; however, while our  textbook is not focused on syntax or phrase structure, we want to offer an analytical strategy for understanding how phrases and constituents combine to build clauses. We also want to offer more visual representations of our, primarily, linear analysis. We believe our visual representations will be especially useful in that they can demonstrate the process  of analysis in a non-linear way. This process offers a better approximation of the process we use when we analyze and make meaning out of the language we hear.
As we will show throughout the rest of the textbook, all phrases and clauses follow predictable patterns for words to “hang out” together. For our textbook, we will call these patterns FUNCTION SLOTS, and our visual representations will show the various ways that different words, phrases, and clauses follow predictable patterns. We begin this discussion by describing two primary forms: NOUN PHRASES and MAIN VERB PHRASES

Then, in future chapters, we will show the more consistent relationships between FORM and FUNCTION so that we can begin to more fully understand the complexity of our language.