Friday, November 28, 2008

Syntax: Immediate Constituents -- Revisited

You know, in syntax, we study how words are related to each other to make a bigger construction: a phrase, a clause, a sentence, or a discourse. Let's take an example from Bahasa Indonesia

"Perusahaan itu membutuhkan seorang penjahit baju wanita."

We know that this sentence has seven words as its constituents. Some words in this sentence have more than one morpheme as the constituents. The term "immediate constituents" refer to the constituents that come closer to each other. We can break the sentence above based on its immediate constituents. Remember, based on syntactic rule, a sentence consists of Noun Phrase (NP) and Verb Phrase (VP). With this is the base, then we have binary cutting system, that is dividing a construction two by two until the construction is not dividable anymore. In the example above:

Perusahaan itu = NP,

Membutuhkan seorang penjahit baju wanita = VP.

"Perusahaan itu" and "membutuhkan seorang penjahit baju wanita" are immediate constituents of the sentence.

"Perusahaan" and "itu" are ultimate constituents of the immediate constituents "Perusahaan itu".

And so on…


Then, why do we bother learning or analyzing the immediate constituents?

One of the reasons is that this will help us handle a syntactic or grammatical ambiguity. Have a look at the example above again. Does the company need a female tailor? Or Does it need a tailor for female clothes?

"membutuhkan seorang penjahit baju wanita" can be further analyzed into smaller constituents.

Membutuhkan || seorang penjahit baju wanita

Seorang || penjahit baju wanita

Penjahit || baju wanita

If we follow the analysis of the immediate constituents like this, it means that what the company needs is a tailor to make clothes for female. It is not important whether the tailor is male or female. The meaning will be different, if the analysis is done like the following.

… (similar to the one above)

Seorang || penjahit baju wanita

Penjahit baju || wanita

With this immediate constituents analysis, the sentence means that the company needs a female tailor. Whether the clothes that she makes will be for male or female is not important.


Have a look at other examples from English.

  • Students don't like annoying professors.
    • What does this question mean? It may be either "Students don't like professors who are annoying" or "Students don't like making the professor annoyed". Again the meaning depends on to which constituent "annoying" is immediate.
  • She hit the man with a stick.
    • What does this sentence mean? It may be either "She used a stick to hit the man" or "She hit the man who brought a stick".

Monday, November 24, 2008

Word Formation

Well, we have discussed morphemes. Now, let's discuss how words are created or formed.

As what we have been learning, AFFIXATION is one way of creating new words. Some other ways includes the following.


    This is done by combining two words into one. Example: fire engine; school bus.


    This is like compounding, but some elements of the original words are missing. Example:

  • motor + hotel = motel
  • smoke + fog = smog

    This is done by cutting some elements of the words to make shorter words. Example

  • Facsimile = Fax
  • Professor = Prof
  • Automobile = auto

    Acronym is a combination of the initial letters or sounds of some words to make a new word. Examples:



    This is done by taking a word from a class of words into another class of words. Example

    1. I need to drink. I am thirsty.
    2. Please have a drink.


    This is done by taking some proper names as words. Example:

  • KODAK for a camera
  • HONDA for a motorcycle
  • SANYO for a water pump

(These are common in Indonesia)


Now, look around. Look at the banners, billboards, back of the buses or trucks. They use many words. Try to identify the morphological process that happens to those words.

Derivational Vs. Inflectional Morpheme

As discussed in class, there are two types of morpheme: FREE morpheme, and BOUND morpheme. FREE morpheme is then further divided into two: LEXICAL and FUNCTIONAL morpheme. BOUND morpheme is also further divided into two categories: DERIVATIONAL and INFLECTIONAL morpheme.

DERIVATIONAL morpheme changes the root's class of words OR its meaning, OR BOTH. The word 'unhappy' derives from the root HAPPY added with a prefix UN. Both 'happy' and 'unhappy' are adjectives. The meaning, however, is totally different. "I am unhappy" is totally different from "I am happy". In this case, the prefix UN is called DERIVATIONAL MORPHEME.

INFLECTIONAL morpheme, on the other hand, does not change either the root's class of words or the meaning. The word 'books', for example, derives from the root BOOK added with a suffix –S. Both 'book' and 'books' are NOUN. The meaning is still the same. The suffix –S only indicates the plural form. In this case, the suffix –S is INFLECTIONAL

Well… For practice, please do the worksheet here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mid Semester Test

Hi folks,

I change my mind. Since some of you can not do sit-in live test (because of the time-table), I decide to give you a take-away assignment. You have to write an essay. What is the essay about? Find out here.