Syntactic Categories

The Syntactic Categories specify the grammatical functions a word can have, i.e. the way in which a given word can enter in construction with other parts of an utterance.

In all there are 1002 Syntactic Categories in TLS, some of which (like n "noun") have thousands of Lexeme Entries classified under them, and many complex other Syntactic Categories have only one or two recorded example Lexeme Entries.

TLS recognises only three basic Syntactic Categories and constructs the remaining ones out of these primitives:

verbals v
nominals n
particles p

All grammatical constituents of a sentence are thus considered as either verbal or nominal or as a particle. The grammatically impatient user may settle with this simple distinction and disregard what follows. The basic elements out of which complex Syntactic Categories are built up are, meanwhile, laid out in what follows for those who want to know more about the syntactic functions of a word than these three categories can tell us.

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A particle, a verbal expression, or a nominal expression X may have some of the following features:

Abbreviation Formula Example
xab abstract x (noun) nab "abstract noun"
xc count x (noun) nc "count noun"
xi intransitive x (verb) vi "intransitive verb"
xm mass x (noun) nm "mass noun"
x0 subjectless x (verb) vi0 "subjectless vi"
xP complex x NP "complex N"
xpr proper x npr "proper name"
xpred predicative x npred "predicative noun"
xpro pro-form of x (noun) npro "pronoun"
xt transitive x (verb) vt "transitive verb"
xtt ditransitive x (verb) vtt "verb with two objects"
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When a constituent is complex, the forms "VP", "NP" and "PP" are used. When a constituent is unspecified for being simple or complex, the forms "V", "N" and "P" are used. When a constituent is simple, but has not been further specified, the forms "v", "n" and "p" may be used on their own. "V" may thus stand for "v" and "VP" and "v" may stand for "vi" and "vt", etc. (but not for "VP").

TLS recognises the following specified grammatical relations between constituents:

Abbreviation Formula Examples
X ad Y "X precedes and modifies Y" vadN "verb modifying a noun", e.g. bái "white" in bái mǎ 白馬 "white horse"
X - Y "X precedes and is modified by Y" vi-V, e.g. nù "be angry" in nù shèn 怒甚 "be intensely angry"
X postad Y "X follows and modifies Y" vpostadV "verb following and modifying a verb", e.g. shèn 甚 "intensely" in nù shèn 怒甚 "be intensely angry"
X post - Y "X follows after and is modified by Y" npro.post-V "pronoun following and modified by a V", e.g. zhě 者 "he who" in shā rén zhě 殺人者 "he who kills"
X o Y "X is transitive and has Y as its object" vtoN "transitive verb followed by its object", e.g. shā 殺 "kill" in shā rén 殺人 "have killed others".

In cases where it is of little interest to be specific, one can use the following patterns of unspecified grammatical relations:

Abbreviation Formula Examples
X + Y "X precedes and is in construction with Y" vt+N "transitive verb in construction with a nominal (object)"
X post Y "X follows and is in construction with Y" vpostV "verb that follows and is in construction with a V", e.g. sǐ 死 "die" in shā sǐ 殺死 "kill".
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Current traditional syntactic concepts turn out as follows in this system:

Traditional concept Formula
adjective vadN, nadN, padN, VPadN, etc.
adverb vadV, nadV, padV, VPadV, etc.
suffix npostadN
object NpostVt, VpostVt, VPpostVt, etc.
preposition vt+N.postadV, vt+N.adV, etc.
sentence (short: S) N+V or N1+N2, (N+)V, etc.
sentence final particle ppostadS
sentence connective padS1.postS2, ppostN.adV:postS, etc.
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The basic (and much simplified) structure of the syntactic part of TLS grammar is as follows:

1.0 VERBALS
1.1 INTRANSITIVE VERBS vi
1.2 TRANSITIVE VERBS vt
1.3 DITRANSITIVE VERBS vtt
1.4 SUBJECTLESS VERBS vi0, vt0, vtt0
1.5 DEVERBAL ADJECTIVES vadn
1.6 DEVERBAL ADVERBS vadv
1.7 POSTVERBAL VERBALS vpostv
1.8 COMPLEX VERBALS vp
2.0 NOMINALS
2.1 COUNT NOUNS nc
2.2 MASS NOUNS nm
2.3 ABSTRACT NOUNS nab
2.4 PRONOUNS npro
2.5 DENOMINAL ADJECTIVES nadn
2.6 DENOMINAL ADVERBS nadv
2.7 COMPLEX NOMINALS np
3.0 PARTICLES
3.1 ADNOMINAL PARTICLES padn
3.2 ADSENTENTIAL PARTICLES padS
3.3 ADVERBIAL PARTICLES padv
3.4 POSTNOMINAL PARTICLES ppostn
3.5 POSTSENTENTIAL PARTICLES ppostS
3.6 POSTVERBAL PARTICLES ppostv
3.7 COMBINATIONS OF PARTICLES pp

According to the principles laid out above, TLS constructs a large number of Syntactic Categories. The labels for these have a fairly strict logical syntax and do not have to be learnt by heart. What one has to learn, in order to read these labels, are the rules laid out above, with a few additional conventions.

Christoph Harbsmeier

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