Syntactic Theory

The Clausal Categories (S, S')

The Clausal Category S

The distribution of S

A clause (S) can occur in the following environments:

  • S can occur as an independent declarative clause.
  • S follows a complementizer: Pat thinks that __.
  • S follows a subordinate conjunction: Pat arrived before __.

The internal structure of S

  • Obligatory elements:
    • S must contain a VP, possibly an AuxP
    • if the VP is finite a constituent must precede the VP. Usually this is an NP (in nominative case), but it can also be an S' ([S': That Kim is always late] bothered Pat enormously.)

  • Optional elements:
    • There may be adverbials at the beginning of S (Last night Pat didn't sleep well., Wisely, Pat locked the door before going to bed., According to recent studies, Germans drink more coffee than beer.)

This can be summarized in the following phrase structure rule:

  • S -> (AdvP) NP/S AuxP/VP (for finite S)

The Clausal Category S'

The distribution of S'

An S' occurs

  • as an independent wh-question ([S': Why did you call Pat last night?)
  • following a verb such as think, know, wonder, ..., i.e. in the environment: Pat thinks __., Pat wonders __.

The internal structure of S'

Obligatory elements:

  • an S
  • the S is usually preceded by a complementizer, an interrogative constituent or a relative constituent.
    • S' introduced by a complementizer: Pat knows [S': that [S:Kim passed the exam]]., Pat wants [S': for Kim to pass the exam]
    • S' introduced by an interrogative constituent: Pat knows [S': which book [S: Kim is reading at the moment]].
    • S' introduced by a relative constituent: Pat knows the author [S': whose most recent book [S: Kim is reading at the moment]].

The structure of an S' that is used as an interrogative clause or as a relative clause will not be considered in this section.

For S' introduced by a complementizer, the following phrase structure rule can be given:

  • S' -> Comp S

Example 1: A simple finite S with a VP (a) and with an AuxP (b)
(a)        __S__           (b)        ___S____
          /     \                    /        \
        NP   ___VP___              NP   ______AuxP______
       /__\ /________\            /__\ /________________\
       Kim  slept late.           Kim  did not sleep late.

Example 2: A finite S' introduced by a complementizer
                     /     \
                    /     _S__
                   /     /    \
                 Comp  NP   ___VP___
                   |  /__\ /________\
    Sandy thinks that Kim  slept late.

Back to the overview page for constituents and phrasal categories

Categories: Glossary